1. The brain engages differently when we write something by hand as opposed to typing it on a keyboard or by touching a screen. Studies show that writing improves memory; students retain learning better when working with new ideas through handwriting instead of typing.
2. Engaging the body in writing by hand helps make writing a more holistic activity. There is something uniquely physical and multidimensional about putting pen to paper to form words and sentences.
3. Learning the alphabet by interacting with each letter in many different physical ways helps students imprint and retain the letters and the letter sounds for easier recall when learning to read. Learning letters on a screen engages at most two physical channels: the eyes and the fingertips. It is not possible to tell one letter from another by the shape of the keys. Learning letters through writing them involves numerous tactile experiences, engaging the fine-motor muscles of the fingers and hand, and larger muscles of the arm and body, as well as the eyes.
Writing about oneself and personal experiences — and then rewriting your story — can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. (We already know that expressive writing can improve mood. Consistency will help you with the aesthetic appearance of your handwriting, as it creates a uniform look and feel to your penmanship. Know that you’ll eventually develop your own, unique handwriting style, so it’s all the more important to keep it consistent, just because it’s easier for people to read.
4. Many writers attest to the value of a handwritten first draft and the subsequent process of reading through and interacting with their writing by annotating, correcting, editing, and reshaping it as a whole. Typing on a screen tempts us instead to edit as we go, fragmenting and dissecting, and potentially interfering with the organic flow of ideas.
5. Even in this digital age, many accomplished people consider it critical to their success to keep a small notebook and pen handy so that they can jot down ideas in the moment and refer back to them later.
6. Many historical documents were written by hand and are now indecipherable to any who are unable to read cursive. The ability to read handwriting is gained through learning to write in one’s own handwriting. Being able to decipher both cursive and print is an important part of language literacy.
7. Handwriting can help us slow down and fully engage with our thoughts. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I type as fast as I think”? This is certainly an asset when transcribing the spoken word, but thoughts need to breathe (as do writers), and writing by hand conveniently holds such a space for thoughts to fully form before being set down in sentences.
8. With a pen in hand, there are instantly accessible creative and artistic opportunities that are not possible to weave into the experience of typing on a keyboard.
9. Handwriting is unique to each individual writer, unlike typeface. One’s handwriting style, and especially one’s signature, is a public and permanent statement. Learning to write well can help make that statement strong, beautiful, and – perhaps most importantly – legible.
10. Handwritten notes to friends and loved ones are intimate and personal in a way that email and typewritten text cannot fully convey. Nothing but handwriting can fully represent the mood and personality of the writer. A handwritten love note is a creative gift to cherish!
11. Proficient writing has a soothing flow and rhythm. While technology and culture is goading us to work faster and more intensely, tasks such as writing can help us find healthy balance in our work, our learning, and our play.
12. Being able to write effortlessly enables the mind to focus more fully on a topic. Struggling with handwriting takes valuable brain energy away from any writing task, but when that skill is mastered, it makes all the difference. Skilled, fluid handwriting is an asset to learning!
Sources and resources
What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades, by Maria Konnikova (New York Times, June 2, 2014).
The Importance of Teaching Handwriting,by Louise Spear-Swerling.
Why is Handwriting Still Important in the Digital Age? (Pen Heaven).
Behind Every Successful Person is a Notebook Full of Ideas (Pen Heaven).
How Handwriting Trains the Brain: Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideasby Gwendolyn Bounds. (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 5, 2010).
The Importance of Handwriting Instruction: Handwriting instruction is crucial for a child’s education, by J. Richard Gentry Ph.D. (Psychology Today, January 09, 2014.)
Master penman Jake Weidmann
Do you struggle to read your kid’s handwriting? Does he or she seem to really have a hard time writing letters, copying off the board, or finishing homework because of messy handwriting? Well, Momma, you are not alone.
Most parents, teachers, occupational therapists, and other experts agree…handwriting difficulty is becoming an increasing problem with our children these days. That’s why today, I want to share with you 13 of the best tips for improving your kids handwriting from occupational therapists.
So what exactly is the problem?
Practice makes perfect, right? Why is my kid’s handwriting not improving?
There are many, many factors and skills involved in children being able to write neatly and legibly. Fine motor control, hand strength, visual motor/visual perception, correct grasp, posture, attention, and more, are all factors that can impact a child’s ability to perform handwriting tasks. If a child has not first developed these necessary skills, they will not be able to write legibly.
More information on pre-writing skills can be found here.
Why do kids seem to have more trouble with handwriting now?
There are lots of reasons kids today are struggling with simple coloring and handwriting tasks than ever before. I won’t get into all possible reasons, but let’s talk about a couple of possibilities.
- Our children today are growing up with technology all around them, allowing for more “passive” play and entertainment from a very early age. There is more instant gratification, flashing lights, and simple one-touch push buttons…and much less physical manipulation and motor play.
- Sleeping on backs or in carriers as infants
- Because of the SIDS movement “back to sleep,” many babies are spending the majority of their time as infants on their backs or in carriers/seating devices. Babies need to spend time in the prone position (“tummy time”) for proper development. When a baby is on his tummy, he leans to prop up on elbows, then push up with his arms. The prone position increases head/neck extension, upper body strength, body awareness, visual development, hand development, and more.
- Less physical activity or outdoor play
- When kids get physical activity or outdoor play, they strengthen gross motor skills (which refers to the larger muscles in the body). These gross motor skills play a large role in the development of the smaller muscles, or fine motor skills required for handwriting.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link.
Best Handwriting Tips from Occupational Therapists
Here are 13 of the best handwriting tips for kids from Occupational Therapists:
- To get kids to put their letters on the line, I made mud paper with the bottom line darker, and told them their letters have to be stuck in the mud. You can find it on Therapy Fun Zone here.
- Use of gray space paper from OTSchoolhouse.com.
- Use of different heavy pencil weight with adopted grasp.
- Touch all the lines. Uniform letter size translates to legibility.
- Depends on the age of the child. For young kids, I start off with a 3 inch circle with a color boundary and a broken crayon to color just inside the circle with few mistakes. Then once they have the hand control, we would move on to letter formation or sizing using lined paper. I like to color the lines: green line, blue line, then red line. Green means “start” or “go.” Blue means “middle” for most lower case letters. Red means “stop” or “don’t go below the line” (with exception of the following letters g, j, p, q, y). Also i encourage to use small pencils and no erasers. So they can explain their mistakes.
- To improve pre-writing skills needed for handwriting, make it fun! Adding sounds to the motions makes handwriting fun and will improve success. Horizontal lines go “zoom” like a car, “zip” for vertical lines. Talking through the motions helps kids remember how to create letters and shapes. Circle can go “round and round” or “circle, stop”. Kids learn in different ways and incorporating different approaches into handwriting tasks improves carry over. Use colors or markers, make sounds and talk through the motions and most of all have fun!!
- Start by teaching the skill BIG (vertical surface such as white board, or sidewalk chalk etc).
- I play a game with Kindergartners. Short/tall/scuba diver. The kids have to stay seated if I say a lower case letter that sits below the dotted line, stand for the tall letters, and sit and clap for the letters that fall below the writing line. They really get an understanding and an awareness of where the letters should be on the line, they love it! In order for them to write the letters correctly, they need to have some understanding of the position of letters.
- I love making the kiddos hold playdoh in their palm to develop a static tripod grasp.
- I always tell the kids, “Think before you write. Slow down and relax your hand.”
- If you have a child that is having difficulty with spacing and sizing, you can draw a box for the child to write words in. This will help the child learn to decrease letter size and spacing to fit the box.
- Focus on letter sizing and space between words to improve legibility; triple-lined paper works best when working on letter sizing.
- I really enjoy using Handwriting Without Tears with the different multi-sensory activities and music. For children with Autism, the TV teacher program seems to be very effective.
More Resources to Improve Kids’ Handwriting
So those are 13 great tips to improve your kids’ handwriting, from the people who know handwriting the best…occupational therapists. Here are some other great resources for fine motor skills and handwriting:
- How to Improve Handwriting Skills with Kids from Growing Hands on Kids
- Handwriting from Therapy Street for Kids
- Handwriting for Kids from OT Mom Learning Activities
Handwriting Help Teach To Be Happy Birthday Card
What’s the best handwriting tip you’ve tried? Let me know what has worked for you!