Writing is a funny skill. As grown-ups, we tend not to think too much about writing a simple sentence or a list, but for children who are just starting their school years it can be quite daunting. Some children thrive early on, quickly grasping how to form letters and using their knowledge to write notes to their friends and family.
Other children, however, may struggle. They may lack the strength in their upper arms, or the fine motor skills required to hold a pencil correctly. Some children might find the task boring, others might become easily frustrated when they make mistakes, leading to them giving up out of anger. Thankfully, there are lots of ways parents can help their children to develop this skill.
Improve Fine Motor Skills Through Play
If your child struggles with handwriting at school, it might be because he or she needs help generally with fine motor skills, i.e., those smaller movements we make with our hands and fingers. You can help your child develop these skills through play with activities that your child won’t even recognise as related to handwriting, which is great for those children who shudder at the very word. Encourage your child to play with Play-Doh or plasticine, cutting out shapes and making models. You could even try sugar paste and suggest that your child makes some cake decorations.
Threading beads is another great activity to improve fine motor skills. You could ask your child to make some jewellery for you. Alternatively, get them to thread some Cheerios onto pipe cleaners that can be hung outside to feed the birds.
Experiment With Different Pencils & Pens
Some children may struggle with standard pencils, as they can be too large for your child’s hands. Smaller pencils, such as those you might find in Ikea, might be all that’s needed for your child to make a significant improvement in handwriting. Felt tip pens may also help, as the soft brushes mean that less pressure is needed for writing. On the other hand, if your child is put off handwriting because they don’t find it that interesting, you could try getting them a fun set of pens and pencils, such as these Scented Colour Change Pencils from Smiggle on Amazon.
Ask Your Child to Write a Shopping List
Asking your child to practice writing letters might result in a tantrum, but asking your child to write a shopping list so you can remember what to buy at the shops could be a way of motivating your child. The shopping list gives your child a sense of responsibility, something that children in the Early Years Foundation stage often crave. If they don’t want to write a list, try asking them to write a letter to their favourite pop singer, football player, or best friend. Use whatever engages your child and base an activity around that.
Practice Writing Without Pens & Pencils
Sometimes your child might be put off writing because they struggle with letter formation. You could get them to practice forming letters without using pens and pencils to start. For example, your child could write a message in the sand on a beach with a stick, or make letters out of sticks in the wood, for someone else to find and read. You could suggest your child uses Lego bricks to create a word, or even use small pebbles from your driveway or garden.
Get Your Child to Start a Diary
The key to developing good handwriting is to practice daily. You have probably noticed this if you left school several years ago and now do a job that involves very little handwriting, resulting in your previously smart penmanship becoming a scruffy scrawl. Encouraging your child to practice every day can be tricky, but getting them to do a diary might help. Let them choose a notebook to buy, they could also decorate it with stickers, etc.
Then ask them to sit down each day and write something about what they did that day, even if it just one or two words to start with. You could encourage them further by making it into a type of scrapbook, by adding photos, event tickets, postcards, etc. Your child will end up with a lovely record and will get some vital practice at the same time.