Thoughtful Parenting: Handwriting matters
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Handwriting is an important form of written communication even in today’s digitally dominated world. It is a critical early-learning skill that has a great impact on all literacy and learning activities. Learning how to form letters correctly makes handwriting easy and effortless.
Studies show that children who have good handwriting have a greater ability to focus on spelling, reading and sentence structure. The good news is that practice is one of the main ways to improve this skill. The general rule of thumb is to encourage short and frequent bursts of high-quality practice. In general, young children should practice for the number of minutes equal to their age at least three days a week.
Tips to practice and improve handwriting
Make sure the writing utensil (crayon, marker, pencil or colored pencil) is sharp. Sharp tips result in neater writing.
Use graph paper. The boxes help with letter and number size uniformity and spacing.
Prop writing materials up on a slanted surface. Writing and coloring on a slanted surface will support the wrist and possibly improve penmanship. A large three-ring binder works great for a table-top-sized, slant board.
Teach young children how to make capital letters first. These are easier to form because each is made with multiple strokes. Lower case letters (with few exceptions) are made with one continuous stroke or a fluid movement, which requires more hand and finger control.
For young children, set aside a few minutes every other day to work on arts and crafts that encourage cutting, gluing, bead stringing and coloring because these activities support fine motor skills, tool use and bilateral motor coordination. These are all important prewriting skills.
Arts and craft activities that support strong prewriting skills
Glue beads, pretty paper, magazine clippings, small rocks or shells onto empty shoe boxes to create personalized memory boxes.
Collect rocks out in the yard then decorate them with feathers, paper, paint, etc.
Rip colored paper into tiny pieces (1 to 3 inches). Make piles of the different colored paper pieces. Glue these onto a piece of cardboard to make a colorful creation.
Young children learn well through open-ended free play, so make sure your child knows there is no right or wrong way to complete his or her masterpiece.
Handwriting is important. All children deserve the opportunity to learn how to handwrite neatly and quickly. Three to six minutes per day is all it takes.
Julie Tourigny is a handwriting specialist and a pediatric occupational therapist. She is part of the team of educational experts at Steamboat Reading. Steamboat Reading is a nonprofit that provides a community of support for struggling readers and their families. They are part of the Routt County Youth Services Coalition. Visit steamboatreading.org.
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