Just as the writing tool used by children 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 children to start to appreciate the 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 a 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 a child’s fine motor skills develop so the size of the picture/colour clues can be reduced to match their progress.
As a 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.
Transferring their handwriting skills from worksheets to paper
The aim is to try and move children off the worksheets as soon as possible by encouraging them to transfer their skills to plain or lined paper which is appropriate for their ability. I realise that it is not possible to buy paper with the appropriate line height in all cases, so would recommend creating your own on the computer.
We realise that printing off our worksheets and coloured lined paper can become costly so, here are our recommendations for helping to reduce the costs:
- Suggestion 1 – Use a colour version of the appropriate worksheet initially and then try printing in grey scale. Children usually make the adjustment to grey scale well once they are used to how the picture clues and colours work. You could also use the grey scale worksheets and colour the start of each row with the appropriate colour.
- Suggestion 2 – Use a combination of worksheets and lined paper in each handwriting session with a child:
- Use the colour worksheet, or a grey scale version, and complete one or two rows.
- Then encourage the child to try the same patterns or letters on appropriately lined paper, again try one or two rows only.
Hopefully the worksheet will last over a couple of handwriting sessions and you and the child will see an improvement over the time. The sooner they learn to transfer their skills to paper the better.
For different types of pre-handwriting pattern and letter formation paper go to our animations and worksheet page and scroll down to the end of the page: http://bit.ly/1PKXB46