If you’re like me, it probably frustrates you to no end when you hand in a finished essay, and the teacher tells you that your writing is messy and needs improvement.
But what can we do about messy handwriting? Is there some magic cure-all potion we can make for our children to help their penmanship become more legible?
The reality is, there isn’t a definitive cure-all for messy handwriting. But with a little bit of effort on both the child and the parent, it becomes much more manageable. We gathered tools from teachers who have been in your position before to help give you some insight into how to combat this issue.
Handwriting Difficulties You Might See In Your Child
Good handwriting relies on a bunch of small skills. When your child has difficulties with some of those skills, the result can be writing that’s messy and difficult to understand. These skills include:
- Creating letters the right size
- Forming letters
- Making lines that are straight and even
- Spacing letters consistently
- Using connecting letters (e.g., I and “t”) to make it easier to read
- Holding and controlling a pencil or marker
- Applying a suitable amount of pressure on the paper with a pencil
- Make use of the right arm position for writing
If you pay attention to your child, you may notice the errors these difficulties cause, such as:
- Letters are written from the bottom up, instead of the top-down
- Some letters are bigger, and other letters are smaller
- The line is not straight
- Because the child is holding the paper wrong, the writing slants to one side
- There is a lot of unnecessary space between letters (which makes it difficult to read)
Messy handwriting can show up as early as preschool when young children learn to grasp a marker to write or a crayon to draw. And for some people, the struggle lasts into adulthood.
Adults can find ways and avoid writing by hand. We can use technology. However, for children in preschool, struggles with handwriting can be extremely disruptive to the classroom and may decrease their willingness to learn. If your child struggles with writing, they may be hesitant to try new things, which can affect their ability to read and write. Additionally, struggling in such a visible way in front of their classmates can take a toll on their self-confidence.
Why Do Children Struggle With Handwriting?
When you notice the problem areas listed above, take your child aside and ask her what she is doing wrong. It’s important that you make an effort to communicate with your child. A little bit of talking and cajoling in the right direction can go a long way.
When children have trouble with handwriting, it doesn’t mean they are careless or lazy. Your children may be trying as hard as they can and need your support to improve.
In order to help your child manage messy handwriting issues, it is important to understand why they are struggling in this manner.
1. Your Child’ Age
The first main thing you must look at is your young child’s age. Not all children develop these skills at the same pace. Some take a longer time than others. The differences can be even huge for children who are young for their grades.
2. Fine Motor Issues
The second main thing you must look at is your child’s motor skills. If a child has fine motor issues, it can be difficult to hold the pencil in the right position and develop good handwriting. Some children are not used to a pencil or marker in a writing task. Some children might have difficulties grasping the writing tool or holding it at the right angle.
3. Visual Perception
Another thing you must look at is your child’s visual perception skills. If an individual has problems with visual perception, they might have trouble seeing what they are trying to write (especially if they are looking down at their paper while they write. Children with this difficulty might also have trouble seeing what is right in front of them or having the correct perspective of a picture or diagram.
4. Stress Level
The last thing you must consider is your child’s stress level. Often, children have trouble writing when under a lot of stress. For instance, if your little one is nervous about an upcoming test or interview that is coming up, they may develop issues managing their handwriting.
No matter what’s behind your little ones’ messy handwriting, there are things you can do to help. We at Baby Steps Daycare know that most habitually messy writers have some coordination or motor skill issues. In the following paragraphs, we will explore various ways you can help your child overcome their writing difficulties.
8 Ways to Improve Your Kid’s Handwriting
1. Show your child what a well-written sentence looks like
Get your child to read a well-written sentence. Then ask your child to imitate the writer. Ask questions such as “do you think I have enough spaces between the words?” “what do you think I’m trying to say here?”. After your child has done this several times, try discussing the writing with them and having them explain what they have been able to pick up from it.
2. Get your child to do some writing practice in advance
To help develop good pen grip and letter formation, have your child write sentences in advance (before they are asked to write the sentence).
3. Use a highlighter to correct mistakes
Children learning how to write can be overly critical of their work. It is good to give your child the chance to see what their mistakes look like when they are highlighted. This way, they get an idea of what is wrong and have time to fix it before they turn in the paper.
4. Use a ruler or straight edge
Children can use a ruler as a tool for keeping their letters straight when they are learning how to write letters on paper. If a child is still having trouble with writing letters that look neat, try using a straight edge (the kind you use for lace-making). It will help children manage their spacing, line height, and letter formation when learning to handwrite.
5. Show How to Hold a Pencil Properly
Holding a pencil correctly means keeping the tip of the pencil perpendicular to the paper and using a smooth motion to write.
6. Be aware of the surface you are writing on
Make sure that children are not able to write too close to their paper edge or get letters that are too small and hard to see. Make sure they don’t hold their paper at a very steep angle because it is much harder for them to write neatly when the paper is at such an angle.
7. Teach your child to write slowly
The key to proper penmanship is practicing the correct technique. Children who write slowly will be able to form letters more accurately.
8. Never force your child
Never force your child to write as you do; this could hurt their self-confidence and make them think they can never improve their writing skills.
Messy handwriting might feel like the end of the world to your child. It is important to remember that messy handwriting does not reflect their ability to express themselves. To develop good handwriting, you must also help your child develop confidence. Good penmanship requires patience and lots of practice. It’s important that your child understands how much you believe in them and know they will get better if they keep trying.
Providing your child with the right tools and techniques can help them build the right habits to improve their handwriting. We at Baby Steps Daycare want your child to have the confidence to write in front of an audience, the skills to present a speech, and the ability to manage their handwriting. So we have made this article to help you and your little ones.
We understand that learning to write is a lifelong process, so you must never stop providing them with the tools needed for success. If you want to know other ways you can help your child improve their handwriting, get in touch with Baby Steps Daycare today! Our friendly staff will be happy to help you out! We look forward to hearing from you.