Do we really need to outsmart our kids?
If your child is struggling with their writing, it can be a worry. You wish to help your child, but don’t know how. You’re probably thinking “But I’m not a teacher, what do I do?”
Have no fear—you don’t need to be a teacher to help your child learn to write.
There’s a very easy way you can help them improve at home without being a teacher.
Not many people realise this, but it’s actually possible to improve a child’s handwriting without them even picking up a pen or pencil (1).
In a research study over 12 sessions of 45 minutes a week, children played games that involved fine motor skills, such as threading beads, inserting pegs, and playing with coins. As a result, children developed and improved their fine motor and hand manipulation skills. These are the skills that enable a child to hold, move, and control a pencil.
So, scientific research demonstrates that playing games involving fine motor skills actually improves a child’s ability to hold a pencil and write letters. Despite this research, play is an area that is often overlooked when it comes to learning, particularly when it comes to handwriting. In fact, play is not just leisure time for children—it’s actually an occupation (2). It’s how children learn and explore new things.
This means play is vital for children to improve their learning. From birth up to 8 years old, play even indicates how well a child is developing. While children’s hand strength increases with age, it also increases as children learn to use their hands (3). So by engaging your child in play, you’re also helping increase their hand strength.
There is no need to worry
The great thing about this approach is not only that it helps children to develop their fine motor skills, and therefore improve their handwriting skills, but it’s also something easy and fun that you can do at home. You absolutely don’t need to be a teacher to help your child play.
Many parents think that iPads and tablets mean play, but these forms of play don’t help children to develop all-important gripping and writing skills, as they only require your child to swipe or tap the screen. Instead, to help your child improve their fine motor skills at home, engage them in play such as playdough, Lego, and small travel-sized games that require them to grip. You’ll see their writing improving in no time at all!
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Read Freya’s story…
Freya was a 6-year-old girl whose Mum had been advised by her school teacher that she could do with some extra handwriting practice as she was struggling to write some letters of the alphabet.
Her Mum contacted Sheilagh for advice as she did not know what to do for the best. She had an idea that Freya should practice her letters but was uncertain how long to do this for and how to know if there is an improvement.
Freya’s Mum was reassured that handwriting can be practised both formally sitting down writing letters but by also playing games. Sheilagh advised that it was important for Freya to learn how to sit correctly at a desk when writing as this is a crucial technique often taken for granted.
Both Freya and her Mum set a time three times a week for 20 minutes to practice handwriting using the handwriting sheets provided by Sheilagh. Sometimes the pages were repeated so that the letter formation could be mastered. Freya said she enjoyed the 'princess' sheets the best.
Howe, T.-H., Roston, K. L., Sheu, C.-F., & Hinojosa, J. (2013). Assessing handwriting intervention effectiveness in elementary school students: A two-group controlled study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 19–27.
Lynch H et al (2016) Play as an occupation in occupational therapy. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, Vol. 79(9) 519–520.
Alaniz, M. L., Galit, E., Necesito, C. I., & Rosario, E. R. (2015). Hand strength, handwriting, and functional skills in children with autism. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69 (4).