In an increasingly digital age, it’s easy to view handwriting as a dying art. Few people own fountain pens and most written correspondence is tapped directly into devices.
Yet writing by hand is a complex craft that exercises visual, memory and fine-motor skills. It helps children remember spelling and develops their phonics skills. Older children recall facts and information better through the process of writing out notes by hand; brain imaging studies show that cursive writing activates parts of the nervous system that typing does not. Our brains appear to work harder and process information at a deeper level when we write things down.
Children need to develop fluency in their handwriting so they can concentrate on what they are writing, rather than the act of writing itself. Otherwise, the process of writing will distract a child from their composition. Fluency is far more important than neatness. How can parents help their children develop this skill?
Make it personal
When your child first learns to write, start with the thing most personal to them – their name. Get them to trace, copy, decorate, paint it, join dot-to-dot letters etc until it’s second nature. Then introduce family names, pet names – things that matter to them. Repetition is key.
Practice letter shapes and movements
Focus on the movement used to create letters, rather than just copying and tracing. It is as important to know how letters are formed as what they look like. If a child gets into the habit of starting ‘p’s at the bottom or going clockwise with their ‘o’s they will find it difficult to write fluidly and will struggle to join up their writing later on. Demonstrate the direction the pencil moves to make a letter.
For preschoolers and Preps, practice the drawing movements they need for writing:
anti-clockwise circles (practice for a, c, d, e, g, o, q)
clockwise circles (b, p)
straight lines, starting at the top (b, d, f, h, i, j, k, l, p, q, r, t)
diagonals (k, q, x, v, z)
curves and wiggles (s, k, g, y, f, j, m, n, r, u, w)
Don’t worry about size or neatness at this stage. Use different media to reinforce technique – draw in sand, shaving foam, steamy windows and flour, finger paint, use chalk, markers, crayons, pencils or try an app like Writing Wizard or Eggy Alphabet.
This article is an extract from a blog post by King’s Christian College. For more information, search in Google for “King’s Christian College helping your child with handwriting”