Today is National Handwriting Day and to mark the occasion, I have brought together some hints and tips in my Top 5 ways to help improve handwriting.
Things that are of prime importance in the Early Years can often become neglected as children grow older and curriculum restraints take over but if children continued to practise some key skills or had the opportunities listed below, I’m sure their handwriting is among a list of improvements that would be noticed by the child themselves, parents and educators.
Climbing and using monkey bars
Children need opportunities on a daily basis to climb and use their upper body muscles. This develops strength and hand eye co-ordination as they learn to climb up and swing from one bar to the next. It is a great way to develop hand strength – developing larger muscles initially leads to increased strength in smaller muscle groups.
Developing fine motor skills is of prime importance in Early Years but can often lose its significance in other year groups as the child grows older, bigger and taller. Daily practise of key skills like squeezing (sponges, playdough, plasticine); pinching (pegs, tweezers, pipettes); and threading (beads, spools, weaving) will ensure that children maintain and indeed continue to develop the strength in their wrists, hands and fingers that is required to hold a pencil correctly.
This is also known as pincer grip and is how children should be encouraged to hold their pencil or writing instrument. Accessing opportunities pointed out in 1 and 2 above will significantly improve a child’s ability to hold their pencil in this way. The correct pencil grip is imperative if children want to have legible, neat handwriting. It is also believed to be the best way to hold the pencil in order to alleviate pain that can sometimes be felt after sustained writing sessions.
In order to write properly, we need the correct tools to help us do so. In the same way that when painting, we need the correct brush for the space, style, material used etc. Ensure the child is using a pencil or pen that feels comfortable for them. While their fine motor skills are still developing, thicker pencils help their hands have a better grasp. Children who are left handed may require left-handed pencils which often have grooves cut in the wood to encourage correct finger placement. It may be that they need a ‘softer’ pencil in terms of the graphite used, for example, a 4B pencil is softer that a 2B pencil so won’t need as much pressure on the paper to write effectively.
I’ve always been a fan of gel pens – normal ones, sparkly ones, scented ones, the list goes on. There are now pens that need special UV light in order to be seen on paper! Anything that is going to cause excitement or intrigue to a child, will make them want to use it endlessly. Therefore, it’s a great way to encourage children to practise handwriting as they get to use something other than a pencil or a biro. ‘Special’ pens may act as an incentive to improve handwriting by setting targets in terms of what their writing needs to look like when using a pencil in order to get to use their ‘special’ pens.
Try some of the hints and tips and let me know the outcome. I hope you and your child continue to experience the pleasure that comes from putting pen to paper and expressing ourselves through writing in the old-fashioned way!