Learning Letters: A Multi-Sensory Approach

Tactile input is an effective way to teach drawing and writing skills. The tactile system allows for “feeling” the various strokes and flow of movement. This helps children to integrate sensory and motor aspects of writing. It has been suggested that playing classical music softly while learning new motor systems (such as learning the stroke of a letter) will help in committing the movement to long-term memory. Recruiting as many of the sensory systems as possible to learn a new activity is especially helpful to the child with a learning disability.

Here are examples of sensory motor activities to assist your child with letter formation:

1. Write the letter on a whiteboard or butcher block paper on the wall very large. The child writes the letter in the air very large; provide assistance with hand over hand if necessary. Try several times with the eyes open, repeat with the eyes closed, and again with the eyes open. Then have the child trace the large letter on the whiteboard or butcher block paper.

2. Form letters in various sensory mediums to include cornmeal, sand, beans, lentils, rice, popcorn, etc.

3. Draw letters in shaving cream on tabletop, mirror or aluminum foil. If the child is tactile defensive or has sensory concerns, place shaving cream and paint mixture in a plastic bag and form the letters over the plastic bag.

4. Use glue or lotion or squirt the letter on a mirror, or aluminum foil. Let the glue dry and use later to trace the feel of the letter on the texture it provides.

5. Use glue to form a letter and place yarn over it while wet. When dry, the child can trace the letter.

6. Use a sandpaper letter to run finger over for tracing, or place paper over a sheet of sandpaper and form a letter on the paper.

7. Make a letter out of pipe cleaners, string, playdough or clay. Trace over it with the child’s finger.

8. Finger paint letters or trace over a letter using finger paint.

9. Squirt the letter with a squeeze bottle in the sand or on the ground.

10. Use a hole punch to punch around a bold letter on construction paper.

11. Use a flashlight to trace the letter on whiteboard or letter written on butcher block paper on the wall. This is also a good visual tracking activity.

12. Form letters on the carpet while weight bearing on both knees and one hand, or while in prone position and propped on elbows.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Jan, Occupational Therapy Team

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