Unable to identify what your child’s writing? Want to fine-tune it with a few exercises? Well, don’t you worry! There might be a couple of things holding your child back, but we’ve got some step-by-step tips that can help you out!
Because handwriting is not just about putting pencil to paper. It’s multi-tasking!
Your mind tells you what to write and forms the shape, your hand moves from left to right shaping the letters, and your eyes focus on the word and the movement. It is one of the most important fine motor skills that every child needs to develop.
But note this – there are different handwriting milestones for different age groups, so don’t get all hassled…
…if your 3-year-old isn’t a calligraphy genius! 😉
Instead, you can focus on using their beautiful scribbles to develop their pre-writing skills.
As parents, it is our responsibility to help our kids transform scribbles into fine writing by the age of 6. Why 6? Because this is the age by which children develop the dynamic tripod grasp (the ideal pencil grip for handwriting). Over the years, there has been a lot of change in the classroom because learning has become more digital.
But homework and notes are still maintained in the old-fashioned hand-written form. Which means, we need to focus not only on making Handwriting legible, but also easily readable.
So what are some common handwriting problems children face?
Wrong pencil grasp, poor letter formation, poor sizing of letters, difficulty in copying words, spacing of words, sense of direction, poor pencil pressure, inconsistency in upper and lower case writing, etc.
Before we deep-dive into how to improve your child’s handwriting, let’s first understand a bit about fine motor skills and why it’s essential for your child’s development.
Essential Fine Motor Skills For Improving Handwriting
Fine motor skill is the coordination of small muscles like hand and eye. The best part about fine motor skills is that these skills can be developed any time during the day. Whether it’s folding clothes, mixing clay, using a spoon to eat, cutting a paper, anything! These fine motor skills play a huge impact on not just your child’s handwriting, but their overall development.
Bad writing skills often stem from lack of proper fine motor skill development. So what fine motor skills are essential for handwriting? One is in-hand manipulation. This basically means, being able to pick up an item (like a pencil) and moving it around with your hand. In-hand manipulation affects letter formation. Another skill is visual motor concerns – where the child is unable to identify how much pressure is required to be applied onto the writing equipment.
Here are some tips to improve handwriting and hand strength:
Step 1 – Getting started
1. Hold the pencil correctly:
The first most important thing is to hold the writing tool correctly. Children love sketch pens and crayons, but to help them practice their handwriting always ensure that they use good quality pencils. Thick, good lead is vital and the pencil’s length must not be more than 6cm.
The pencil should be held in place with the thumb, index and middle fingers. When the child enters preschool, he should already know how to hold the pencil accurately. You could model this behaviour and help the child learn how to hold a pencil properly. Here are some quick tips to improve pencil grasp >
2. Relax the grip:
Closely monitor your child’s writing. If there is a strong imprint on the next page or pad/desk, then that means the child is applying under pressure on the pencil. This could be due to stress.
While the handwriting might turn out to be neat, this undue pressure is unhealthy for the child. Help your child burst the stress, calmly hold the pencil and try writing again. Such pressure could lead to finger cramping and eyesight issues in the long run.
3. Use the right stationery:
To improve handwriting and not leave any marks on the fingers, it is very important for every child to use good stationery. A good pencil helps the child improve his/her grip, apply the least amount of pressure, not get stressed and produce dark and neat write-ups.
A good eraser must be able to clean up errors at the very first shot. Spending a lot of time adjusting and fixing stationery can be very stressful for a child who is learning to write. It could also lead to a loss of interest in the whole writing process.
– Do not provide the child plain white paper or regular ruled pages to start off. They need to first learn to size their alphabets and space the letters right.
– They should be provided four lined pages with brightly coloured lines. This will help them pick up cursive writing much faster and easier.
Step 2 – The perfect environment
4. Be encouraging:
A happy and positive environment plays a huge role in a child’s growth. Children feel encouraged and excited to try new things.
They do not get discouraged when they make mistakes and are ready to try again. Handwriting is one such skill.
Children need a happy and positive environment at all times, and this includes writing time. If you wish to make writing time fun and exciting then ensure that the ambiance is perfect and positively stimulating the child.
The posture and angle play a role too. Provide them with a convenient table, chair and table lamp. The chair needs to have back support.
It is advisable not to provide bean bags or rocking chairs as this poorly impacts both posture and the writing.
5. Identify the underlying problem:
Often children write illegibly to cover up their mistakes. This could be a spelling or grammatical error. A low self-confidence could also push the child to write in an incomprehensible form.
Rather than forcing the child to improve his/her handwriting, it would be best to find a solution to these underlying problems without belittling the child.
6. Patience, patience, and more patience:
Every child learns. Every child has potential. Some take a little longer than the others. Patience plays a huge role in this handwriting-honing process. Children have a low attention span and get easily distracted if they do not get something right at the first shot.
But as parents, we must find alternate ways to keep them interested. Be it a game, a challenge or an activity, a child must be provided with a new stimulus often to encourage him or her to try again… and try harder to improve handwriting.
Children mimic our behaviour, hence while modelling and writing in front of them we must make sure that we write slowly, neatly and legibly.
Step 3 – Time to write!
7. Hone motor skills:
In order to develop the necessary physical and mental requirements, children must be encouraged to play games and solve puzzles.
Enhancing fine motor skills will, in turn, help children write neatly as they will learn to hold a pencil properly, balance the book and page, maintain posture, and enhance dexterity, control, and coordination.
Even simple activities like laying the table for dinner, folding the laundry and arranging the toys could help hold fine motor skills. Dexterity and coordination need to be perfect to produce good handwriting.
Multiple non-writing activities like cutting paper, colouring, using cutlery, playing LEGO and Jenga, using clay and stringing beads help strengthen a child’s wrist and fingers. It also enhances coordination, focus, and dexterity.
PRO TIP: Another idea would be to try an activity box like Flintobox. The play-based experiments inside will not just inspire children to think differently but also develops various skills including fine-motor and coordination (which are essential skills for good handwriting!). For more information, click here >>
8. Proportions matter:
A primary reason why children fail to develop a good handwriting is due to the lack of focus on proportion. Each letter is designed in a specific way and good handwriting will maintain the size, width, distance, and style perfectly.
– Model and show them the difference between a capital letter and lower case letter. Both in size and style.
– Help them practice similar alphabets together – m, w, v, u, or, g, j or t, l, I and similar such groups. This will help them develop a cursive and fluent writing style.
9. Practice makes perfect:
Handwriting is an art. It is a proficiency that can be acquired with a lot of practice. Making this activity interesting is not very hard. There are many handwriting-based games and fun worksheets available online.
Every moment can be a teaching-learning moment. A foggy window or a sandy beach can be used as a slate. Encourage your child to try hard and not worry about failing.
Whether your child is using a stick or a pencil, your encouragement and his/her confidence will lead to a fluent, strong and cursive writing with the right amount of practice and zeal.