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Tips to help your child improve handwriting skills

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Michelle Kiffmeyer, MA

Developing the ability to write “A, B, C” is not always as easy as “1, 2, 3.”

The process of successfully learning to write requires a foundation of adequate gross and visual motor skills prior to the development of specific fine motor skills. Without the support of these pre-writing skills, handwriting can be a difficult and frustrating process for children.

Try these fun activities with your child to strengthen muscles and improve balance, posture and coordination, which all help writing skills. Enjoy the time together and watching your children blossom with confidence and independence.

Gross motor skills

  • Walk forward, backward and sideways. March. Skip. 
  • Balance games — walk on a rope, piece of string or tape on the floor. Practice walking on uneven surfaces such as pillows/cushions on the floor, on a low curb outside, on sand or rocks.
  • Jumping games — hopscotch, jumping rope, “follow the leader” with hopping, jumping, alternating feet and jumping on one foot.
  • Kick, bounce, throw and catch a ball. Use objects of different size, weight and shape (beanbags, Frisbees, beach balls, soccer balls, tennis balls).
  • Race while crawling, jumping, rolling, crab-walking, weaving in and out of cones or toys. 
  • Pull or push wagons or carts.
  • Ride bikes, scooters, tricycles and other ride-on toys.
  • Climb, slide and swing at a park or indoor playground.
  • Dance party. Turn up some music and dance in the kitchen or living room.
  • Obstacle course — create an obstacle course that incorporates many of the above elements and then race through it. Many children enjoy being “timed” and trying to beat their best time.

Visual skills

  • Letter treasure hunt. Ask your child to find certain letters of the alphabet in magazines, books they are reading, on boxes of food, signs, items or at stores.
  • Memory game. Place various objects on a tray and have your child look at it for five to 10 seconds. Cover it and ask your child to remember what was on the tray. For another version, ask them to close their eyes and then remove an object or two and see if they can identify what is missing. 
  • Compare shapes and sizes of common items. Ask your child, “Which is bigger?” “What shape is this? Is there anything else in the house you can find that is the same shape?” Show three items and ask your child which one doesn’t belong.
  • Trace a letter on a child’s back and ask them to guess which letter you drew. Show them the letter on paper after they guess and ask them to draw the letter on your back.

Fine motor skills

  • Lace or thread beads, macaroni or cereal pieces. Push and pull pipe cleaners through the holes on a colander.
  • Mold play dough or clay. Pinch, squeeze and shape it into objects or animals. Roll it out and use cookie cutters or safe cutting tools to create fun shapes.
  • Build with blocks of various shapes, sizes and textures.
  • Put puzzles together.
  • Crumple a piece of paper with one hand and then flatten it out with the same hand.
  • Use tweezers of different sizes to pick up or remove objects.
  • Draw and color with markers, chalk, colored pencils, pens and paint brushes. 
  • Cut out shapes or pictures from old magazines or catalogs.
  • Dress dolls or animals. Encourage your child to learn how to zipper, snap and button.
  • Play with water. In the bath or a large container have your child give their toy cars a “car wash” with a trigger sprayer. Spray plants or toys outside. Squeeze out sponges filled with water.