Handwriting Practice for Kids
Handwriting practice for kids is critical in helping them improve their penmanship and correct formations. Research indicates that implementing handwriting practice only 3 times per week can benefit your child’s handwriting.
Many children, especially those with special needs, often avoid handwriting practice. Parents and teachers can be challenged to make handwriting practice fun and effective. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Use Motivators (immediate response):
Motivators will differ with every child. What may work with one child may not work with another. Find out what your child or student is really interested in: a small food treat, playing with a toy or electronic device, listening to music, or just having some one-on-one time with you. Make the expectation clear when working on handwriting for kids (i.e. "Write these letters 10 times each, and then you can play with LEGOs for a few minutes."). Using more immediate motivators like these are effective for young children and those who are very resistant to handwriting practice. Making this expectation more visual can also help in comprehension--especially for those with special needs such as Autism and Down syndrome.
Create a behavior chart for handwriting practice (delayed response):
Using charts is another great way to express your expectation in a visual way. For example, if your child
cooperates and performs his/her a handwriting practice for the day, then put a sticker on the chart. At the end of the week, if there are 5 stickers, then they can go into a treasure box and choose a goodie (bought from the dollar store). Using delayed gratification may be an effective motivator for older children.
Try Video Modeling
Have your child preview The TV Teacher handwriting program on our website and see how well he/she is engaged. Our program has made amazing breakthroughs with kids who are struggling with handwriting.
Whether they have low tone, are not interested in handwriting practice, or have special needs like Autism or Down syndrome, our visual instructions paired with rhythmic chants are a hit.
Not only does it work well with children who are visual learners, but it has been proven extremely motivating as well. They think they are getting "video fun time", but they're really learning!
A research project by the Texas Women's University (TWU) Occupational Therapy team showed children in a Montessori PreK were more motivated to use The TV Teacher for handwriting practice than the control group.
Building a child’s confidence in handwriting can be tricky. If you begin working on a letters, try beginning with familiar letters like the letters in the child’s name. If letters are too frustrating, it may be best to revert to the basics. Use our program Strokes Shapes and Scenes [below] to help children with making basic strokes.
They can practice these handwriting formations in a variety of mediums such as shaving cream, sand, and chalk. Once a child feels confident with the basic vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines, begin writing some simple uppercase letters. All of The TV Teacher handwriting programs combine visual instruction with catchy auditory songs or chants.
Learning these rhythms can make a great impact on a child's confidence level because it helps them remember how to make the formations. Always try to simulate a positive experience for the child when working on handwriting practice or drawing. Children should feel proud of their work so they are more willing to try again.
Hand Strength and Muscle Tone
Low muscle tone is often accompanied by low muscle strength. This may make handwriting practice difficult. If parents and teachers can address a child’s hand strength, the child will be more able to practice handwriting. Some children may require a built-up handle (thick handle) to help with holding the writing utensil. Weighted utensils are also helpful for children with low muscle tone. There are many companies that carry adapted writing products for children with these special needs.
Ask your school-based or private occupational therapist to make a suggestion on which product might be best for your child.
Young children often have difficulty holding a pencil or writing utensil. This typically happens because children are being introduced to handwriting practice at a very early age. The best time to change/address grasping issues is in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten. Research also shows that although a grasp may not be a tripod grasp (three fingers hold the pencil) it still may be just as functional.
Grasping develops from 6 months to 6 years of age. Babies and toddlers will use a mass grasp to hold objects.
By ages 3 to 4 years old, children are typically using both a mass grasp or a brush grasp.
Children 4 and 5 years old should be comfortable with a brush grasp and be on their way to developing a tripod or quad-grasp for handwriting.
These grasping patters will be inconsistent at first. Throughout a child’s development, adults should encourage manipulation of a variety of utensils and objects: spoon, fork, cookie cutters, crayons, markers, squeeze bottles, chalk, scissors, and bingo markers. By ages 5-6 years old, children should be able to manipulate a pencil using a functional grasping pattern.
Large Visual Boundaries
If your child or student is just beginning handwriting and is making their letter formations too large, try making thick black boxes to give the child a clear boundary during handwriting practice.
A visual boundary around the desired size and space will help them focus and understand sizing expectations. Begin this exercise with a large box so the child feels successful. As the child masters that letter size, gradually make the boxes smaller.
Sizing / Margins
Where to write on a page may be challenging during handwriting practice. If a child needs help, a teacher or parent may use a highlighter to denote lines where the letters are to be written. Margins may also be highlighted. Another way to address these boundaries is to use a very thin line of glue to create bumps on the paper. Glue may be placed over margins or on the horizontal lines. This will give a child feedback for when to stop writing because he will hit that bump.