Sugar Aunts: Handwriting Spacing Tool & Toys to Work on Spatial Awareness

Handwriting Spacing Tool & Toys to Work on Spatial Awareness

When kids learn to write, it can be difficult to work on all of the parts of handwriting.  There is holding the pencil, and using muscles to maintain a grasp while writing sentences.  Then there is the letter formation.  Kids are learning so much at the age where they are learning to form letters correctly.  In Kindergarten, children really work on letter formation, and especially lower case letter formation.  When you throw in the lines and spacing to writing, it can be a real frustration for a new writer!  Appropriate spatial awareness in handwriting is accurately spacing letters within words and spacing words correctly within a sentence.  Letter size and use of margins also fall under the term "spatial awareness".  Today I'm sharing an easy (and inexpensive!) way to create a Spacing Buddy.  This spacing tool can be used in handwriting tasks, as a tool for spacing between letters and words.  This post is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy where I'm sharing tips and tools for many developmental areas using free or inexpensive materials.  Yesterday's Visual Tracking activities was a lot of fun.  Be sure to follow along each day for more creative ideas.

Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting.


What is Spatial Awareness?

Spatial Awareness is being aware of oneself in space.  It involves positioning items in relation to oneself, such as reaching for items without overshooting or missing the object.  Most of us realize as we walk through a doorway that we need to space ourselves through the middle of the door.  Some with poor visual spatial skills may walk to closely to the sides and bump the wall.  It also involves the fine motor tasks of coordinating handwriting with writing in spaces allowed on paper, placing letters within an area (lines), and forming letters in the correct direction.  Spatial Perception is made up of three areas: 
  • Position in Space- where an object is in space in relation to yourself and others. This skill includes awareness of the way an object is oriented or turned.  It is an important concept in directional language such as in, out, up, down, in front of, behind, between, left, and right. Children with problems with this skill area will demonstrate difficulty planning actions in relation to objects around them.  They may write letter reversals after second grade.  They typically show problems with spacing letters and words on a paper.  
  • Depth Perception- Distances between a person and objects.  This ability helps us move in space. Grasping for a ball requires realizing where the ball is in relation to ourselves.  Kids with deficits in this area may have trouble catching a ball or walking/running/jumping over an obstacle. Copying words from a vertical plane onto a horizontal plane may be difficult and they will have trouble copying from a blackboard. 
  • Topographical Orientation- Location of objects in an environment, including obstacles and execution of travel in an area.  Kids with difficulties in this area may become lost easily or have difficulties finding their classroom after a bathroom break.
What is spatial awareness?  Tips and tools for handwriting, reading, scissors, and all functional skills in kids and adults, from an Occupational Therapist.

Visual Spatial Sills develop from an awareness of movements of the body.  If a child has true visual spatial skills, they will likely demonstrate difficulties with athletic performance, coordination, and balance.  They may appear clumsy, reverse letters and numbers in handwriting, and may tend to write from right to left across a page.  They will have difficulty placing letters on lines, forming letters correctly, and forming letters with appropriate size. 

Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting.

Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting.

Spacing Tool Activity for Kids with Spacing Problems in Handwriting

This post contains affiliate links.  
Spacing between words and letters can be easy with this Button Buddy tool.  It's easy to make and can be created using items you already have.  We used a colored craft stick and brightly colored button that we received from www.craftprojectideas, but you could use any material you have in your home.  Have a bin of beads or crafting pom poms in your craft supplies?  Glue one to a popsicle stick or even a pipe cleaner.  The cost of this activity should be very inexpensive, especially if you use items you already have.  
Use the spacing tool while your child is writing words and sentences.  Show them how to place the Button Buddy between words and sideways between letters. 


More visual spatial relations activities (that cost little to nothing!):


  • Create an obstacle course using couch cushions, chairs, blankets, pillows, and other items in the house.
  • Try this activity for teaching over, under, around, and through with pretend play.
  • Create a paper obstacle course.  Draw obstacles on paper and have your child make his /her pencil go through the obstacles.  Draw circles, holes, mud pits, and mountains for them to draw lines as their pencil "climbs", "jumps", "rolls", and even erases!
  • Write words and letters on graph paper.  The lines will work as a guide and also a good spacing activity.
  • Use stickers placed along the right margin of  to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.  
  • Highlight writing lines on worksheets.
  • Draw boxes for words on worksheets for them to write within.
  • Play Simon Says
  • Practice directions.  Draw arrows on a paper pointing up, down, left, and right.  Ask your child to point to the direction the arrow is pointing.  Then have them say the direction the arrows are pointing.  Then create actions for each arrow.  Up may be jumping. Down may be squatting. The Left arrow might be side sliding to the left, and the Right arrow might be a right high kick. Next, draw more rows of arrows in random order.  Ask your child to go through the motions and try to go faster and faster.

Toys and Tools to help Kids with Spatial Awareness


Looking for more tools to improve visual spatial awareness?  While the ideas below are most definitely NOT free or inexpensive, they are great for improving visual tracking and visual scanning in fun ways.  These toys, games, and ideas may be a great gift idea for little ones who have visual perceptual difficulties or problems with spacing and handwriting, body awareness in space, letter reversals, detail awareness, or maintaining place while reading.  SO, save these ideas for grandparents and friends who might ask for gift ideas for birthdays and holidays.  These are some powerhouse spatial awareness ideas!



Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting.


Practice spatial awareness with this Pull The String Board Game threading toy. Kids can use a unique pen to create lined designs and come away with a project they made on their own...while working on spacing. 

When working on spatial awareness in handwriting, kids can count the number of holes in the pegboard in this Quercetti Tecno Building Toy. Copy instructions to build 3D structures while working on spacing of pieces and awareness of details in this fun engineering toy. 

To get the whole family in on a spatial reasoning game while working on placement of pieces, try IQ Twistfor a game of logic as you place pieces in this puzzle. Kanoodleworks on pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, and is a great way to practice spacing needed in handwriting. 

Mmini erasers as a spacing tool. Kids can write while keeping the small eraser on their desk. When they space out words, use the eraser as a measuring tool, just like our button buddy. You can also encourage them to finish their writing task and then go back and check over their work for spatial concepts with the eraser. 

Practice spatial awareness of the edges of the page by using a Clear Rulers. Kids can place the ruler along the edge of the paper to know when to stop writing and to use as a visual cue. Sometimes kids try to squish a word in at the end of a line when there is not enough room. Line the ruler up along the edge and as they write, they can see that they are nearing the edge of the paper. 

 Use a highlighter to draw dots between each word, to provide a visual cue for spacing between words. You can also draw a line along the edge of the paper for a visual cue that the child is nearing the edge of the paper. 

A toy like a geoboard allows a child to copy forms while counting out spaces of pegs. Try these Geoboard Many times, spacing problems on paper have to do with difficulties with directional awareness. 


 Use Arrows to start at the basics and practice naming left/write/top/bottom. Use them in whole-body movement activities where the child copies motions based on the arrow placement. Watch to make sure kids are not over stepping their allotted space. 

 Use Wikki Stix for spacing on paper with physical cues for margins and spacing. Use the wikki sticks to space between words and a "ball" of the wikki stick to space between words.

Visit our Visual Motor Skills page for more ideas in all thing visual perception and kids!

 Visual Motor Skills for Kids | Visual Figure Ground Activities | Spatial Relations

More Visual Spatial items you may find helpful:
Sensory Processing 101 book
Pencil Adventures Worksheets

What is spatial awareness and why do kids need it for handwriting?  Tips and tools from an Occupational Therapist.

Don't miss the rest of this month's series where we share tips and tools for Occupational Therapy with free and inexpensive items.

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