When’s the last time you wrote something down on a piece of paper for another person to read? Not a shopping list or reminder to yourself, but something substantial where you had to make sure your writing was legible? For some of us, it may seem like ages ago. With the increase of technology, it can seem like pencil and paper are becoming things of the past.
But, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to worry about handwriting, anymore! Writing is still important — people who take notes by hand actually remember more about a presentation than people who type. The act of writing also uses more parts of your brain than typing does (since there are more muscles involved), and this forces you to be more focused. Writing by hand has also been shown to increase creativity and have a more calming effect than typing (which is probably why daily journals are so popular).
people who take notes by hand actually remember more about a presentation than people who type.
However, kids who have difficulty with the actual task of writing — if their hand hurts, if they aren’t holding the pencil correctly, or if they never learned how to form the letters efficiently, for example — probably won’t want to write very much. This is where handwriting instruction comes in, and that’s why it’s usually a part of all kindergarten and first grade curricula. You’ll usually see it in the form of worksheets brought home for kids to trace the letters of the alphabet. While these can be helpful for those ages, there are many things you can do before kindergarten to start building up those hand muscles in younger children so that they hold a pencil and write with ease. Here a few to get you started.
1. Cheerio Necklaces
Grab some elastic and a box of Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or elbow macaroni, and make some jewelry! As kids use their thumb and index fingers for this activity, they are using their pincer grasp and making those muscles stronger, which will be helpful when they learn how to hold a pencil.
2. Heads or Tails?
This is a pretty simple “game” — you spread out some coins on a table and their job is to make sure all the heads (or tails) are facing up. For younger kids who still like putting things in their mouths, you can use playing cards, instead, and ask them to make sure they are all face down or face up.
3. Eyedropper Art
Eyedroppers are perfect for developing those fine motor skills that children will need in order to write well. For an easy activity, drop some food coloring in a few glasses of water and have the kids use the eyedroppers to make color patterns on coffee filters. Reuse those eyedroppers by filling a few components of an empty ice tray with colored water and asking them to transfer each color to a different space.
4. Melt the Monster
Fill a small spray bottle (experiment with both types) with water and ask kids to “melt” the “monster” by spraying water on it. You can draw the “monsters” with chalk on the sidewalk or on your windows with a wet erase marker.
5. Kitchen Time
Getting children involved with preparing food can help with hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills (it can also help picky eaters become less picky!). Grab a set of kid-friendly utensils and ask your kids to help you peel and chop vegetables, mix the wet and dry ingredients, and roll dough for cookies. These activities can activate and strengthen hand and forearm muscles that are not often used, setting the stage for handwriting practice when the time is ready.
These helpful tips will encourage your child when it’s time to start writing!