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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.
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.