Helping Struggling Handwriters

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Do your kids have trouble spacing their letters?  Are their letters all over the page?  Is their writing illegible?   Do they hate writing? 

These are common problems with our young handwriters. Handwriting requires a lot of visual perception skills.  Did you know that the visual system does not completely develop until age 9?  

That means that our younger ones are often struggling with where, and how to place their letters on the page, and they often can land all over, everywhere!  

Now, these concerns are not even anything to think about when starting out learning their letters.  Kids need lots of time to learn to letter shapes and such, 

Painting with apples for the letter A.

.... through fingerpainting, making letters in the air, playing games with letters, and writing them on big sheets of paper with no lines at all.

But once your child knows his letters, and is trying to put words on the page...his visual perception is still developing.  And practicing over and over again, in a workbook can just get really frustrating, and may not be helpful for some of our kids.

Handwriting can become tedious, and no fun, and that just makes it all the harder. 

Today, I am sharing some handwriting approaches that may help your struggling handwriters.  

Here are four of my favorite techniques, from my OT days, that may be helpful:

1. Learning to write from left to right:

Make a green line on the left side of the handwriting paper, and a red line on the right. They say "Start at the green light, and stop at the red one!"  Make it a game! Like red light, green light...

2.  Leaving space between letters and words:

Many kids struggle with spacing, as this requires more visual perception skills than many young writers have yet. Typically kids crowd their letters together, leaving no space at all, or too much space between words.  

What's the answer?  A popsicle stick or a tongue depressor

Why?  A popsicle stick can make a great spacer for your kids. The ones that are thicker at the end work best for the widely spaced handwriting paper.

I recommend having a family popsicle party first, and by all means, coloring it, and decorating each one, to make it their own.

Take the stick and show your child how to space letters.  This shows them spacing, that their visual system doesn't yet tell them about.

3.  Placing letters where they go on the lines:  

Letters can also be hard to place on the line, especially when dealing with different sizes of letters, ie, f takes up two lines, e only one.  

Here are some handy guides, for each type of letters.  I just made mine out of cardstock, but cardboard would probably last longer.

One guide is for the small letters, a, c, e, etc, another is for 
the tall letters like b, d, l, etc, and one more, for letters with tails, like g, j, p, q, y...

Here are the templates for each of these guides.  

Feel free to copy them, and cut them out of cardboard or cardstock for your kids. Just fit them to your size of handwriting paper.  I recommend the widely spaced ones, like I used above.

I would pick one type of letter to focus on first, say the little ones, a, c, etc, and help your child get used to using the guide.  Then I would continue with the other types of letters.

4. Using a game approach, short sessions, with a focus on success.  

Here's some handwriting paper, that you are welcome to copy.... 

Or there are writing strips available from School Supply Giant for the frugal price of $1.99 for 100 strips.  Do one a day! Short and sweet lessons are the best, right?

Using guides, etc can help your kids with their handwriting, until their visual perception kicks on. And keeping on with handwriting actually helps to develop tthose important visual perceptual skills. 

Going to keyboarding right away can be a mistake.  Keyboarding does not help to develop the sensory motor system, in the way that handwriting does.    

Learning to write by hand has so many advantages for your kids:

1.  It improved visual perception skills.

2.  It helps to learn to shape of the letters, as they feel their shape, as they write with their pencil.  This helps develop kinesthesia, and the sensory processing system.

3.  It helps with retention, as the act of  writing the words on the page helps to plant the info in the brain, in a way that does not happen with keyboarding.  Using their sensory motor system to write the words helped to make the information stick in their memory.

Next, I'll be writing about playful ways that are specifically designed to help develop visual perception skills in your kids, Helping Struggling Handwriters-part 2.

What are your favorite ways to practice handwriting?  I love reading your comments....I also invite you to share a page of your kid's work, on my facebook page, BJ's Homeschool.  I would love to see what they have been doing!  Just like my page, and add your handwriting update there.

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MrsAOK, A Work In Progress

Happy Homeschooling,


Betsy blogs about everything homeschooling, including
high school, and all the fun of homeschooling the early years, too. (including more info on handwriting helps.)  Betsy graduated her daughter, who is now a newbie freshman in college.  As a former OT and preschool teacher, she also offers free homeschool help to families. for kids of all ages.

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  1. This is such a helpful post, Betsy! I love the popsicle stick idea!

    1. Thanks, Judy Hoch, and I hope it is a help to your child. Mine especially liked the popsicles, lol! Have a good Wednesday with your family, and thanks for stopping by,

  2. Great tips as my son is learning to write right now. Though he has issues holding pencils correctly. He wants to grip it with all fingers instead of the 3. Any way to correct him? He seems pretty stubborn against holding a pencil correctly.

  3. Thanks, lisacug @! How old is your son? Little ones will start out using all fingers, and with more fine motor practice, will progress to using just three fingers, for a more mature grasp. But, some kids do well with a pencil grip that guides them into using the more mature grasp. Here's my post on that, and it links to my series on Handwriting Helps, with more ideas for helping kids with writing. Thanks for stopping by! Here's the link to "Handwriting Helps - Pencil Grips/Devices"

    1. He's 4.5 years old. I'm off to read that post!

    2. Fantastic, lisacug @! I just found your comment, lol!

  4. Nice tips, thanks for sharing at WW!

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Jen Altman, at Workbox Wednesday!

  6. I definitely agree that short lessons are best. This is about where my 6 year old is now - NOT a fan of writing! I love your playful ideas for making it more interesting!

  7. Hi Emma @ P is for Preschooler - I love the name of your blog, and I will stop by and check it out soon! I always liked those short and sweet lessons with my little one. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day!