As our society continues on the path of great technological advancements, there are some that question why we are still teaching our children handwriting. The “to teach, or not to teach” debate is real in the year 2017, aka the Keyboard Age. In a world of keyboards, is it really worth our time teaching old-fashioned handwriting to our children?
Yes, it is absolutely worth our time! In fact, The New York Times calls learning handwriting still essential and sources research published in The Journal of Learning Disabilities. The research shows that not only does learning handwriting help children learn how to write, but it also helps with what are called “executive function” skills (like planning) in children both with and without learning disabilities.
Here’s how you can get started.
Make Handwriting for Kids a Fun Learning Experience
Teaching your child handwriting can be a challenge, but it is possible to make this learning experience a fun one for both you and your child. Handwriting programs such as Handwriting Without Tears created by Jan Olsen, OTR and OT Solutions created by Dr. Beverly Moskowitz, DOT, MS, OTR are wonderful foundation tools. We recommend and use these programs ourselves at The Sunshine Center to help our children develop handwriting skills, including printing, copying, and cursive.
In addition to these resources, it is also important to assess your child’s eye integrity, knowledge of the alphabet, and strength of their writing shoulder, arm, and hand.
Assessing Eye Integrity
First thing’s first – assess the integrity of your child’s eyes for mobility before you begin teaching handwriting. There are eight muscles around each eye that ideally help move the eyes together, as a team. If poor eye movement is evident, we strongly suggest a trip to a behavioral optometrist or other appropriate eye specialist.
Knowledge of the Alphabet
There are multiple ways to establish a good foundation for your child’s knowledge of the alphabet. Some of our favorites include:
- Checking to see if your child can sing their ABC’s
- Naming all the letters out of sequence
- Creating uppercase down and across letters (EFHILT) with tall and short sticks
Encouraging your child to recite the ABC’s while pointing to the corresponding letter moving left to right, top to bottom also prepares them for reading.
Shoulder, Arm, & Hand Strength
As soon as your child starts coloring, encourage them to stand at and use an easel instead of sitting at a table.
We recommend your child use an easel until at least age five at home for coloring, scribbling, and exploring the use of markers, chalk, and crayons. Standing and writing helps develop the shoulder girdle, keeping it strong and mobile. Wheelbarrow walk racing, playing tug of war, swinging on monkey bars, and swimming are also great ways your child can strengthen the shoulder area.
Help their developing hands by having them use a tripod pinch, a device that assists in holding and controlling a pencil or any other instrument with your fingertips. If they are too young to use a tripod pinch, try giving them thick markers to hold first, then eventually graduate to using a tripod pinch.
EXPERT TIP: If your child refuses to create letters the traditional way using pencil on paper, try using substitutes such as shaving cream, finger paints, and magnets to create letters.
Handwriting Classes for Kids at The Sunshine Center
Need some help teaching your child handwriting?
The Sunshine Center can help!
We will work with your child’s unique set of limitations when teaching them handwriting.
Our center specializes in autism and developmental disorders.
We’ll work to assess their eye integrity and refer them to an eye specialist as needed, help strengthen that shoulder/arm/hand area that’s so important, and help you develop home exercises to meet the needs of your child.
Contact us today for more information on our services or to schedule a tour of our center in Manalapan, NJ.