As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, one of the biggest concerns I hear in all settings is handwriting. Handwriting. Handwriting. Handwriting. In fact, handwriting might be the only thing you know that Occupational Therapists do (hint: it’s not). There are SO many components to handwriting that have absolutely nothing to do with fine motor, such as posture, attention, strength, vision, etc. but that’s a topic for a different day. Today, I want to talk about the number one struggle I see when my students are writing… SPACING between words. It can be tenuous, time consuming, and frustrating to constantly remind the students to put a space after their words.
A wide-spread and frugal technique that works for some kiddos is “finger-spacing”, which means the child uses a finger as a spacer after each word. While this does work, I continue to need to remind many my students about the finger space- it’s easy to forget about when you are focusing on trying to write. So today, I want to share with you the SPACE-MAN technique, which I find to be fun to make, motivating to use, and successful in remembering to use spaces in the long term.
Space Man is simple and cost-effective. In short, this project is a pretty popsicle stick that you can use as a spacer between words (simple)!
All you need is:
Jumbo Popsicle stick (I use a jumbo size with my elementary students to exaggerate the space, but a small popsicle stick will work well with older kids).
Decorative Items (such as googly eyes, pipe-cleaners, colored pencils or markers, glue, feathers, glitter (yikes, glitter), poms, stickers, etc. The sky is the limit on decorum)!
Space-Man comes to help with “spacing” (get it?) but I also like to make him an astronaut as to keep with the theme. What I noticed when trying this project was that the kids were very excited to make their own design and have total creative control. When kids are excited and proud of something, they are much more motivated to use it in their daily lives. This item also gives them a visual cue to remember to use spacing (instead of trying to remember to use a finger), can double as a fidget (see my post on fidgets), can be used as a tool to follow along when reading, and creates good writing habits.
One of the best things about this project is that you can work on so many skills just by making it! Creating the “Space-Man” spacer targets:
Fine motor skills: coloring, writing, peeling stickers, picking up small pieces
Sensory skills: touching a variety of textures, such as pipe-cleaners and glue
Cognitive skills: ideation, initiation, follow-through, attention
I hope you have fun with this project and are successful!
-Christine M, OTR/L