Does your child's handwriting look like this?
...in the Early Year Foundation Stages, this is what teachers are expecting to see... children who are attempting to write their name and words.
At this age, handwriting should be about pencil control
During the nursery years or even earlier, your child will have started to establish a preferred hand dominance. This is when they chose the same hand to hold a pencil, to pick up a spoon and to reach for a drink. This is an important skill to master, as without it a child cannot easily progress to writing letters.
How a child holds their pencil also changes. Their pencil grasp will move from a brush stroke to a three-fingered grasp. This is when their fingers were at the top of the pencil and are now around the pencil nib. This grip is also called a static tripod grip. It is called static because a child would not be expected to move just their fingers to draw. They will be using their whole arm to draw.
They will also start to learn how to colour between 2 lines and draw a basic person when asked. By the age of 4, a child should start to be able to copy a circle and a cross shape. They could also be ready to copy the letters V, H and T.
Let me ask you this, can your child do all of these handwriting skills?
This is what they should be doing by now...
Enjoy mark making – finds it fun to draw picture
Uses one hand – has a preferred hand dominance and does not swap hands during drawing activities
Controls the pencil – making some vertical and round marks on the paper that are clear and without wobbles
Tracks a pencil line – able to keep a pencil between a 1cm line space.
3 fingered pencil grip (tripod grip) – when drawing or writing this grip is emerging.
What happens in nursery at this age?
This is a time for your child to explore and learn using their hands. They will be gaining fine motor hand skills needed later to hold and control a pencil.
At nursery, there is no set handwriting practice time
This is exactly what your child needs, time to draw and learn how to move a pencil. At this age, it is more important that they learn how to make marks on the paper and that they find this enjoyable. For some, they will be cognitively ready to try writing words and for others writing their name is a big achievement.
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What can you do?
When it comes to helping your child learn to write, pencil control skills are often overlooked and taken for granted. After establishing a hand dominance, they are the next skill that a child needs to learn. Without this ability, there is little merit in going on to teach your child how to write their name as their letters will appear shaky due to their inability to control the pencil.
We all learn differently and handwriting takes time to master. However, if you use the three tips suggested below and spend time guiding your child in their play, time spent now will help them learn to write letters quicker later on.
Here are 3 easy things that you can do at home:
1. Playing with cars - For some children picking up pencil and drawing on a piece of paper can be quite alien to them. Pencil control is about gaining eye-hand coordination skills. If a child can learn to move something in their hand to the direction that they wish it to go in, then this is a basic form of gaining pencil control. Why don’t you encourage your child to create a town or a village where there are roads that your child has to drive a car along. The aim is for them to keep their car on the road with no deviations.
2. Drawing on paper. Being able to control a pencil on a piece of paper first starts with drawing horizontal and vertical lines. Only once these have been mastered had a child move on to drawing around circles squares and triangles. At this stage, I would not worry about how your child is holding their pencil. I would be wanting them to move the pencil between two lines spaces. I like to theme my worksheets so that they are appealing to the children.
3. Become a magician or a fairy. As pencil control is about the hand being able to move an object accurately, magician’s wands and fairy sticks offer a wonderful opportunity to gain this skill. If you do not have one to hand these are easy to make. I have seen wands made out of tree sticks with beads and ribbons attached. The ultimate aim is that your child holds their wands similar to a pencil and uses them (tail-end down) to "draw" either in the air, on the sand or in the ground with control.
What to do next?
There are various ways you can help your child.
- You can choose worksheets designed to help them develop their pencil control skills. I create my own and they have been nominated for awards. Yes please, click here!
- Follow my step-by-step 7 day email support called 'Transform by child's writing in 7 days'. It's free 🙂 Fill your details in the grey box above in the 'Want to learn more' section.
- Work with me 1:1 either by Skype or in person. Yes, please, click here to complete the contact form.
*names changed for confidentiality