How Can I Help My Child Develop Better Handwriting Skills?

Amy Hengstebeck, OTRL, with Kaufman Children’s Center offers advice for families.

Many children struggle with handwriting, which is an important foundational skill for educational success. They are often challenged with forming letters, sizing letters appropriately, and ensuring consistent spacing between letters and words. Here are some important basics for successful handwriting to try at home.  

Grasp: A child’s grasp should be developed by 3 1/2 years old. Give your child small or broken crayons so they are encouraged to use only their thumb and first two fingers, which develops strength for a tripod grasp. Activities using pegboards, clothespins, and lacing will also promote this grasp.

Postural stability: A stable base of support is a must for proper handwriting as children with weak core muscles have trouble sitting in a chair and attending. Laying over a therapy ball and doing sit-ups or bouncing on the ball will help to “wake up” and strengthen core muscles. Yoga poses also help promote core strength and postural control. Animal walks, such as mimicking a crab or a bear, as well as wheelbarrow walking, help strengthen postural, shoulder and hand muscles. Inching forward in a seated position on a scooter board or using their hands to pull themselves on the board helps strengthen core muscles, hands, and shoulders. Give your child a vertical surface to write on, such as paper taped to a wall, to help promote shoulder stability.

Hand strength: Many children struggle with weak muscles that fatigue easily. This can lead to decreased control and frustration with handwriting. TheraPutty is a resistive material that helps strengthen hands. Hide small objects in the putty for your child to find. Ask them to pull and cut the putty as resistive activities. Having a child bear weight on flat hands helps encourage development of intrinsic hand muscles used for handwriting. Wheelbarrow walking, crawling through tunnels, and completing activities in hands-and-knees position help promote this, as well. 

Spatial awareness: Children may write their name out of order or take up an entire sheet of paper. Use boxes to provide a boundary for the words or letters and bring sizing down to age-appropriate levels. Use puffy paint or glue to provide a tactile cue for the baseline of their letters and Popsicle sticks to measure the spaces between words. Make handwriting practice fun and pair it with other activities. Multiple repetitions and practice will help to increase hand strength, control and success with handwriting. 

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Brought to you by Kaufman Children’s Center. Visit kidspeech.com for more information on their speech, language, sensory motor and social connections services.

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