Monday, January 4, 2010

Tools to Help His Grasp

One of the things that I am working on with Jonah is his ability to scribble or make marks with crayons. This is something that the doctor and the woman from Early Interventions is concerned about, as am I. His ability to grasp and use any kind of utensil effectively (spoons, drumsticks, crayons etc) is decidedly lagging. There are a lot of different products that claim to help toddlers with this, and I thought I'd review a couple of them.

Regular crayons and markers don't work very well with Jonah. He holds them sideways and it's very hard for him to make a mark on the paper with them. I bought him some different products made by Crayola that are designed to "fit into a child's first palm grasp." I like Crayola products, because they are generally good quality, and they guarantee that all of their products are non-toxic and washable. I do not get anything from Crayola for saying that I like their products, it is the honest to gosh truth that for our art projects, I typically will buy Crayola.

The first things that I tried were Crayola's tadoodles crayons and markers. These are plastic holders that are rounded on one end, and have a marker or crayon tip on the other end. They are somewhat egg-shaped. The idea of them is that the young child will grasp the rounded end of the crayon or marker in his palm, and will be able to scribble with it while using the kind of grasp that comes naturally to this age group.

The problem with these is that the bottoms are weighted. The side that the child is supposed to grasp, is always on the bottom, facing the table, and the marker or crayon tip is always pointing upwards. Jonah can't correctly grasp the utensils himself. I have to turn it the correct direction and hand it to him. This is especially a nuisance with the marker version. When he does try to pick them up, he gets marker all over his hands and when I try to hand them to him I get marker all over mine. Another downside of the markers is that they are made to look like little animals. The animals are cute, but they have big eyes and big ears. The marker tip is shorter than the eyes and ears on the animals. Even when Jonah is grasping them the correct way, it is difficult for him to make marks on the paper. The other parts of the animal usually get in the way, and he ends up scribbling with the frog's eye instead of the green marker tip.

In his stocking for Christmas, I had put some triangular markers. These are supposed to be easier to grasp than traditional markers or crayons, becuase the flat sides give the child a bigger grip.

While Jonah definitely had an easier time scribbling with these than he did the Tadoodles, they were still very messy. The marker tips on these are also flat, and there are no caps, just as the Tadoodles. You have to press the markers down in order to "activate" them. This sounds like a pretty good idea. No caps to create a choking hazzard or to get lost, and the flat tips are less enticing for little ones to put into their mouths. The amount of dye that comes out of the tips once it is activated though, is way too much. We might as well have put paint on the paper and let him smear it around, because that is basically what these markers did. When he would make marks on the paper, if he touched it or tried to mark with another marker, the dye would smear all over his hands and arms. On the few occasions that he did get curious and want to touch the marker tips and put them in his mouth (as toddlers often do with art supplies) the mess was incredible! And this is coming from a mother who frequently lets her child body paint!

Despite the mess, Jonah had fun, and I do have to say that Crayola came through on their product being washable in this case. Every smudge and smear wiped up with plain water, both on the counter as well as on Jonah. He was able to mark on his paper with these utensils better than any other that we've tried. I think I will probably try the jumbo triangular crayons next, and hopefully they won't be so messy. I had originally thought that the markers were crayons when I bought them for his stocking, but I hadn't read the box well enough. When I got them home and noticed that they were markers, I decided to give them a try anyway just to see how well Jonah would handle them.
Most of the marks that you see on the paper in these pictures were made by me, to demonstrate to Jonah how to make the marks on the paper. I was very pleased though that during this art time, I was able to get him to make both dots as well as scribbled lines on the paper. You can see in the pictures that he is now trying to follow my demonstration in grasping the utensil and putting it to the paper, which is much better than previous attempts! We are hoping that practicing scribbling like this will help him in other areas that require similar fine motor skills. We aren't expecting him to pick up the markers and create detailed pictures, but are just looking for fun ways to practice the same skills that he needs in other areas of his development.

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