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Why Handwriting Isn’t All About Pens and Paper


As an Occupational Therapist, I work with lots of children on their handwriting. This is because handwriting isn’t all about pens and paper. Handwriting involves fine motor skills and sensory skills too. It is the development of the underlying skills of handwriting that I enjoy working with children on. It is these skills that fundamentally help improve a child’s handwriting too.

I am an Occupational Therapist in Peterborough. I specialise in child development, motor skills, self-awareness, visual processing, kinesiology, sensory processing, regulation and spatial concepts. All of these areas make a big difference in a child’s ability to write. I strongly believe that many of these skills are the skills that a child needs for handwriting too.

It’s a really good idea to practice handwriting every day. By this I don’t mean sitting at the table for hours doing lines and lines of copied sentences. Instead just get your child to write things down every now and again. This could be anything from a short message and their name in a birthday card, the things you need to get from the shops on a post-it note or an important note to remind you of something later on a chalk/white board. You may find that your child would like to have a pen pal and write letters to someone they met on holiday. Alternatively your child may prefer to write in a diary or a journal each day.

Like I said at the beginning, handwriting isn’t all about pens and paper and it doesn’t need to be either!

There are lots of ways that you can practice handwriting with your child, without the need of pens and paper. If your child is a reluctant writer, you don’t want to put them off handwriting all together by forcing them to practice something they find challenging or unmotivating. Instead you can use some of the sensory activity ideas below, which involve the use of the fine motor skills required for writing. This is a great way to involve handwriting skills in a non-conventional way, and your child probably won’t even notice.

  • Use a tray of sand, oats, salt or similar and then use your child’s finger or paintbrush to write letters in it.
  • Bring out the play dough and play dough letter mats to see what letters can be made with the play dough.
  • If your child prefers messy play then why not try writing in shaving cream or whipped cream.
  • Use clothes pegs or BBQ tongs to move things from one tray to the next; this is a great activity to improve the ‘pincer grip’ and those fine motor skills.
  • Get crafty using hole punchers, glue bottles and staplers; squeezing these tools are good fine motor skill supporters.

It is important to remember that when you are using pen and paper, to make sure you have the same set up at home as you do at school and with the Occupational Therapist. Use the same grip on your pen/pencil, elevated surface, paper type, etc.

If you need help working on your child’s handwriting skills then please contact me directly or download our Fine Motor Skills and Handwriting screening document to identify any areas they may need support. I would be happy to meet with you and your child and suggest some activities to help.

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