Our brain engages differently when we write something by hand as opposed to typing, touching a screen or saying it out loud. In fact, research has shown that handwriting can help improve memory skills. In addition, it is through handwriting that we can express ourselves and communicate with the world around us. However, the physical act of handwriting is complex in nature- and there are many aspects of this skill that can impact a child’s ability to perform to their optimal potential. Below are a few simple tips and tricks to help support kids as they develop handwriting skills:
6 TIPS FOR SUPPORTING HANDWRITING FOR KIDS:
1. Core and shoulder Strength:
Having a strong foundation is imperative to support distal dexterity (ie. The skills needed for handwriting) – Think of a house: If you don’t have a strong foundation, it can not support the remainder of the accessories and ultimately it will fall apart in time. Our kids need to have the stability and support of the bigger muscles of their body in order to support improved handwriting. Some fun ways to work on proximal strengthening are:
- Playing games/activities in a variety of different positions:
- On your belly (prone position): works on neck, back and core strengthening, in addition to shoulder stability
- In side sit: promotes shoulder stability and core strengthening, in addition to crossing midline (another important developmental skill)
- On hands and knees: A great way to work on balance, core control and shoulder stability, in addition to visual attention.
- On tall knees or ½ kneeling: Level up with this one, a great position for core/glute strength and stability.
- Sitting on an exercise ball or dynadisk:
- Doing animal walks: Animal walks are a fun way to have your child move their body while work on strengthening – focus on core, shoulder and hip stability. (click here for a free handout of a variety of different animal cards)
- Climbing, swinging, jumping and using playground equipment
- Swimming, bike riding and exploring the outdoors
- Yoga for kids (check out this free handout on TPT)
- Sports/activities such as rock climbing, karate, gymnastics, etc.
Check out more ways to strengthen your core HERE
2. Change the Surface
Changing the surface can help promote strengthen shoulder and core muscles in addition to promoting development of wrist and smaller muscles of the hand that are needed for handwriting. It also can help your child with crossing midline which is needed for a strong hand dominance, development of eye-hand coordination and spatial awareness, amongst other skills. But most importantly, it can be more fun then sitting sometimes (and it is good for their body). A few fun ways to change the surface are:
- Slant board (or binder)
- Easel or vertical surface
- Under a table: Laying on your back and placing the paper on the bottom side of the table
If you want to learn more about the benefits of working on a vertical surface, check out this post by the inspired tree house HERE
3. Try different materials:
Sometimes it is about the process, not the product. Our brains are wired to learn in a variety of different ways – so using our different senses and practicing the skills in a variety of different ways (also called kinesthetic learning) is going to help your kids brain learn important handwriting skills more efficiently and effectively. Some fun ways to change the materials:
- Practice writing in sand or salt trays
- Use play-doh to build letters
- Using sand paper under the writing paper for a different feeling
- Paint/shaving cream
4. Change the writing tools:
Sometimes a pencil is just a hard NO for our kids. But what about when you present something different? Different tools can promote development of smaller muscles of the hand, awareness and encourage overall dexterity. Some fun tools to try:
- Mini crayons (yes, you can break your crayons)
- Sidewalk chalk
- Wiggle pen
- Paint/paint brushes
- Finger paint
- Stylus and tablet
5. Make it fun!
How often do you get an eye-roll, meltdown or negotiation with your kids as soon as you mention handwriting? Now on the contrary, how often do you get those reactions when you introduce a game or fun activity? I bet whole lot less! There are so many games and activities you can play with your kids that promote development of dexterity and coordination skills. A few of our favorite are:
- Feed Fred
- Fast Track
- Gumball Grab
- Crazy Aaron;s Thinking Putty
- Crafts and art activities
- You can also use household items to work on a lot of these skills. For example, using pom poms, clothes pins, stickers, paper clips, chip clips, etc.
Click HERE for 35 fun ways to work on hand strengthening without writing by the Inspired Tree House:
6. Create a positive environment:
Praise and encouragement are imperative to helping your kids ‘buy in’ to handwriting activities. When you provide praise and positive feedback, it is more likely to elicit mini victories, help build your child’s self esteem and assist in fostering a sense of secuty within your relationship. If they feel safe, welcome and validated, they are more likely to engage in a challenging task or activity.
If nothing else remember, kids primary occupation is play. During these activities, focus on the process not the product and have some fun. Your child is building so many skills with each activity, game and interaction.
If you want to learn more about praise, validation, and developing a growth mindset, check out our posts here:
- Developing a Growth Mindset For Your Kids
- How to Help your Kids Develop A Gratitude Attitude
- Validation: Why Is It So Crutial For Our Kids?
We hope you found this post helpful. Click HERE to learn more about what services and supports South Shore Therapies has to offer. Results that make a difference.
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Hi, I am an occupational therapist at South Shore Therapies. I specialize in pediatirc brain injury and stroke, but love working with all families to help kids reach their optimal potential. Our mission with SST’s social media platform is to empower, educate and inspire families to take on life’s challenges while promoting an optimistic outlook and a brighter future.