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How Marbles can Help Your Child To Write

  From an early age it is important to start working the pincher muscles, these are the ones that you use to hold a pencil (and chopsticks). Many of the Montessori materials have a secondary function of strengthening these muscles, the idea being that when the child gets to the point where they want to write their hand won’t get tired so quickly and enabling them to write as much as they like once the urge grabs them. This exercise is easy to set up and doesn’t need any specialized equipment.

What you need:

polysterene cube – make dotted shapes on each side using a marker pen
golf tees

First, take out a mat to work on. Then lay everything out on the mat. It is a good idea to have the golf tees and marbles in their own little baskets or containers. Take a golf tee and push it into the cube on one of the marked dots. Younger children might need some help with this or if it is a new cube you can punch the holes first to make it a little easier. Once the tee design is completed pick up a marble and place it on the tee.  It isn’t as easy as it looks! Not only is this great for the pincer muscles, it also works the child’s hand and eye co-ordination.

Once all the marbles are on the tees you need to do the reverse, take the marble and place it back in the basket, continue all the way round and then remove all the tees. Pick up the equipment and return it to the shelf and roll up and put away the mat.



Use the pincers to pick up a marble and place it on top of the tee.

If you have coloured tees you could have the child match the tees and marbles to make it a bit more of a challenge.

Finally you can get the child to push the tees to a specified height to make the design more 3D.

Obviously, this uses marbles so don’t try this until the child has grown out of the shove-everything-in-my-mouth stage.

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8 Responses to "How Marbles can Help Your Child To Write"
  1. Kendall B says:

    Hi Jo,
    Thanks for the wonderful idea. I have wondered on how to fine tune the muscles in his fingers and hands so he will be able to hand a pencil and maintain the correct pressure.

    • jo ebisujima says:

      Any activity that means he has to ‘pinch’ something will help build those muscles. So think of things where he will have to pick up small objects. Pinching playdoh would work too, sewing (with a plastic needle and board with punched holes)…

  2. Christine says:

    Thank you for this! The timing couldn’t be better. My daughter was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder last month and one of the things they also picked up on was her pencil (and chopstick) grip. I will definitely be trying a version of this. Thank you!

    • jo ebisujima says:

      I hope it helps!

  3. Tracey Northcott says:

    What sort of age is this good to start?

    There are so many great things out there to try, but I am not a teacher so I am unsure of what is going to work for my just 2 year old.

    He gets great stuff at day care, so it is just the weekends and evenings at home that I need to plan for. I am looking for extra ideas to put in my tool box is all.

    • jo ebisujima says:

      I am reluctant to put an age on it since it very much depends on the child. My son was about 3 when we first did it and was past the ‘mouthing’ stage. With younger children you could start by having a posting activity like posting straws into a parmesan container or letters into a letter box. Once you can see he can do that easily make the activity a bit more difficult.

  4. linda Grandson says:

    Hi I am a trained nursery nurse and a Montessori nursery and Primary teacher. This is a great idea apart from using poystyrene as the base. It is easy for pieces to get broken off and if a child should push it up into their nostril it will not show up on an xray.I knew of a child that had repeated sinus infections, they became very ill and eventually a piece of polystyrene was found to be lodged in their sinus cavity.
    Alternatively appropriate sized holes could be drilled into a block of wood.Thankyou for the idea I will certainly use it.

    • jo ebisujima says:

      Hi Linda, That is a great point, as with the marbles It is not really suitable for children that are still in that developmental stage. A wooden base would be a great alternative for kids that might stick broken polystyrene in places they shouldn’t!

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