Despite the wide-spread use of computers and tablets in schools, it’s still necessary for children to master the art of handwriting. Along with reading, it’s the first academic skill your child will learn, so it’s important to make sure you start them off right.
Here, we give you all the tools you need to teach your child excellent handwriting. We’ve also provided some useful handwriting worksheets for kids, to help you assess their development and track their progress.
But before we dive into the details, let’s start at the top…
Why teaching handwriting is so important
Handwriting is definitely one of the most valuable fine motor skills a child can learn. In a way, it’s a form of multitasking: a combination of putting pen to paper, thinking about the word, shaping the letters, and focusing on the movement.
In truth, it’s important to make sure that your child’s handwriting is neat and legible before they start elementary school. By practicing handwriting skills from a young age, you can be sure that your child will develop the right grip and technique by the time they need to write regularly.
What’s more, teaching handwriting has also been known to strengthen a child’s reading skills. As a child learns the distinct features of each letter, it heightens their ability to recognize the letters visually. This leads to stronger reading development.
It’s also been proven that children putting pen to paper are more imaginative and have better-formed thoughts than those using a keyboard. Writing by hand increases neural activity in the brain, allowing for deeper levels of imagination to be unleashed.
The four main aspects of teaching handwriting
When it comes to teaching a child how to handwrite, there are four main things to focus on: grasp, formation, legibility, and pacing.
This is how a student holds their pencil, which changes as they age. We’ll go into that a little more below, but the bottom line is that there are correct — and incorrect — ways to grasp a pencil. Children should be monitored as they write so you can rectify any issues before they become habits.
In this context, formation refers to how a student forms their letters. It’s best to teach capital letters first, as the straight lines are easier for a child to form than the rounded ones.
To ensure that a student is forming their letters properly, it’s crucial to give clear, explicit instruction. Explain that they should usually begin forming letters at the top, but also help them understand that some lower-case letters will start in the middle.
Next, show them where to take the pencil off the page if needed, but encourage them to use continuous strokes whenever they can.
Spend extra time helping them learn b, d, p, and q. These are the letters that are most frequently mixed up, and they are where proper formation will be most useful. It’s the small details that make all the difference in distinguishing similar letters, for example, if you’re child is right handed then their b starts at the top, while a d starts in the middle.
If they’re left-handed, they’ll approach b, d, p, and q the same, but some letters — like e — may be different. Here they may form the letter the same way as right-handed kids (from the inside, and then around) or they may actually write it like a c, returning back to add in the line to make the e.
One of the most important parts of legibility is spacing. Ensure your student knows how much space to leave between both letters and words.
A good place to start is by having them leave about a finger’s worth of space between each word. Right-handed students have it a little easier as they can simply place a finger on the page to indicate where the next word should start.
There’s no doubt that when a child first starts handwriting, it will be slow and inconsistent. But as they progress, it’s important to make sure they’re writing each word at the same pace.
To do this, pay attention to their grasp and how hard they’re pressing on the paper. If they’re pressing too hard, it can lead to fatigue and reduced speed of writing. If they’re pressing too lightly it could mean weak muscles or an incorrect grasp.
If they seem to be struggling, you can have them practice with different writing implements or even on a whiteboard to help them adjust their pressure. By applying the correct pressure, they’ll be able to maintain the same pace as they write out their words.
How should handwriting lessons change as they age
The main thing that changes with age is a child’s grip on the pencil.
When their hands are small, it’s hard to teach them the proper tripod grasp. Instead, you’ll want to encourage a grip that’s appropriate for their age, allowing them to comfortably explore how the pencil feels in their hands. Toddler-appropriate grips are explained well with photographs in this article.
However, by the time they are around 3 or 4, they should have a rough tripod grasp — holding the pencil between three fingers. And by age 6 they should have achieved the dynamic tripod grasp, which they’ll use for the rest of their life.
It’s also important to understand that when a child first starts writing, their letters will be all over the place. There is a special paper you can get, with lines that teach the correct sizing for their letters, which will help them immensely. You can also use ready-made handwriting worksheets, with writing exercises and lines printed on.
Once they master proper sizing, they can move onto regular lined paper.
As they age, you should also be giving them the right materials to practice with. Finding challenging worksheets to maintain their interest is crucial — if they think that an activity is too “babyish” for them, they won’t take it seriously and it will be a waste of time. For example, if they’re soaring through their writing development, why not start teaching them cursive? This’ll help further hone their motor skills and give them a fantastic sense of pride.
No matter what level you’re aiming for, you’ll be able to source handwriting worksheets for kids all over the Internet, many of which will be sorted by age. These ones are challenging for kindergarten-aged students and progress in difficulty as they work through the booklet.
Top tips for teaching handwriting to kids
- If your student is having issues with grip, teach them the “pinch and flick” method. Place the pencil on the desk with the writing end facing them. The student pinches the pencil between the thumb and index finger, then flips it around into the correct position.
- Start by focusing on accuracy. Once they’ve mastered the letters themselves, you can move onto pacing, legibility, and size.
- Remember that practice makes perfect. You need to keep at it, so it’s important to vary your lessons to keep them interesting. Diversify your lessons with different styles of handwriting worksheets for kids.
- Similarly, not every lesson has to feel like a mundane task. There are plenty of worksheets out there that can make handwriting fun, or even turn it into a game. These animal-themed worksheets are a perfect example.
- Outside of handwriting lessons, encourage your child to play drawing and writing based puzzles and games. This helps them master their grasp and develop fine motor skills without overloading them on basic, boring handwriting.
- Use the right materials. Crayons and markers are fun but they don’t get the job done correctly. Get your students writing with a good-quality, thick-leaded pencil.
- For children that are just starting, source some golf pencils to practice with instead of regular pencils. The size is perfect for little hands!
- Give your student a special pencil that they only use for handwriting practice. Maybe it’s one that’s glittery or decorated with their favorite color. This will get them excited about their handwriting lessons, and the enthusiasm will lead to greater motivation.
- Make sure your student is sitting at a desk and in a comfortable chair. This helps them focus and learn good posture at the same time.
- Keep lessons short and frequent. Just ten minutes every day can have such an impact, but they won’t get too tired or frustrated.
- Leave the classroom sometimes. A foggy window or a sandy beach can be just the change of scenery they need to make handwriting interesting again!
- Don’t erase mistakes in the beginning. Encourage them to try again and remind them that there’s no such thing as failure when they’re first starting out. This will stop them from being discouraged during the slow process of learning to handwrite.
And lastly, don’t forget that KidsKonnect has a great selection of handwriting worksheets for kids of all ages. With color illustrations and fun activities, it won’t even feel like work at all!
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Link will appear as 12 tips to teach excellent handwriting (+10 handwriting worksheets for kids): https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, March 23, 2020