Does Your Child Struggle with Handwriting?
Many children have trouble with handwriting. From the time they are little, kids want to learn how to write and make their mark on the world. But if you ever have a child who struggles with writing, you know it can be frustrating to them and to you.
Kids may get frustrated when they try harder but still don’t see progress in their handwriting skills. And parents often feel helpless, not knowing what else they can do to help their children catch up or improve at school. The good news is you can make some pretty simple changes as a parent that will help your child overcome any difficulties he may be having with handwriting skills.
I want to share in this article how to help your children learn and improve their handwriting with some help from you. Our goal is to help your child become much more competent in this area so that you can have an easier time helping them through school, whether they are just learning to write, struggling with it, or behind in their class.
If your child struggles with writing, then take heart. There are many things you can do at home to help them improve their skills.
Most importantly, remember this: it’s not about how you write; it’s what you write. Kids need to understand that writing is a tool and that if they learn this tool, they can use it anytime, anywhere.
Why is good handwriting important for kids?
Good handwriting is essential for kids. We want them to be able to write well so they can use it anytime, anywhere. There are multiple reasons why kids should develop good handwriting skills.
For one, they will need to write and spell well in all the schoolwork they do. Kids who struggle with writing or have difficulty devising legible, neat handwriting may get very frustrated while doing their homework and could end up taking a long time to finish simple homework assignments.
This problem can also affect the grades they get at school. Kids who have difficulty with handwriting or spelling might get a lower grade on a paper even when the content may be excellent. If the teacher can’t read the paper, or perhaps just doesn’t want to spend the time trying to decipher poor handwriting, they may just mark the paper with an inferior grade.
There are many other reasons kids should learn good handwriting
- The ability to read their notes is a crucial skill.
- Good handwriting boosts their self-confidence
- Handwriting skills are correlated to good work habits in other subject areas
Why does my child have bad handwriting?
From the time they are little, kids want to learn how to write and make their mark on the world. But if you’ve ever had a child who struggled with writing, you know it can be frustrating for your child and you. Your child may get frustrated when they try harder but still don’t see progress in their handwriting. And parents often feel helpless, not knowing what else they can do to help their children catch up or improve at school. The good news is you can make some pretty simple changes as a parent to help your child with any difficulties with handwriting skills.
Children with fine motor skill difficulties often have trouble with handwriting. There are many other reasons kids struggle with handwriting:
Fear of making mistakes,
Lack of motivation or focus,
Not understanding how to form letters
It can all be factors, always hurrying through their writing. Whatever your child’s struggles may be, the good news is you don’t have to wait until first grade to help your child.
Handwriting is a complex skill that requires coordination and muscle control
The need for handwriting in the world today is diminishing due to technology. However, it is still valuable for many professions. Those who have difficulties with this skill are more likely to have other problems in school because of the writing involved in learning mathematics, science, history, literature, and other subjects.
Handwriting for kids should be taught early using a letter formation system that breaks down letters into small steps. This ensures that each letter will be mastered before progressing to the following letter.
When your child is in kindergarten and first grade, they learn the correct letter formation system, but many school districts expect kindergartners to write the alphabet easily. You can start earlier with your child’s handwriting. Young children at 4-5 years old can usually begin writing simple letters. Handwriting requires but also helps develop fine motor skills in children.
To learn good handwriting skills, children need to have specific pre-writing skills mastered beforehand. For example, they need to know the correct letter formation system. Young children at 4-5 years old can usually start writing simple letters after mastering this pre-writing skill. Things like not understanding how to form letters or fear of making mistakes are other factors that can contribute to problems with handwriting.
Start with simple, easy writing, shapes, lines, etc.
If your child has problems with handwriting, there are some things you can do to help!
For example, make sure they practice writing at home every day (you might want to start with simple shapes like squares and curves). In addition, encourage your child to spend time doing free-writing with crayons and large pencils.
There are many steps involved in learning to write well, but you can help your child work through the basics of pre-writing and develop some of the fine motor skills required.
Learn how to hold the pencil; this is a good tip for older children too
During this time, you can introduce how to hold the pencil in their hand. This is very basic, but many teachers and others miss this entirely. My husband is left-handed, and his penmanship is horrible! The first-grade teacher was very old-school and thought there was something “wrong” with lefties, so he never learned how to hold his pen/pencil correctly!
1. The Pencil Grip: Hold the pencil in the right/left hand with the thumb and index finger on each side of the pencil (with fingers curled around). Thumb up, pinky down.
2. The Pen Hold: Adjust the grip of your fingers so that they meet more in the middle of your hand and make a U-shape with your thumb and pointer finger.
3) Elbow: Keep the elbow at a 90-degree angle or higher.
4) Wrist: Lightly wrap your second and third fingers around the back of your hand, below the knuckles of your first two fingers, so the pencil stays connected to your hand. This lets you grip the pencil securely without putting pressure on your knuckles or supporting it with your thumb.
5) Paper: Place a notebook open in front of you so that when writing, your writing arm is at 90 degrees but able to reach across the paper easily. Your desk should be slightly below the height of your elbow.
Of course, this can be adjusted to fit each child’s specific hand size. These are just guidelines that have worked for me!
Pencil grips may help your child learn to grip the pencil correctly.
Improve my child’s handwriting after they have started writing their letters
If your young child has started to write their letters, the best thing you can do is make sure they are practicing. Sit with them and read letters or words out loud for them to trace on paper. It may help to draw lines on the paper for them to follow.
Some kids love stickers you can put on the paper with each letter; this is also a good idea if your child struggles with transitioning from hand-drawing letters to writing them. Remember, we are still building those fine motor skills, and that takes practice.
You can also improve your child’s handwriting by introducing them to different fonts that they like (chalkboard font). Doodle with varying styles of letters so they see how different fonts can affect their handwriting. Doodle with them to give them ideas of how they can start drawing their letters.
Start a Journal
If your child has already started handwriting, I suggest you find a journal for them to write in every day. Even if it is just one sentence, let them draw and rewrite letters they struggle with until it looks like they want it to look.
Like in Pre-k and Kindergarten, alphabet books are a great way to introduce new letters and improve handwriting. Remember it is okay if their handwriting doesn’t look perfect; teach them that they are learning how to make their own letters. You can also get tracing paper for your child to trace alphabet books with, then connect the lines.
If you have a reluctant writer, I recommend drawing letters on their hand with a marker to see how it feels to write the letters. It will help them build muscle memory for when they do work on paper.
There are also whiteboard tables that kids love. They can write all over the table, and they don’t get in trouble. These can be great for a kid’s handwriting; they get lots of practice.
Handheld whiteboards are also great tools. While watching television, a marker and a whiteboard have them write a few words during a commercial.
These are all easy ways to improve your child’s handwriting and make sure they don’t fall behind as we transition from printing (heaping letters) to writing (connecting strokes).
Our first step in teaching writing to children is sitting around a circle with their writing boards during a think-aloud strategy session. A Reading Ranch teacher will be jotting down students’ ideas using our writing wall. Since students struggle greatly with getting their ideas going, modeling the writing process is critical. Students need to see how writing is done visually; therefore, we can discuss and problem-solve interactively using explicit language while teaching writing.
During shared writing (pre-writing) and ideal for primary students, a Reading Ranch teacher will scribe the words, but the students are now invited to contribute to the piece. Students contribute ideas while the teacher writes. During this essential pre-writing time, lots of discussion is taking place. We encourage questions and provide answers. Think- aloud’s continue to be part of this shared writing session.
The most important thing to remember is that your child needs to practice their handwriting skills. Try not to get frustrated and stay positive, it is a slow process, but we all learn eventually.
When you practice with your child and observe him writing, give him some gentle handwriting instruction, but don’t be too critical, which will only lead to frustration.
Write slowly; one of the problems we frequently see is kids trying to just get through with their writing. Encourage them to write slowly so they and others can read what they wrote. Sometimes poor handwriting is simply not slowing down, but it will become a lifetime habit if it’s not corrected.
Consistent coaching queues and encouragement, and your child will be well on their way to developing good handwriting.
If you would like additional help, The Reading Ranch offers several handwriting classes for PreK and up. Including Cursive Handwriting.
What are the Developmental Stages of Writing?
The Developmental Stages of Writing are Modeled Writing, Shared Writing, Guided Writing, and Independent Writing. The four stages of teaching effective writing is a gradual release from teacher-directed to independence.
In guided writing, a Reading Ranch teacher will provide feedback, redirect young writers using prompts and clues to expand their ideas and develop organization. Oral discussions of sentences will be discussed before writing. Small groups are encouraged for creative writing as many children struggle with formulating ideas. Teacher/student conferences are encouraged, and support is given in areas of struggle such as clarity, form, individual voice, and grammar. Our role is to empower writers to discover their meaning.
This is the final developmental writing stage when a student writes fluently, making connections while expanding their vocabulary and promoting critical thinking. Students are encouraged to refer to charts and other materials to revise and edit composition. Finally, a child must have time to share their writing creation. Not only will this step provide student recognition, but an opportunity to receive feedback
The Reading Ranch Writing Programs
Penmanship & Handwriting
The Reading Ranch’s handwriting improvement program consists of developing penmanship and improving fine motor skills. We focus on stroke development, legibility, and appropriate spacing between words. We also cover cursive writing in later sections of our Handwriting program.
We also offer Cursive handwriting separately.
Writing Lab and Written Expression classes
The Reading Ranch provides an interactive writing program Writer’s Workshop model, which focuses on building the writing process by developing students’ ideas and transforming them into a polished (publishable) writing piece.
The Reading Ranch Writing Process implements the Developmental Stages of Writing: Modeled Writing, Shared Writing, Guided Writing, and Independent Writing.
Learners at different levels of abilities will progress through four stages as they learn to write: Modeling, Shared (shared with a partner or group), Guided Writin