Handwriting can be a tricky skill for children to learn and those pesky U's and NI's on report cards for handwriting can worry a parent! Here are some simple tips and tricks for lessening your worry and helping your child become a more confident and legible writer.
1. Make sure you have age appropriate expectations for your child.
Unfortunately, I have noticed a trend of pre-school and kindergarten aged children being held to developmentally inappropriate standards. I can't tell you how often I hear a parent tell me that their pre-K student is expected to write from memory both upper and lowercase letters of the alphabet and that their Kindergarten students are expected to compose multiple sentences regarding a given topic. Let's pump the brakes here guys! A child's ability to form an oblique line (like in the letter A) doesn't fully develop until about 4 and a half years of age and a true hand dominance is not expected to be fully developed until 6 years of age. With that said, how can we expect our pre-k and kindergarten students to be fluent writers?! Developmentally speaking, children between the ages of 3-5 should be learning how to hold and control their pencils and crayons, draw pre-writing shapes (circles, lines, crosses, squares, triangles), copy upper/lower case letters, and copy simple words. At this age, their ability to write their names and numbers from memory should be beginning to emerge, and, it isn't until the age of 6, that a child should be expected to write short sentences. So, parents, if your child is coming home with NI's or U's on their report cards for handwriting, take a peek at their work before you start to worry. The reason for their struggles might be that classroom expectations are simply too high.
2. Make sure your child has a good foundation and the right tools.
Legible and fluent handwriting depends largely on 3 underlying factors: postural strength, fine motor coordination, and visual perception. Adequate postural strength is required for a child to fully develop fine motor coordination. Fine motor coordination is required for efficient pencil control. And, visual perceptual skills are required for proper letter formations, spacing, and line usage. Fostering development or improvement in these areas is critically important for handwriting development.
These fun games are a great way to target postural strength, fine motor coordination, and visual perception!
Simple modifications or accommodations to compensate for delays or deficits in visual perception or fine motor coordination can also make a drastic improvement in overall legibility. For children who struggle to hold and control their pencils, consider using an adapted grip or slant board to promote a more mature grasp.
For children who struggle with line usage or spacing between words, consider trying modified paper to help them align their letters to the baseline or to visualize where to put the next space.
3. Get help from an occupational therapist...
If your child cannot hold their pencil or crayon with a mature grasp like this by the age of 3 or 4...
If your child is obviously struggling with pencil control, line usage, and spacing like in this sample....
An occupational therapist can correctly identify and target the underlying skills that need to be improved to facilitate legible handwriting development.
Give us a call at 225.292.4138 to schedule a handwriting evaluation today!