Handwriting is an important part of literacy and an essential skill for life. You can help your child develop handwriting skills from early childhood, so that he’s ready to learn formal handwriting at school. Why handwriting is important Even though many children and adults use computers and tablets at home, school and work, handwriting is still an essential life skill. For example, children who can write smoothly and clearly are better able to use writing to record their thoughts and ideas. When handwriting is automatic, their ideas can flow. Children also need to write to do homework, tests and assignments. We also need handwriting skills to do many tasks later in life like writing birthday cards, filling in forms and signing important documents. How children learn handwriting Handwriting is a complex skill that develops over time. To learn handwriting children need to combine fine motor skills, language, memory and concentration. They need to practise and follow instructions. Handwriting starts with scribbling and drawing then moves on to forming letters and words. You can encourage your child to develop an interest in handwriting by giving her opportunities to draw, scribble and write. This prepares young children for the formal handwriting they’ll learn at school. Left-handed writing in children Most children choose to write and draw with their right hands. But some children choose their left hands. This is OK. If your child chooses his left hand to write with, there’s no need to make him swap hands. Children who write with their left hands might find it hard to see their writing because their left hands cover their writing as it moves across the page. By tilting your child’s page so that the left-hand corner is highest, you can help her more easily see what she’s writing or drawing. Toddlers: drawing and early handwriting skills Drawing is the start of handwriting for toddlers. Toddlers generally begin to show an interest in drawing with a crayon or chalk from about two years. Here are a few ideas to get your toddler drawing, scribbling and ‘writing’:
Preschoolers: getting started with handwriting Children usually start to draw straight and circular lines in the preschool years. Your preschooler might even be putting these lines and shapes together to draw people and objects. She might also be starting to form letters. Lots of opportunities to draw will help your child keep developing the skills he needs for handwriting. Here’s how to help:
Creative and pretend play can improve your child’s literacy. It also puts some of your child’s drawing skills into practice. Handwriting education at school During the first two years of school, your child will learn to:
Children develop their handwriting ability at different rates, but most children have mastered these basic skills within the first two years of school. From Primary 2 onwards, children start to write more complex sentences and write about their experiences. Handwriting: encouraging your school-age child Here are a few tips to encourage your school-age child’s handwriting:
Signs of handwriting problems in early school-age children Learning to write involves a combination of skills and abilities and an understanding of language. If your child is having difficulty with one or more of these skills, he might have some trouble with learning handwriting. Here are some early signs that your child is having difficulty developing the skills she needs for handwriting at school. Your child:
If you notice these signs, it’s possible that your child can’t clearly see the board, his own writing or print in books. Or he might have additional learning needs that affect his handwriting development. Getting help with handwriting Talk with your child’s teacher or your General Practitioner (GP) if you’ve noticed your child having difficulty with handwriting skills. Your GP might recommend you make an appointment with an occupational therapist, audiologist or an optometrist. Children with handwriting difficulties might need extra help and aids. These might include:
An occupational therapist can let you know what aids will help your child. Handwriting apps You can get handwriting apps for tablets and smartphones. Handwriting apps can be useful, so long as your child uses them only as an extra option for handwriting practice, rather than as a replacement. It’s also important to make sure that any apps you’re interested in use the handwriting script that’s taught in your child’s school. It might be a good idea to talk with your child’s teacher before you decide on a handwriting app for your child.