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How Can I Help my Child Improve His/Her Penmanship?

Children can build up the strength in their hands by climbing on monkey bars.
Children might write after school in a journal to help improve penmanship.
Despite the prevalence of computers in today's schools, it's still important to learn how to write in cursive.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Learning to write takes a great deal of practice. It also requires development of fine motor skills and hand strength so practice does not become laborious. In some cases, despite practice, children learning penmanship may fail to improve. This suggests that the child is not yet ready to develop these skills or may require support from an occupational therapist to improve his or her skills.

You can begin helping to facilitate penmanship skills long before children will actually be writing. Games that involve fine motor skills can help develop these skills and can be fun activities for children. One such game involves having a child cup their hand and hold a number of paper clips. Record the number and try to increase the number of paper clips held each time.

Another game is to bury pennies in play dough or silly dough and have the child dig them out. Then have the child bury the pennies again for removal. A water fight with squirt bottles improves fine motor skills, as does pulling weeds or teaching a child to use chopsticks. These little activities may help children become ready to write.

Encourage children to use art in any way. Let them sculpt, draw or paint, and proudly display the results. Comfort with experimentation in art may lead to greater comfort when a pen or pencil is held.

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Strength in the hands can improve penmanship and can usually be accomplished through different sporting activities like swimming or climbing on monkey bars. You can also use racquetballs, and have the children them give them a squeeze before throwing them to another child or yourself.

Penmanship practice can become laborious and is boring to some children. You can vary the practice by using writing skills in either fun or real life ways. For example, you can ask a child to write out a grocery list, or you can have children write letters with sidewalk chalk. As well, write notes to your child using cursive, so this becomes more recognizable.

A fun game to play with a child is to take turns writing letters with your finger on the child’s back, and having the child guess the letters. The child then gets a turn writing letters on the parent’s back. As well, ask for a few things to be written down each day. You can ask a child to make a list of the chores he or she has finished, or to ask a question in a note to be answered at the dinner table. Getting the whole family involved can help encourage the child to improve penmanship.

When a child is exhibiting poor penmanship skills despite practice, this may suggest that the child is not developmentally ready for such fine motor skills. In public schools throughout the US, you can often request that the child be tested for possible learning disabilities. Poor penmanship, and consistent failure to produce work in class, may indicate dysgraphia, the inability to consistently write letters. Special help can be given to these children, who may as well find it easier to learn to type than to write.

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anon253031
Post 4

You could try to get your child to write A-z a few times slowly. Or other lines.

anon52846
Post 3

anon31979 here is a suggestion that might work. I was having the same issues with my second grader.

I purchased a light tracer box at a local craft store. He traces everything from Yu-gi-oh characters to coloring pages. Once he has done a page of handwriting, he can trace whatever he wants. I'm finding that his writing is improving because he has to follow the shape the letters make and his hand and mind are making the connection.

anon32102
Post 2

I was wondering if you were certain the poor writing skills are only due to the ADHD? I have a son with dysgraphia-- his penmanship is still not very readable although he is now in 10th grade. It's a fine motor skill thing and it began to show up very much by the time he was in 2nd grade, when he used to literally come home and weep about having to write out 20 spelling words and 20 sentences with them. If the writing is really poor and difficult to read, you might want to have your son's school investigate for that. Sometimes occupational therapy helps, and other times the kids can use computers or other things instead to minimize writing.

Hope this helps!

anon31979
Post 1

My child has ADHD and suffers from poor writing skills because his inability to sit for long periods of time. Are there any suggestions one could make to help him?

I now give him breaks, however, he gets very frustrated especially with cursive writing now that he is learning it in 3rd grade. He is very smart but everyone including his teachers are judging him by his writing which is a disaster. Any suggestions out there would be appreciated.

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