watch how you hold that crayon!

Thank goodness for The New York Times. Until this morning, I thought my two-year-old’s fist-style grasp of her jumbo crayon was exactly as it should be. Now I know that I need to get her pediatric occupational therapy RIGHT NOW in order to save her a preschool year filled with shame and degradation.

Usually the Gray Lady serves up over-the-top parenting trends with at least some eye-rolling. But this morning’s story Watch How You Hold That Crayon is long on the crazymaking and short on reality.

I’m not belittling occupational therapists or their usefulness. Far from it: my five-year-old has made great strides in his speech therapy this year. He used to say the word “really” like this: “weawy.” Now he says “weally.” Why, he’s half the Elmer Fudd he was in September.

But I waited until he was five, and was pretty clearly not going to lose the baby talk on his own, before I even considered having him assessed. This article profiles a father who got private OT for his three-year-old because his crayon grip was exactly that of a THREE-YEAR-OLD, and the nursery schools to which he was applying might hold that against him.  Here was the father’s rationalization:

The hottest question when we socialized at our country house this summer was not what country club do you belong to, but who is your child’s O.T. back in the city. And how can I get an appointment?

OK, retch, but he really sad part is, this father may not be wrong.  Maybe Bam-Bam wouldn’t get into a New York City nursery school with his hamfisted crayon technique. If that’s true, though, then that kid (and all of our kids) has larger problems, since the way he’s being raised is completely screwed up.

The one voice of sanity in the article comes from Anthony DiCarlo, a longtime elementary school principal. Here’s his take on the problem:

…in the last five years, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of kids who don’t have the strength in their hands to wield a scissors or do arts and crafts projects, which in turn prepares them for writing…. I’m all for academic rigor, but these days I tell parents that letting their child mold clay, play in the sand or build with Play-Doh builds important school-readiness skills, too.

More Play-Doh time. That’s something almost any parent should be able to fund handsomely.