Handwriting is a key skill that children start to learn as soon as they grasp a marker and try to color on the wall. There are so many different skills that must work together with handwriting including hand-eye coordination, grasping, strength, vision, and control of the tool the child is using to write. It is key to begin working on handwriting skills as soon as a child shows interest as we must first learn how to make simple shapes before we are able to write short stories. Here are some tips and tricks for handwriting:
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Children begin to scribble
- Provide children with easels or a vertical surface to color on as this promotes strength and visual attention.
- Schedule an appointment with your optometrist to make sure that your child’s vision is appropriate.
- Use small tools as children have small hands. A great tip is to use broken crayons as this will help build the small muscles in each child’s hand.
- Tip: Do NOT break the crayon in front of the child as this will result in your child’s new favorite game of breaking crayons.
Children become more coordinated with writing and start to imitate shapes
- Practice vertical and horizontal strokes. A great trick is to add fun noises with each movement as this makes the child more interested.
- Consider using shaving cream on the wall when the child is in the bathtub. This is a great way for the child to explore with sensory input and to build their hand-eye coordination skills.
- Practice making circles and crosses. A helpful trick when making circles is to first have the child go around a preferred object. For example, if your child loves Legos, place a Lego on the table on top of a piece of construction paper and draw a circle around the Lego. Show the child how to do it first and then prompt them to try.
Children continue to become more coordinated with basic strokes and should start to hold their writing tool the same way their parents do
- Continue to practice simple shapes and add more including squares, triangles, and even diamonds.
- Encourage your child to draw people. At this age, we would love to see basic stick figures with multiple body parts.
- Consider tracing capital letters and numbers.
- Tip: Children must first be shown how to write a letter before they are expected to write it. Always take a moment to show your child first. If we do not show our child, he or she is simply connecting dots on a piece of paper and not learning how to form a letter, this is called letter drawing not handwriting.
Children will begin to write their name and draw more complex people.
- Continue drawing people with at least 10 body parts. This not only helps a child with writing formation but also with body awareness skills.
- Encourage a child to produce capital letters and numbers with a model. Tip: Provide a child with a picture of what the letter should look like as a model each time they write the letter. Oftentimes on common worksheets children copy what they write instead of copying the correct model.
- Introduce lowercase letters after your child is successful with capital letters and numbers.
A helpful curriculum that guides handwriting development by developmental progression is: The Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. Occupational therapists (OTs) commonly use this curriculum as it provides great visual models and encourages the child to learn letters in a developmentally appropriate sequence. For more information visit the website here.
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Alysha Stoner, OTR/L