Writing Tools

As I mentioned briefly in chapter one, it’s important for your child to feel comfortable with the writing tools that they are using. Fine motor skills can take a while to develop, so you don’t want to rush your child into using a pencil if a chubby crayon is still more comfortable. Once your child starts attending kindergarten, they will be expected to be able to use a pencil, so a good way to transition is to have them use a pencil grip, such as The Pencil Grip, Universal Ergonomic Writing Aid or The Pencil Grip Crossover Grip Ergonomic Writing Aid. Your child will likely see this as a fun accessory, rather than a crutch, so don’t be shy in providing this supportive tool.

Another helpful item when your child is beginning to write is a standard binder, placed so that the angle slopes downward toward your child. Lay the piece of paper on top of the binder when your child writes. A one-inch binder is usually sufficient to create the angle that will better support your child and the placement of their hand on the page.

If your child is struggling with letter formation, and their letters look different every time they write them, do some practicing with dotted-line letters. Write a letter in dotted lines and then have your child trace over that. You can also purchase plenty of materials that contain dotted lines for your child to trace over. Different materials might have slightly different fonts, and your handwriting will be different than your child’s, so it’s important to emphasize to your child that their letters don’t have to look perfect and that letters can look different in different contexts. Your child may be exposed to specific handwriting curricula that expects them to form letters in a specific way, and these curricula have been heavily researched and can be very helpful. However, it’s important for your child not to get too hung up on perfection, otherwise this will stifle their desire to write.

Another helpful tool is an alphabet chart, like the one below:

Testy Alphabet Desk Strip Thumbnail

These are handy to place next to your child as they write to remind them of how the letters look. Another element of teaching handwriting is imparting the idea of using three lines to separate the letters: the top line (the blue line in the above image), the middle line, and the bottom line. Tall letters reach the top, most lowercase letters start in the middle, and most letters end at the bottom, except for those with “tails.” There are many different handwriting curricula that will give cute names to the different placements of letters along these lines, to help children remember where letters begin and end. When your child is beginning to write, it’s best not to focus too heavily on letter placement within the lines, and to wait until your child is more comfortable with the writing process to focus on this stricter form of letter formation.

One last tool that can be helpful if your child is hesitant to write is a dry-erase board and dry-erase markers. These give your child something new and different to work with, and feel less permanent, so your child feels less pressure to write perfectly on the page. This is a great opportunity for you to write using dotted lines and then have your child trace over those letters. You can do this in conjunction with reading, such as by taking one or two words your child can decode from a book and writing those words on the dry erase board using dotted lines, and then having your child trace those words. As I mentioned before, your child needs to build the connection between the process of reading and the process of writing, and this activity helps build that bridge.

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