One thing that stands out to me in the schools where I work is that you never see a good old fashioned chalkboard anymore! Gone are the days of feeling that chalky dust all over your hands, racing classmates to finish math facts on the chalkboard, and clapping out the erasers during detention! :)
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Back when I was in school, I never thought about the developmental benefits of writing and working on the vertical surface of the chalkboard, but as a therapist, now I know that there are many! The occupational therapists I work with encourage children to work on vertical surfaces all the time and here’s why…
Why Kids Should Work on a Vertical Surface
1 || Shoulder/Elbow Stability
The use of larger vertical surfaces such as chalkboards, marker boards, and Smart boards allows children to use bigger arm movements that encourage strength and flexibility throughout the joints and muscles of the upper extremities. Even the hand gets a hefty boost of strengthening as it works against gravity to keep making vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines.
2 || Bilateral Coordination
Have you ever tried to use a stencil while working on a vertical surface? I once tried to stencil a pretty fleur de lis pattern on a wall — it was a disaster! This is a tough skill! For kids, tracing an object, using a stencil, or even just stabilizing their paper to write on an upright surface requires the use of both hands (one to trace, one to hold) AND it requires proprioception and strength to hold the object that is being traced!
3 || Midline Crossing
When a child is writing or drawing across a large vertical surface, he has to cross the midline of his body with his dominant hand to reach all of the spaces. This is great practice for children who are struggling with midline crossing and establishing a strong hand dominance.
4 || Wrist Extension/Pencil Grasp
Writing on an upright surface naturally puts the wrist in an extended position which encourages hand stabilization for better control of writing utensils.
5 || Visual Attention and Hand-Eye Coordination
Working on a vertical surface brings the task closer to the child’s eyes. This helps kids who have difficulty maintaining visual attention to activities and can help to encourage hand-eye coordination, as the child has a better view of what they are doing!
6 || Spatial Awareness
When a child works on a large vertical surface, it makes directional terms (up, down, left, right) much easier to understand because the child can relate the words to his very own body!
7 || Sensory
Working at a vertical surface may be beneficial for fidgety kids who work better in a standing position than sitting at a desk. Let’s face it, we all work better if we can change positions!
8 || Core Strength and Posture
Working in a kneeling or standing position at an upright surface kids a good dose of core strengthening. There’s no slumping or leaning on the back of the chair – the only choice is to engage those core and back muscles!
How to Encourage Working on a Vertical Surface
-Play with stickers! Have the child stick them all over the wall at different levels and then give him directions for which stickers to touch – he may have to jump or bend!
-Make your own DIY Removable Lego Wall! Building with Legos on a vertical surface? Not only super fun, but also great for all of the skills listed above!
-Tape a piece of paper to the wall and trace objects or stencils
-Writing with dry erase markers on a hanging mirror
-Writing/drawing activities on the Smart board
-Try any of the above in kneeling, standing, or while seated
Looking for more creative ways to get kids working on a vertical surface? Check out these great ideas over at Lalymom!
Want to share the basics about working on a vertical surface with others in a handy printable format? Download the free printable!
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