Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kids and Vertical Surface Work -- It's A Good Thing!

When I was in elementary school I loved being called up to do work on the board. I volunteered to erase the board, wash the board, and clap the erasers clean on the outside bricks of the school building.
When we visited and Aunt Ethel and Uncle Burt I couldn't wait . . . . . . they had a smooth, slate blackboard that I was allowed to write on if I was vey polite and behaved myself.  Believe you me, I was very polite and behaved myself.  It was such a treat!
 And painting on an easel? That was a much anticipated art activity! 
Little did I consider the developmental benefits of writing, painting, and working on a vertical surface. But as a therapist recently shared with me, there are many benefits for children when they work on vertical surfaces!  Here are eight of those benefits.

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 used a stencil to create a border on my kitchen wall. — there was a bit of a learning curve and it was not easy!  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.  Play on vertical surface surface gets both hands working together which promotes bilateral integration. 

4) Wrist Extension/Pencil Grasp

Vertical surface writing naturally puts the wrist in an extended position which encourages hand stabilization for better pencil grasp and 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 children 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 kids who prefer activity over sitting (no matter how engaging the activity).  This is easy to relate to because 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 provides a healthy 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 to maintain upright posture. Good head and neck position during play promotes visual skill development such as scanning and tracking.  
There are many ways to play and work using a vertical surface. Here are some of my
-Paint w/ paintbrushes or paint rollers
-Decorate a window w/ window clings
-Play w/ magnets on the refrigerator
-Paint w/ shaving cream or finger paint on an easel or table turned on its side.
-Play w/ felt shapes and pictures on a felt board
-Draw & color w/ chalk on a chalkboard . . . . & then erase!
-Wash windows & using a squigee
-Help wash the car
-Make your own DIY Removable Lego Wall.  Building w/ Legos on a vertical surface is a whole new world. Not only fun, but also great for all of the skills listed above!


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