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Five steps to success in developing your child’s handwriting

Girl practising handwriting
In a world where technology is rapidly taking over, teaching children handwriting skills is still as important as it ever was. Best-selling author Bernadette Tynan offers five steps to handwriting success.

In a world of computers, touch screens, and text, good handwriting remains an educational rite of passage for children globally.

Unlike print or type, handwriting is a phenomenon distinct in human development. Writing reflects not just our ideas and thoughts; it is also a unique record of our identity. Every child’s handwriting is like their thumb-print – unique and special to them.

Point this out to children, even as they are making their first scrawls, and immediately this empowers them with the importance and value of handwriting.

Try these five tips to help them develop it:

1. Let your children see you writing

‘Seeing is believing’ when it comes to children. Long established in child development is that children copy adults, and place a high value on what they see them doing.

While good writing remains the gateway to success in education, the reality is children may see adults typing before writing.

A first step to get children interested in handwriting is to let them watch you doing it yourself.

Choose a favourite and simple poem. Let your child see you carefully copy it – in your best handwriting - onto colourful, attractive paper; their curiosity will be aroused. Then let them try to copy a word or sentence that is appropriate to the level they are at. This sets up positive associations in your child’s brain between writing as fun, special and, importantly, valued by adults.

2. Lavish praise for their writing efforts

Super neat, copper plate handwriting is not indicative of high intelligence. Legible handwriting, in a child’s own particular style, is the aim. Praising even the most wobbly initial offering of a letter or word sets up a positive cycle of learning in the mind of your child, so they want to do more.

3. Display your child's handwriting

Display proudly and prominently pieces of handwriting done by your child, whether in crayon, ink, pencil, pen or felt tips. This will remind your child that you value their handwriting, and they will then feel that it is therefore a skill worth practising and refining.

4. Remind older children that examiners appreciate clear handwriting

It's a fact of life that examiners, given a stack of scripts over a number of hours, may warm to a clearly written and presented piece of work. Sharing this fact with children as they near crucial exams can see their writing improve dramatically. Again if you are going to have that conversation with them, remember to practise a little yourself too, or dig out an old school book showing you mastered this skill. Minus evidence, teenagers in particular will not be impressed!

5. Encourage your child to experience the freedom that writing brings

Creative writing can be squashed at school due to curriculum pressures, yet it remains an effective way to show children the benefits of mastering handwriting. Encourage children to write a poem or story and seek out new words to express their ideas. They will experience first-hand the benefit of mastering handwriting: freedom to focus more on their ideas and creativity.   

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