When it comes to children’s handwriting, there is much confusion over the age at which a child should be starting to write joined up
There’s also conflicting information out there, which can be confusing for parents. So how do you know when your child should be starting to write “joined up”? Is there a particular age when a child should make the switch from writing separate letters to joined up?
Joined up writing, officially known as cursive writing, was introduced in the mid-1980s. While printed letters are each written separately and are round and vertical; in cursive writing, each letter is joined together, and the letters are slanted and oval. The cursive writing style was developed with the purpose of reducing reversals (writing words or letters backwards). Cursive writing aims to promote faster, more automatic writing as joined-together letters are quicker to write than individual letters (1).
At what age do children learn joined up writing?
The age at which your child will start cursive writing largely depends on your geographical location. In some parts of the UK, schools introduce children to printed letters first and then move on to cursive writing later. In other schools, children start out with cursive writing right from Reception age. This factor may contribute to the confusion over when a child should start cursive writing.
However, the important thing is not to worry whether your child’s writing is joined up—but whether it’s legible. Regardless of whether your child’s writing is printed or cursive, the main aim is for the writing to be readable. Occupational therapists call this “functional writing”. So rather than aiming for your child to be writing cursively, you should be aiming for your child to write functionally.
For example, if your child has started writing cursively, but this increase in speed of writing makes the words illegible, then the writing loses its function. Instead, encourage your child to focus on ensuring their writing is readable and legible. If they’re really struggling with handwriting speed, you may need to consider switching to typing, though it’s still important to help them develop and improve their handwriting skills.
Broadly speaking, by the age of 8, your child is expected to be focusing less on how they are writing and more about what they are writing. So, rather than wondering at what age your child should be starting to write joined up, encourage them to write clearly and legibly whatever age they are.
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Read Eliza’s story…
Eliza was an intelligent 10-year-old girl. She was keen that her handwriting looked as neat as possible yet she still found handwriting difficult. When writing it took Eliza a long time to get the words from her head onto the paper.
Her Mum wanted advice on how to help Eliza speed up her writing.
A handwriting assessment was completed by myself. During this time Eliza was noticed to sigh every minute she wrote. Eliza said that her hand hurt and this pain became worse when she tried to write with joined up letters.
Eliza was introduced to using a different pen called a Yoropen. This helped her see what she was writing and caused her not to grip the pen too tightly. She was also shown what hand exercises to complete should her hand become painful when writing. Almost instantly her sighing stopped and within 2 weeks her handwriting speed had increased by a whole academic year group. Eliza is now able to write faster than her peers. She is writing using joined up letters saying that she no longer experiences pain in her fingers.
Zivani J. & Watson-Will A. (2013). Writing speed and legibility of 7-14-year-old school students using modern cursive script. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 45, 59–64.