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Developing Your Child’s Handwriting Skills

By Lisa Pecos

With the rise of computers and electronic gadgets as tools for all types of school-related activities, kids spend far less time writing by hand than they used to. As a result, many people fear that the ancient art of handwriting is bound to become a thing of the past. While this is true to some extent-writing by hand is certainly less important than it used to be-it is still important to have good handwriting for the times when it is called for.

The importance of good handwriting is easy to overlook, and when our children are young we tend to think of it as an insignificant matter. But when you think about the difference between poor handwriting and good handwriting on a college or job application, it is clear that good handwriting is an important ingredient for achieving success.

Developing handwriting skills
Handwriting should begin as early as a child recognizes letters and is capable of drawing them. For most kids this happens somewhere in the third or fourth year. At this time, it is a good idea for parents to spend at least a few minutes a day learning letters. This can involve reading children’s books intended to teach letters, reciting the alphabet, or simply practicing drawing letters on paper.

Once your child is familiar with letters, even if she cannot yet remember them or draw them all, it is time to start writing basic words. But do not overwhelm her with too many words at once. Start by teaching her to write her name. She may not fully grasp the significance of each letter, but by this time she should at least understand that the writing on a page means something. When it is her name, it will feel extra special.

If you continue this daily practice and regularly read to your child, then she will naturally come to understand letters and words more and more. From this point, it is only a matter of time until she starts sounding out words and spelling them on her own.

Improving Handwriting
The most important thing for improving a child’s handwriting is to make sure he gets plenty of practice. But the practice does not have to be confined simply to writing. Encourage your child to scribble and draw as much as he wants, and over time this will develop into improved hand-eye coordination and better control over writing implements. That is why it is a good idea to provide your child with plenty of crayons, paper, and other art supplies from a very early age. The more chances he gets to use his hands and draw, the better he will be.

Of course, not everyone is gifted with the ability to write well. Some children can never develop perfect handwriting because their natural skills may lie elsewhere. If your child falls into this category, do not think of it as a bad thing. Instead, let your child focus on his or her talents, and when it comes to writing, focus on the technical parts. Make sure your child has a good knowledge of all the letters and how they are best written, and try to figure out what might be holding him back. For example, he might be rushing or holding the pencil wrong. But if his writing is technically sound, there is no need to put too much pressure on him to make it beautiful.

If your child has good teachers during the early years of school, then all you need to do is train him in the fundamentals and reinforce what he learns by having practice sessions at home. But if you think your child needs extra help, find a good book on the fundamentals of good handwriting and relearn the basics for yourself. And in more extreme circumstances, there are tutors and occupational therapists that can help.

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