Preschooler practices writing alphabet at home with help from mom

Handwriting Preparation Exercises for Your Child

Even though our world is growing more digital by the day, research suggests that writing letters by hand is crucial for a young child’s brain development when it comes to letter formation and language. And in today’s academic world, schools still require written work in the form of note-taking, homework and tests. For both of these reasons, handwriting is still an extremely important fine motor skill for children to learn, especially as they are also developing their reading skills. 

Although handwriting requires control of the small movements of the hands and fingers, the entire body is involved in the process. Remember, at this young age the focus of these activities is on building fine motor skills and not on perfecting letter formation. To help build the basic foundational skills needed to write by hand, have your child participate in a few of these excellent physical activities for kids:

Posture Control/Stability

Stability is the strength and balance control that keeps one part of the body still while another part moves. Imagine being on a wobbly ladder and how hard it would be to paint when the base of the ladder is shaky. This same idea applies to the body; in order to control the small muscles in the hand, the bigger muscles in the core and shoulders need to be stable.

Have your child exercise core muscles with the following activities:

  • Have your child place his palms together and push his hands together as hard as possible. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat the exercise.
  • Ask your child to pretend the wall is falling down and ask her to push it with her hands to keep it up.
  • Have your child walk while balancing a beanbag on his head.  

Sensation

Sensation, sometimes called touch perception, is being aware of where your hands, arms and fingers are and noticing how they are moving. If you have difficulty controlling your fingers, it is hard to be accurate with them when writing. Try this fun exercise to help your child practice touch perception:

  • Get a cloth bag, old purse or small pillowcase and place household items, such as a cup, spoon, fork or toy, in the bag one at a time. Then, ask your child to reach in the bag, feel an object and guess what it is.
    • Make the activity more challenging by placing several items in the bag at once and asking your child to reach in and find a specific item.
    • You can also try using a set of shapes or small farm animal toys. Ask your child to select the round or square shape, or select the cow or goat.

Check out this blog post for more kids’ activities that help to develop the sense of touch.

Bilateral Coordination

Bilateral coordination is the ability to use the two sides of the body together in a coordinated way. It also helps us use both hands during an activity. One hand usually manipulates while the other hand is the helping hand. The hand that manipulates is often the dominant hand. Here are some ways to help your child’s hands work together:

  • Have your child perform movements so that her legs or hands are doing the same action at the same time. Some examples include rolling out dough with a rolling pin, clapping hands, touching fingers together or jumping and landing on two feet.
  • Practice motions in which alternating movements take place, like pulling a rope hand over hand, pedaling a bike, or climbing a ladder.
  • Encourage activities in which one hand leads as the other offers support, such as cutting with scissors, threading beads or drawing a line with a ruler.

Handwriting Preparation Exercises for Your Child

Hand Function

The muscles of the hand need to learn to work well together to control pencils and other small objects. The following exercises will help children begin to learn what they can do with their hands and fingers:

  • Use scissors to practice cutting in a circle or on a zigzag line.
  • Practice tracing a path through a simple maze, first with a finger then with a crayon or pencil.
  • Complete connect-the-dot puzzles by making dots on a blank page and connecting them in any pattern, then eventually connecting dots in a number or letter sequence.

An added bonus to doing these exercises is that they’re all excellent indoor physical activities for kids that are perfect for the next rainy day! The groundwork for handwriting begins during the toddler stage and continues until age 5 or 6. Young children need playtime with toys and daily activities to help improve the fine motor skills they need for life. Once your child has a good foundation, handwriting will come quickly with little effort!

Interested in learning more about how you can help your child develop good handwriting skills? Read this blog post about three handwriting myths and what it truly means to become a writer.

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