Messy handwriting can be contributed to many factors: Decreased hand strength, visual motor difficulty, motor planning issues, visual memory difficulties, or impaired proprioception.
When children have difficulties with guiding the movements that are required for drawing or writing letters in a coordinated way this then results in messy, smudged or illegible handwriting.
Proprioceptive activities allow the muscles to "wake up" under heavy pressure. Moving against resistance by pushing or pulling gives the muscles and joints an opportunity to modulate pressure. Resistive activities before and during a handwriting task can be beneficial for children who press hard on their writing tools.
How to use the stress ball when writing
When a child is pressing too hard with the pencil or pen, give him or her a stress ball in the other/supporting hand. Tell them to squeeze it while they write with the other hand.
This strategy helps children to equalize the pressure between the two sides of the body.
What else are stress balls useful for?
There are so many fun ways to use a stress ball! Here are some suggestions
Stressed? Use it to relieve stress by squeezing it.
Fidgety? Keep the hands busy so you can sit still... squish and squeeze the ball (it might be a little noisy).
Writing by hand? Do some warm-ups before handwriting – rub the stres ball between your hands to wake up the small muscles and get them ready to write.
Foot massage? Place it under your foot and roll it back and forth to work out any small muscle cramps in the foot (alert – this is some serious sensory input!).
Coordination skills! Stress balls make excellent juggling balls.
Challenge your balance! Try to stand on one foot and roll the stress ball back and forth with the other foot. Then kick it to a friend and wait for the ball to be sent back.
So 'stress balls' are more than a cool 'toy' to have and they are also not just for stressed or fidgety people. They bring great benefits too!
This is why we encourage everyone to 'play' with them as much as possible!