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By: John Adams, author of Dadbloguk.com, LinkedIn Changemaker, and dad of two young daughters
Posted on: Nov 2, 2021

Help Your Children Develop Good Handwriting Skills

I clearly remember my daughter, Helen, developing her writing skills when she was at kindergarten. After first doing some amazing drawings, she progressed to doing some scribbles.

Her writing in the typical way, at first ‘mark making,’ which is when a youngster tries writing letters and words, but it doesn’t usually say anything. Not long after this, Helen was writing her own name. Soon after she started school and in that environment, she was taught how to do joined-up writing.

It was a major milestone when she started mark making and trying to write words and a real joy when she learned how to write her own name. She was doing something that bigger kids and adults could do and she felt that writing her own name was an achievement.

Based on my experiences, here are some hints and tips so you can help your child with their writing skills.

Rule number one: let your child go at their own pace

The first rule is to let your child advance at their own pace. Do not panic if your child doesn’t seem to be interested in learning to write or you feel they are behind their peers. Every child is unique and children develop at different rates. It’s also worth stressing that girls are generally about a year ahead of boys with their learning at the age of 4/5 so any daughters you have are likely to be more advanced.

Don’t force them to write or else you might create an issue where there isn’t one. If you are really concerned, ask your child’s kindergarten or schoolteacher.

Muscles and fine motor skills

To be able to hold a pencil and write properly, your child needs to have built up muscles in their hands. These muscles will give them the fine motor skills they require for writing. Keep in mind a child may complain of having a sore hand if they do lots of writing because they aren’t used to using those motor skills.

You could encourage your child to do some muscle exercises. This will both help them build up muscles, and also relieve tension.

Pencil grips, pens and pencils

Following on from the above, it can take a while for children to learn how to hold a pencil properly. Sometimes this is because they haven’t built up the correct muscles in their hands.

A pencil grip can help. These are usually triangular-shaped pieces of rubber that you slip over the end of a pen or pencil. It helps encourage the child to adopt a good grip.

You will also want to think about pens or pencils your child should be using (The Scholastic website makes the point you should make sure your child is using the “correct tools”). CARIOCA has a great range of stationery for young children. Its CARIOCA Baby range is treated with Microban, which actively reduces bacterial growth on the surface of the product. Do check out the range and keep in mind that because Microban is an antimicrobial technology, the treated markers will stay hygienically cleaner in-between cleans.

Try CARIOCA® Baby: The First Range of Antibacterial Markers Powered by Microban®. Available From All Good Retailers and Online.

Puzzles and mark making

Learning to write is a Marathon, not a sprint. It will take a while, probably years, to get your child to write perfectly formed words in joined up script.

To begin with, encourage mark making. Just give them a pencil and some paper and get them to go wild.

In fact, some early years specialists go a step further. They propose getting your child to draw on the driveaway, sidewalk or school yard in chalk, or in mud or snow. The idea is to build up gross motor skills and develop an interest in writing.

Maze puzzles are another way to help your child. These can help improve hand-eye co-ordination which is essential for having good handwriting.

What about left-handed children?

Any parent might naturally have concerns about a left-handed child growing up in a right-handed world. As it happens, my youngest daughter turned out to be left-handed and I confess I was a bit worried at first.

You may have to prepare yourself for a bit of smudged writing, but aside from that, you can put your worries to bed! My youngest daughter progressed at just the same speed as her right-handed sister and her schoolteachers have never mentioned it.

The one piece of advice I would give is to check what the grip is like on any pens you buy. Some pens have a right-handed grip which would be off-putting for a left-handed child. Shop around because you can buy pens with a left-handed grip and your child may benefit from this.

You may also want to make sure the left corner of the page your child is writing on is tilted up slightly. This will place their hand below the writing line and encourage a good writing position. You may want to watch this video from the School Run which offers some helpful tips for helping left-handed children with their writing.

Natural progression

In conclusion, there are two main points any parent should keep in mind. First, there is a natural progression with writing. As I said above, it often starts with mark making, before a child writes their own name and they go on to write in joined up lettering, somewhere between the ages of 6 and 8.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there are no hard and fast rules. Children will learn at their own pace. If you have concerns, speak to an education professional. So long as they continue to progress, don’t worry and enjoy the fruits of your child’s labout.