Tips for Teaching Handwriting
Since we can all write, handwriting is something that
virtually all parents can teach their children, provided they
still remember the correct formation of each letter.
If you have a beginner writer, a good place to begin is with
the letters of the child’s name. Begin with lower case letters,
rather than capital letters (except for the first letter of the
name, of course) as these are the letters your child will
encounter most frequently as she begins to learn to read.
You probably know from experience that young children
generally have limited concentration spans and often struggle
to sit still for long periods. For this reason, educational
experts, recommend that formal lessons should not exceed 20-30
minutes at a time. Let your children to have a break and play
out of doors for a short while before resuming a focused
Research has also revealed that young children are naturally
far-sighted as their eyes have not fully matured to function
like that of an older person. Therefore, to avoid
eye-strain, a young child should not be required to focus
on a book or a page for more than 15-20 minutes at any one
time. For the same reason, when writing, encourage your
children to make big letters, especially if they are at
preschool level. When they are older (Grade 1 or higher) they
can be required to practice writing neatly between lines!
Do not be critical of a beginner writer’s scrawled efforts,
but encourage her to keep practicing. If a child is reluctant
to write, then encourage her to do just three beautiful
letters, rather than expecting a whole row of letters. This
also applies to older children - a small sample of neat work is
better than a page that is scrawled!
Here are some useful guidelines for teaching handwriting
1. Oversee handwriting practice
When children are practicing handwriting it is very
important that you oversee their work so that they do not
develop bad habits. Praise them for letters or words that are
written well but nip any problems in the bud before they take
root. Remember it will take more time to undo bad habits later
2. One objective at a time
Focus on correcting or improving one objective at a time –
be it a particular letter, spacing, size, alignment, etc. Keep
praising your child and encouraging her efforts. Then move onto
the next objective. Show excellent work to your child’s father
or grandparents or anyone else who will offer encouragement and
3. Practice Daily
Handwriting practice should be scheduled every day but keep
lessons short for best results.
4. Correct pencil grip
Correct pencil grip allows a writer to write quickly and
smoothly, while a tight or awkward grip can hinder writing. The
correct grip also prevents physical problems with the hand and
arm later in life such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
When a pencil is held correctly, the thumb and forefinger
form an oval when a child holds the pencil. There should be
equal pressure between the thumb, the side of the middle finger
and the tip of the index finger. All fingers are bent slightly.
This is called a "tripod grip" or "tripod pencil grasp". The
fingers should be relaxed, in a somewhat straight, rather than
bunched position. Tension in the hand or fingers indicates weak
fine motor skills, which can be improved by activities such as
threading beads, lacing, manipulating play dough, crumpling a
sheet of newspaper in one hand only, fingerplay rhymes, cutting
out with scissors and using a clothes peg to pick up small
The whole hand and arm should be employed in writing,
gliding freely across the paper and tabletop, while the other
hand holds the paper securely. This gliding motion allows nice
smooth letters and straight lines, it also prevents cramping in
the hand and fingers.
Watch your child and pay attention to whether or not she
wiggles her fingers to form letters on the paper or whether she
used the whole hand and arm to move across the page. Remember,
it takes time to establish new habits.
If a child struggles with the correct pencil grip, her hand
strength and development may be too immature for writing.
Practice basic writing strokes with chalk on a vertical surface
and begin writing on paper again with a triangular shaped
pencil later on.
5. Proper posture
Be sure that your child is sitting properly at a surface
that is not too high. Her arms should rest comfortably and her
feet should be supported (by the floor or a box), rather than
hanging loosely. This is to avoid fatigue and bad habits which
may develop as a result of improper posture. Monitor your
child’s posture regularly.
6. Be patient
Improvement in handwriting requires a combination of skills
and developmental maturity. Each child will progress at her own
rate. Remember that fine motor skills develop more slowly in
boys, than gross motor skills.
7. Keep handwriting separate
Keep handwriting practice or copy work separate from
composition and other writing tasks, which require attention to
other skills such as focus on content, organizing ideas,
editing, spelling, punctuation etc. so that students will not
be reluctant to write.
In a nutshell, focus on one objective at a time, praise your
child for her progress and supervise regular practice
Submitted by Shirley Erwee
Shirley is a mother of five and
has been homeschooling her children for ten years. She is the
author of various homeschooling curricula, from preschool to