Does your child have horrible handwriting? It’s not a problem you can afford to ignore. Even if he knows his ABC’s, if he can’t take decent notes or submit legible homework, his grades will suffer.
Besides, good handwriting is part of learning an important life skill: taking pride in a job well done. It may seem unfair, but many teachers think that messy handwriting is a sign that he rushed his homework or didn’t care about it. Or even if they give him the benefit of the doubt, they may have difficulty reading it—and how can they give his brilliant ideas the ‘A’ these deserve if they can barely make out the sentences?
Think beyond handwriting sheets
When we think of practicing handwriting, the first thing that comes to mind is handwriting sheets. These are quite helpful, and your child should try to complete one a day (it builds good study habits, too).
However, filling out sheets isn’t fun—and it’s only one part of the problem. Many kinds have handwriting problems because their fine motor skills are under-developed. They have a hard time controlling the pencil or making regular lines. The trick is to get him to use those hand muscles many times a day, through games and activities.
Use arts and crafts
They say that girls have better handwriting than boys, but this is probably due to the kinds of activities that girls traditionally engage in. Sewing, coloring, and crafts all develop fine motor skills.
‘But my kid hates crafts!’ you say. That’s not entirely true. You just haven’t found the craft that he likes. Look at his interests. Does he like dinosaurs? He may enjoy making a dinosaur diorama. Is he into cars? There are lots of kits where he can assemble his own toy car, and then add paint and fine detail.
Other kids will enjoy stringing beads and making their own jewelry, or making clay figures. In fact, many pre-school teachers encourage giving clay to kids aged three-to-five-years old. They may not be able to hold a pencil probably, but the act of mashing up the clay, twisting it into shapes, and rolling it out again is the fine-motor equivalent of a full workout.
Get stacking games
There are many family games that help develop fine motor skills. For example, Jenga involves stacking blocks into a wooden tower and then removing them one by one without topping the tower over. It’s really fun and appeals to kids of all ages, and it improves hand-eye coordination and dexterity. You can also get pick up sticks and jack stones.
Stuck in traffic? Sitting in the restaurant waiting for the food to be served? One great way to entertain your child (and develop the fine motor skills) is to thumb wrestle. You can also throw in an extra incentive, offering small and non-monetary ‘rewards.’ For example, the winner gets to sit by the window seat, or gets to pick what kind of dessert to order. Children are naturally competitive and will enjoy practicing this again and again, if only for the chance to beat you in the next round.
Make writing fun
Give your child every opportunity to practice his handwriting beyond those boring sheets. For example, he can make his own scrapbook or ‘Book about Me,’ writing short paragraphs about his favorite things or a memorable experience like going to Disneyland. Encourage him to send letters to relatives who live far away, or put him in charge of writing the family Christmas cards and earn extra holiday shopping money. Ask him to make your grocery list. The possibilities are endless!