Just as the writing tool used by your child changes as they develop, so does the paper they write on.
Informal Pre-handwriting Pattern and Initial Letter Development
If your child is just starting out on the handwriting adventure then any type of plain paper (no ruled lines) is considered the best option, as many children find it less restrictive.
Young children, due to the stage of their physical development, use large movements to draw (from the shoulder rather than the wrist) which often creates larger shapes and lines; you don’t want to restrict this movement as it can cause handwriting difficulties later. As their gross and fine motor skills develop so does their pencil grip and ability to draw and write at a smaller scale, moving more from the shoulder to elbow and wrist.
Formal Pre-handwriting Pattern and Letter Development
When your child is ready to refine their pre-handwriting pattern skills, or move on to forming letters, it is a good idea to use plain paper. The aim at this stage is to learn how to form the letters correctly, not size or neatness as that comes later.
Before moving to lined paper, to help your child begin to appreciate letter proportions and positioning, paper with picture clues can be used.
On our website the free writing paper and animations reinforce the idea of letter proportions and positioning by splitting the backgrounds into three colour zones to represent the sky, grass and earth. There are a number of reasons why this can be beneficial:
- It can create a sub-conscious memory in your child’s mind of where particular letters sit in relation to others without the constraints of lines or obvious boundaries, especially as the picture can be any size. Children remember where to place the sun, grass or worms in their drawings; so why not letters?
- It can be easier to talk through the formation of how a shape or letter is formed with pictorial and colour clues to guide and inform the direction of the movements required.
- As your child’s fine motor skills develop so the size of the picture/colour clues can be reduced to match their progress.
As your child’s fine motor skills develop it enables them to form smaller more refined versions of the letters and this is when it is more appropriate to use lined paper.
To download different line heights of our picture and coloured coded paper, scroll to the bottom of our ‘Handwriting Animations and Worksheets Page’: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI
Young children love drawing on walls due to the stage of their physical development. They draw from the shoulder, rather than the elbow and wrist, using large arm movements. At this stage they prefer vertical drawing and painting surfaces as it allows a free range of movements. This is why they will write on walls (often newly decorated), not because they are meaning to be naughty but because it just feels comfortable and so more enjoyable.
Drawing and writing on a vertical surface is important at this stage as it helps young children develop the wrist strength and flexibility they will need later on to hold a pencil correctly for handwriting.
The jump from a vertical to a horizontal writing surface can seem too great for some children; due to their stage of development. If they are still using some large whole arm and/or big elbow movements then they may benefit from the paper being positioned on a sloped board.
If you are not sure whether a child needs a sloped board for handwriting, instead of buying a specialist board, you could make one. Try using a ring binder or lever arch file stuffed with magazines and newspaper to make a sloped board. Tape the edges to stop the papers falling out; you could cover it in sticky back plastic to give a smoother finish to the board. The advantage of this is that you can make them to any angle of slope. Try a few to see which, if any, your child prefers.
A homemade sloped board is just as effective as a bought one. Often a child only requires one for a short amount of time and quickly moves to writing on a horizontal surface. For a few children a sloped surface may be required for a few years, or indefinitely, in which case a purpose bought sloped writing board is a sounder investment.
Learning to handwrite does not start with pen and paper but through play, as children explore shape and motion (how the body moves) through their senses – touch, sight and body awareness. Play is such an important element of your child’s physical, emotional, social and academic development.
It is through play that you can really engage your child in learning how to correctly form pre-handwriting patterns and letters (the start points, orientation, directional movements and finish points).
Our non-pencil – ‘Big to Small’ activities are an easy fun way to start developing these skills early on through play: http://bit.ly/2AaX8sk
Young children love seeing their name so it is a great way to introduce letter formation; here are some other fun ideas:
- This activity can be done indoors on large sheets of paper or using chalk on a path or patio (the beach is also a great place to do this). Write your child’s name very big and make a mark on each letter that represents a start point (an arrow showing the direction of travel can also help). Remember to use a capital letter for the first letter of their name and we would suggest lower case letters for the remaining letters. Use the letters as a track for racing cars or toys. If you make the letters big enough your child could walk, hop, jump or skip around the letters. To help them remember the letters, once they have finished a letter, encourage them to say that letter‘s alphabet name (NOT a sound the letter can make).
- Collect stones, twigs, leaves, etc… Use them to make the letters of your child’s name. They may only make one or two of the letters, before making a hedgehog house, nest or den for their toys becomes more interesting, but this does not matter, it is all part of the adventure.
- Feely bag games are a fun way to explore shape and form. Try placing the letters of your child’s name into a bag or box they cannot see into. It is useful to talk through the letter shapes beforehand so they can see them as they move them about in their hands; then place them in the bag. Ask them to put their hands in (both hands if possible, but if not, then use the dominant hand) the bag, picks up a letter, feels it, identifies it and pulls it out to check only AFTER identifying it. If correct, they get to “keep” it, if wrong, you get to “keep” it. The winner is the one with the most letters at the end. For some children it can help to have another set of the letters outside the bag to help them identify the shape they are handling in the bag. Again encourage them to use the alphabet name of the letter.
- Play-dough, clay and Plasticine activities are great for developing hand strength for handwriting and learning how to form letter shapes.
Your child will love these sort of activities as they see it as just playing and they get your undivided attention. You will enjoy it as you are sharing quality time with your child helping them to develop more than just their letter formation ability but also their communication and social skills.
Learning through play is a powerful way of supporting your child’s development. So have fun and play!
Here at Teach Handwriting we believe that a child is only ready to start learning to join their handwriting when:
- They have learnt to form all 26 lower case letters correctly
- Letters are of a consistent and suitable size (not necessarily the perfect size, remember big is beautiful)
- Letters are positioned appropriately on the writing line as well as in relation to one another.
Children generally begin to join letters between the ages of 6 to 7 years old, depending on the handwriting font style being taught. Those taught a continuous cursive font style from the beginning tend to join much earlier due to the nature of this font (for some by the end of their Reception Year).
Children do not need to be able to remember how to correctly form all their capital letters before they are taught how to join their letters. This is because capital letters never join to the lower case letters in a word. However, for these children correct capital letter formation needs to be taught alongside the introduction of letter joins.
We would recommend teaching joins in join type groups, whether your child has learnt cursive or continuous cursive single letter fonts.
Teaching the join types in their groups helps a child to understand the directional pushes and pulls required to successfully join the different letter combinations.
We would recommend teaching the bottom joins first, then the top exit to ‘e’ join and finally the top exit letter joins.
For our free join animations and worksheets: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI
For tips to support the teaching of joins check out our Teaching Tips section: http://bit.ly/2AaX8sk
Last week we explained that pre-handwriting patterns are the first stage of learning to handwrite. Once a child has mastered theses, they are ready to start learning how to form letters.
But where do you start?
Our view is to focus on lower-case letters first and only the capital letters for the first letter in a child’s, examples: Peter Rabbit, Sally Green, George Blue or Mary Shell.
- One reason is that about 95% of what children write, and are exposed to, is in a lower-case form and only 5% in capital.
- Lower-case letters are far less complicated, requiring fewer pencil lifts to complete the letters.
- As both lower-case and capital letters require a child to form curved lines, a skill which most children have to practise, writing lower-case letters is no more difficult than writing capitals.
- In a young child’s writing all the letters are initially the same size, whether they are capitals or lower case; it is part of the normal developmental path of handwriting. So, the view that teaching capitals letters is easier because they are bigger is not true.
- Young children who have learnt mostly capital letters first find it difficult to stop, as it is so ingrained into the memory, often using them half way through words and sentences. Even when they are older this inappropriate use of capitals creeps back into their work especially if they are tired or concentrating hard on composing their work.
A child’s first major achievement, in their eyes, is to write their name. So, although concentrating on lower-case letters, teach them how to form the capital letter for the first letters of their name to get them excited about handwriting.
As they master the lower-case letters introduce the remainder of the capital letters. It is important that both are taught so that a child can develop a speedy, fluid and legible handwriting style.
Free Letter Formation Animations & Worksheets: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI