Shoulder Stability and Handwriting

August 17, 2018

Last week we started a series on handwriting and all of the components that go into handwriting.  We started with a discussion about core strength and why that is so important to handwriting, please see our previous post if you have any concerns about your child’s handwriting as core strengthening is of utmost importance to assess and address.  This week we are moving on to shoulder stability, this again deals directly with your child’s strength.  It is specific to the shoulder andcould be leading to decreased fine motor skills and poor handwriting.

When we write, our body is not only utilizing our fingers and hands to physically form the letters, the whole body needs to utilize muscles and coordination to complete the process.  A big part of this process is keeping our arm supported and stable.  In order to address this we need to look at the arm and the closest part to the body, the shoulder to make sure it is strong and stable.  The shoulder, where arm and trunk meet is where the humerus, scapula, and clavicle meet.  it is surrounded by a group of muscles that keep it stable and help it move and have power and strength at the same time, this is called the shoulder girdle. This shoulder girdle begins developing very early in life from very early tummy time, the weight through the arms starts strengthening those muscles, as a baby gets stronger they beginning lifting there arms in the air against gravity to bat at toys, this is also away shoulder stability is developed.

Signs of weak shoulder stability:

  • Your child propping their elbows on a desk, table or other surface whenever doing an activity that they need to hold their arms in the air.
  • Your child keeps their elbows tucked into their body when using their arms
  • Your child does not rest their elbow on the table when writing or eating
  • Your child keeps their shoulder shrugged towards their ears while using their arms.
  • Your child holds their head in their hands when laying on their stomach to play games or cannot keep their head up.
  • Your child never crawled


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Activities to help improve shoulder stability:

  • Push and pull games. Pushing against a wall, pulling a rope, row row your boat
  • Freeze tag/ stuck in mud games
  • Statues
  • Target games / judging games / obstacle course : throwing and catching aheavy ball
  • Using a wheel barrow
  • Crawling games / tunnels / under blankets / through legs
  • Playground games – particularly monkey bars, climbing frames and ‘flying fox’
  • Gym games— Wall ladders and monkey bars
  • Inchworm (stand behind a line, keep feet on the spot and walkhands forward to collect objects)
  • Crab football (using hands and feet to walk with tummy facing upwards).
  • Tummy time: We therapists love this!  Playing while laying on the tummy is a great way to develop shoulder strength and stability.
    • Try reading, writing, coloring, working on puzzles, playing with toys, anything!, while on your tummy.
  • Scooter board while on your tummy for rolling down gentle hills, sliding around to pick items up off the floor or to pull yourself along by “climbing” a rope
  • Wheelbarrow walking
  • Crawl on all fours: forward, backward, sideways or change direction on command.
  • Crawl through an obstacle course
  • Animal Walking: Gorilla crouch walking, Bear walking, Inchworm walking, Snake crawling, Bird walking, Crab walking.  These are all illustrated here:  Animal & Bug Walks .
  • While in a crab walking position, kick a balloon and keep it up in the air for as long as possible.
  • Snake or combat crawl (low crawl on your elbows and knees with pelvis flat) to squeeze under a low limbo stick
  • Shoot baskets with all types of balls
  • Play Zoom Ball
  • Play tug of war
  • Pour water from a pitcher or sand from buckets
  • Push and pull each other while sitting on rolling chairs or rolling stools
  • Work in a vertical plane
    • Draw large shapes and pictures on chalk boards or white boards with both hands simultaneously
    • Attach velcro to the wall and stick objects or tennis balss to them and move them around
    • Paint on a large paper hung on the wall
    • Stick foam pieces to a paper one well
    • Stick window clings to a window

If you have any concerns please feel free to contact us for a consultation on your child!

Melanie Witkowski, Clinic Director


Curious if your child could benefit? Consultations are free. Call today.

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