Fact: bad handwriting can affect your kid’s grades. Teachers can misread letters or numbers or give a paper a lower mark because it looks messy and rushed. Kids also start taking more notes in third or fourth grade, so the ability to write quickly but legibly is a real survival skill.
Another fact: Writing sheets are really, really boring.
What really affects handwriting? Writing letters seems simple, but it actually involves a lot of important factors:
fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination
how your child grips a pencil, and how much pressure he puts
If your little one finds it hard to write, here are some ways to get him to practice. He won't even notice it!
1. Teach proper pencil grip Preschoolers tend to grip pencils with their fist, instead of a “tripod” grip (three fingers). Preschool teacher made this demo for parents that explains how to get your kids into the right writing position, and how to get them to stay in the lines (Sky-Fence-Ground, repeat!). Here's a video to show you.
2. Use a rubber band. Who would’ve thought rubber bands could be such a great teaching aid? Wrap a rubber band where your kids should hold the pencil, or keep it in place.
3. Make crafts together Encourage any activity that gets kids to exercise the muscles in their hands. Here are some fun crafts activities you can do together:
Make clay animals or pretend food. Rolling the clay and shaping it into tiny details (like teensy eyes for the clay kitty) gets kids to use their three fingers
Cut out pictures for a collage or card. This uses both the “pencil muscles” and sharpens hand-eye coordination, as they follow a shape.
Make bead necklaces. Use large beads with large holes.
Loombands. This toy may have fallen out of trend, but it’s still a great way to get preschoolers to practice their finger muscles and learn patterns.
4. Make pizza. Some kids don’t enjoy crafts, but everybody universally loves pizza. Your kids will love this activity, strengthen muscles as they knead the dough and sprinkle the toppings, and you get a merienda out of it too. Win-win!
5. Make chalk sidewalk drawings. We all have that moment when our very hyper child is driving us crazy and we say, “Go outside and play!” Next time that happens, give them a bag of chalk. They can draw on the driveway or playground sidewalk, and you have 15 minutes of peace.
6. Give them “line” puzzles Look for activity books with mazesor connect-the-dots. Theseteach them to draw straight lines, which they need for making letters.
7.Practice letters in groups Some letters touch both blue lines (b d f h k l t), others touch the red (a c e i m n o r s u v w x z), and others have tails (g j p q y). Practicing them in groups helps kids remember where they start and end. Download this printable sheet to get started.
Writing sheets – and why it helps more than handwriting There are many fun ways to get kids to practice hand muscles, but your kids still need those sheets. Yes they will be bored and YES you will need to count to 10 and calmly tell them to do it, even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day.
Repetition builds memory, accuracy, and speed. Even in “fun” classes like piano, taekwando or swimming your child’s coach will require muscle drills. Sometimes you have to do boring stuff to help you become good at something.
Like everything else in the early grades, writing sheets helps ease your child into the routine and discipline required to succeed at everything else. So print out the writing sheets, prepare a yummy snack, give out reward stickers and hugs, and hold your ground. He won’t like it, but while he practices his handwriting, you get to practice for nagging him to do his homework!
But take it from a mom who has kids in upper grades: it’s easier to get handwriting fixed in the early grades while homework is easy, than to chase an older kid who has to handle difficult subjects and struggle to turn in clean and neat work. He doesn’t see it, but you’re saving both of yourselves a lot of stress. Get him on the write—or right—start, and reap the rewards later on.