There are lots of skills that need to be mastered before handwriting can be really controlled:
- Core Strength
- Gross Motor Skills
- Fine Motor Skills and Pencil Grip
- Shape Formation
- Letter Formation
As with everything, some children find these things easier than others.
If your child finds handwriting hard, now is a great time to go right back to the beginning and build their strength and skills. They need to be able to sit in a good posture - upright, without supporting their body or head with their hands or arms. They need strngth and control in their shoulder, arm, wrist and hand muscles, even before they think about how letters are formed.
These building blocks, outline the order that skills need to develop, give you some things to check and some activities to improve the strength and co-ordination needed for writing.
Check all the elements on the checklist and follow the links for support with areas that your child finds hard.
Each skill builds on the previous one, so start at the beginning and don't move on until that element is secure.
Can your child:
- Lie on tummy and raise arms and legs up at the same time (outstretched)
- Support themselves on their front, while drawing straight lines paper / card / whiteboard on the floor
- Sit on floor with straight back unsupported
If these things are tricky follow the link for some great core strength activities
Swings (no pushing!), Wheelbarrow racing (being the wheelbarrow) and bouncy hoppers are all good for core strength. There are more exercises here.
Gross motor / hand / arm strength
Can your child:
- Screw up a sheet of newspaper with one hand
- Cross the midline – hand to knee
- (i.e. cross right hand over body to meet raised left knee - check that arm is actually crossing the middle of the body - don't let them rush!)
- Crawl using opposite arm / leg
- Form all of the pre-writing shapes (see resources in letter formation) in the air (copying an adult’s model)
If these things are tricky try some of the gross motor skills activities described in the document below.
Here are some ideas for developing gross motor skills.
Fine motor skills and pencil grip
can your child:
- Operate clothes pegs with tripod grip
- use tweezers to move small objects e.g. pom poms or beads
- Thread beads, shoe laces etc
- Hold a pencil with a tripod grip
Check pencil grip is comfortable and allows for fluid movement. NB if your child has developed a grip that differs from the traditional tripod grip, but still allows fluid movement and correct, controlled letter formation, this is OK.
If these things are tricky try some fine motor skills and pencil grip activities
Lots of practice with different equipment and materials can help fine motor skills. Here are some ideas.
Can your child:
- Form all of the pre-handwriting shapes (see resources)
If not practice these regularly, before starting on letters
- Form all lower case letters, starting and finishing in the correct place (see resources)
If not, practice any letters that tricky - try the letter formation guidance
Letter formation needs practice, practice, practice. Here are some ideas.
When children have all of the letter shapes correct, they can begin to build up their speed.
Make sure that they keep writing each letter correctly - bad habits are hard to break!
Use the handwriting guides to keep letters the right size relative to each other (see handwriting mat for examples).
Practise with spellings and key words - keep checking letter formation!
You could do some timed activities to practise.
- How many words can they copy from a familiar book in 5 minutes? Can they improve day by day?
- How long does it take to write 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.' Can they get quicker?
If they make a mistake with the formation of a letter, they need to write the whole word again!