Helping Young Children with Printing and Cursive Writing

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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Is your child experiencing difficulty printing or writing? Is he unable to print or write legibly, even though both you and his teacher have given him extra help and encouragement?

There are many young children who have difficulty forming letters, keeping them on the line and learning to space them appropriately. Others crowd letters together, forget to leave the proper space between words or cannot form uniform letters. The end result of all attempts at writing is, to them, failure. The child may become so discouraged that he has no desire to continue to attempt putting words on paper.

The Alphabet

The alphabet is based on geometric shapes and designs. Circles, crosses, triangles and squares all help to form the letters of the alphabet. One way to help your child with his handwriting is to hang a chalkboard in the family room or his bedroom - somewhere that is easily accessible to him. The chalkboard should be at least four feet by four feet and larger if space permits. Encourage your child to draw large geometric shapes on the board with chalk. He will soon grasp the concept of writing through his own creativity.

Take Away the Confusion

If your child can't seem to keep his letters on the line of his workbook, use a red pen to mark where the bottom of the letters should rest. If your child has difficulty deciphering where to start his letters, use a green pen to show him where his letter strokes should begin. Since most printed letters begin at the top and end on the bottom, this method helps to rule out any confusion about where letters begin and end.

Holding Crayons and Pencils

Does your child hold crayons and pencils in an awkwardly? Does he have trouble grasping crayons and pencils? Encourage your child to build strength in his fingers and hands, by hanging from the schoolyard jungle gym. This also helps him develop shoulder muscles.

Another method of building finger and hand strength is by squeezing a stress ball or a clothes peg. This enhances finger coordination and assists your child in holding crayons and pencils correctly. Printing and writing requires good hand/eye coordination Your child's eyes must be able to follow moving objects while moving in a smooth and coordinated manner.

Encourage your child to develop good motor skills by hopping and skipping. Allow him to play video games on occasion to promote good hand/eye coordination skills.

Tracing

Help your child improve his printing and writing skills by having him trace over letters that you've written. This assists him in the shaping and spacing of letters and words. Another option is to play "Guess What Letter." This is a game for young children. You have the child close his eyes while you guide his hand to shape a letter. He then guesses what letter he made. Practice often using this method and before you know it, your child will have the correct answer every time.

Modeling Clay

Purchase modeling clay and encourage your child to make letters with it. Once he's made several letters, encourage him to put them together to make a word - possibly his own name. This assists him in for recognition.

Sand Writing

During the warm summer months, encourage your child to use a water gun or a stick to write letters in the dirt or sand. This teaches him to space and estimation, even though the writing surface has no boundaries. Once he has accomplished sand writing without boundaries, mark out a space six feet square and encourage him to write staying well within the lines. As he progresses, make the square smaller and smaller, until he is writing in a space about two feet square. This assists him in spacing and estimation and it's a great summer project to help him improve his skills while on vacation. Kids love writing in the sand and you will have very little trouble getting him to do this exercise.

Reversing Letters

Is your child's printing improving, yet he still continues to reverse his letters? Is so, encourage him to identify the left and right parts of his body. Play "Simon Says," and when you instruct your child to do something, specify whether he is to use the right or left part of his body. Example: Simon Says to lift your right leg. Continue playing in this manner over a couple of weeks and you will soon realize that your child is no longer reversing his letters.

Posture

Observe your child's posture as he sits and writes. Is he sitting with his feet flat on the floor, his back straight and slightly bent at the waist? Is he positioning his paper correctly? Posture is important for good writing skills. Instruct your child on posture and paper positioning and you will notice an improvement in his writing skills.

Holding the Pencil

If your child holds his pencil right at the tip, buy pencil grips and place them on the area where he should be holding it. This serves as a reminder each time the pencil is picked up. If pencil grips are not available at our local office supply store, twist and thin elastic band around the pencil several times to create one.

Visualization

In order to print or write letters, your child has to be able to visualize them. Play games with plastic, magnetic letters. Ask him to close his eyes, feel the letter and identify it. If he is having trouble with certain letters, allow him to feel it and visualize it several times. The next time you ask him to print the letter, he may amaze you by printing or writing it correctly and neatly.

Make Signs

Young children love to be creative. Encourage your child to make signs. Ask him to make a sign for his bedroom door that says, "No Adults Allowed," "Enter at Your Own Risk," or maybe he would like to make one that identifies his room as his own. "Jordan's Room," can be written in the center of the sign and then he can decorate it with his favorite things, color it and hang it on his bedroom door.

Ask your child to lend you a hand and write out the grocery list for you as you make dinner. Tell him the things he needs to put on the list. If he does well, give him a small treat or a package of stickers. He may also write a birthday or Christmas list to give to his grandparents and other relatives.

Trouble with Cursive

Is your child being taught cursive writing and having difficulty keeping the slant consistent? If so, use a ruler to create diagonal lines on the paper. These work as a guide on the paper and gives him visual clues as he writes. It's amazing how quickly the slant of his letters will improve using this method.

Encouragement and Communication

As you assist your child with his printing and writing, give lots of encouragement and keep the lines of communication open. Talking to your child and keeping in touch with his teacher is imperative. Let the child's teacher know how your child's skills are developing and ask her if she has noticed a difference. Also ask her to keep you updated on your child's progress in writing at school.

Never make your child feel like his efforts aren't good enough. All that you can ask of him is that he try his best. Effort is important. Speak words of encouragement and give him small rewards for trying.

The methods in this article are the key to printing and writing success for your child. Have patience and use repetition to assist him in improving his writing skills.

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