Learning how to write is a struggle, for both the kids and the parents! Kids have to learn to hold a pencil with “pinchy fingers,” keep their hands and shoulders steady and leave spaces between words. Parents have to learn how to have patience with beginning writers, avoid placing pressure on or rushing their children and help them develop their skills. It is important to encourage good handwriting early on.
One common program that simplifies the learning process is the “Handwriting Without Tears” program. “There are only four strokes the kids have to learn: big line, little line, big curve and little curve,” said preschool teacher Brittany Clark, who has been teaching for five years. “Every letter, number and shape has a combination of those four. It makes it fun, kind of like a puzzle.”
Developing hand strength is also important. Having children manipulate Play-Doh, pick up grains of rice or alphabet macaroni and practice simple finger exercises will help them develop fine motor skills.
Children who are a little older may have some difficulty keeping their sentences in a straight line. I’ve seen many kids use a chalkboard to write, and the sentence either goes uphill or downhill! Use lined paper to help guide their hands. Remind children that capital letters should stretch from the top line to the bottom line, and lower case letters should be half the size of uppercase. To separate words in a sentence, have your child place his index finger between words.
➜ Practicing at Home
Have your child write a letter to a friend, a grandparent or even Santa Claus. Talk to your child about what she wants to be when she grows up and then discuss how good handwriting is important in that profession. Games, such as tic-tac-toe or hangman, can also help improve writing skills, and it won’t feel so much like homework if you make it fun!
To encourage good handwriting, kiddos may need some extra help, and you can consult with your child’s teacher to see if they recommend occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can evaluate a child’s muscle strength, endurance, coordination and muscle control. They can help your child develop proper posture for handwriting, such as the proper use of the arms, hands, head and eyes. They can also develop handwriting curriculum and suggest effective strategies to you and your child’s teacher.