Getting to Grips with Handwriting

“When students struggle to write, I’ve found that it results in anything from goofing off when it’s writing time to frustration, tears, anger, and even panic attacks.”  Read  Scholastic Teachers for more simple tips and suggestions.

At YCSD they said,

“One of the most common problems occupational therapists in the school are consulted about is improper pencil grasp. While the most efficient way to hold a pencil is the dynamic tripod grasp, many other patterns are commonly seen in children and it does not always require intervention or modification. In the dynamic tripod grasp, the pencil is held between the thumb and index finger, with the pencil resting on the middle finger.”

I have some suggestions about handwriting tools:

Use white board markers on tiles or worksheets in plastic protector

  • The marker makes a lovely dark line without needing strength to press the pencil along the paper.
  • It slides easily on the smooth surface making lines flow better.
  • Mistakes are quickly wiped away leaving no trail of blunders.
  • Photocopy and file finished work if needed.
  • Use a laminated alphabet chart for daily whiteboard marker practice.

Use the softest crayons you can find

  • Use pencils or crayons that leave dark clear lines so that finger muscles don’t tire with the effort of pressing hard.
  • Use a B pencil lead (instead of HB)  in a propelling pencil if the line the child makes is usually too light. (I give the child an H pencil once they master writing so that it doesn’t become smudgy.)
  • Use charcoal, pastels, chalk on large papers to practice patterns and lines.
  • Let older children write with gel pens for the same reason – the ink flows smoothly and writing is faster.

Write on smooth paper

  • The smoother that paper the clearer the line.
  • It offers less resistence to the writing.

Write with short, fat pencils

  • the wider pencil offers more grip.
  • It is easier for fine finger muscles to grip a thick pencil.
  • Use monster chalk and chubby crayons.
  • The large shape forces the fingers into the correct grip.
  • A short crayon is easier to manage than a long crayon.

Use pencil grips

  • There are several different types – triangle, ergonomic and so on.
  • Find the grip that feels most comfortable and natural.
  • Use triangular pencils and pens.  They are popular and very comfortable.
  • I let my older children use propelling pencils that have confort grip cushioning.
  • The hand must be relaxed and check for natural and correct position of each finger

Here are some wonderful tips occupational therapists suggest at YCSD:

  • Pennies into piggy bank or slot cut in plastic lid. Coins can also be put into slots cut in foam.
  • Finger plays/string games such as Cat’s Cradle
  • Screw/unscrew lids
  • Squeeze sponges to wash off table, clean windows, shower, etc.
  • Play dough/silly putty activities
  • Pop bubble wrap
  • Squirt bottles
  • Use tongs/tweezers to pick up blocks/small objects
  • Use a turkey baster or nasal aspirator to blow cork or ping-pong balls back and forth. These can also be used to squirt water to move floating object/toys.

Aren’t these ideas fun?  I’m sure every child would enjoy playing while strengthening muscles and developing co-ordination!

More fun ideas for writing practice

Draw and write in pudding mix / shaving cream/ finger paint on a plastic cloth or tray

  • A yummy lesson (if done with chocolate pudding!)
  • Feels gooey – a sensory stimulus
  • Develops tactile awareness
  • Fun!
  • Shaving cream on a large window will offer half an hour of smearing and fun.  It just wipes off with a damp cloth if still wet.

When you have seen little or no improvement in your child’s handwriting using these tips, I suggest that you visit an occupational therapist.  Most children respond well to the therapy and will not require long ongoing sessions.  They continue to improve with home-based therapy and once your child has matured in the area of weakness they will not need to continue their therapy.

Dr. Philippa Gordon, a popular pediatrician said here ,  “ I see that early intervention can keep little problems from becoming big ones.”

Read the article about the benefits, trends and attitudes of parents seeking OT help for their children’s handwriting problems here.

Occupational therapy site for handwriting here describes the role and work of the occupational therapist in helping your child write better.

therapro offers photos and descriptions of different pencil grips, pens and other writing tools.

Latest practical find – Rocks in my Dryer has a very simple method to teach pre-schoolers how to hold their pencil.

A last thought …

I considered how important handwriting is …

Some employers hire professional handwriting experts to describe a candidate’s suitability for an advertized position in the company.

Handwriting must convey our thoughts and ideas, but more importantly our personality and is a vital skill!

Our children must master handwriting to develop confidence in themselves which will encourage positive self-esteem.

6 thoughts on “Getting to Grips with Handwriting

  1. Hi Nadene, Have wanted to improve my handwriting for many years. You’ve given me a great start, Thank you. You are doing a great work.


  2. Pingback: Celebrate Handwriting ~ National Handwriting Day! | Practical Pages

  3. Pingback: 10 Great Links on Literacy and Play for Kids

  4. Hi, thanks for the handwriting lessons and tips for holding the pencil. It will be of great help to my son and daughter. I am sure it will help lot of other persons as well.
    Great work and Thank you again.
    Keep smiling


  5. Hi there! I am so excited about each post I get from you, and I have put your information on my blog in hopes that we can get your hints and tips out to the world (not that many people read my blog, but it may help one person!!!).

    Thank you again
    Debbie in New Zealand


    • Hi Debbie, and thanks for the links on your blog! I agree with you that if what we post on our blog helps just one person, it is worth all the effort! Blessings, Nadene


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