How do I start a handwriting session with a child? With warm-ups that help the hand and eyes get ready to write!

First, have your child pick up their pencil or crayon and make sure they are holding it correctly for writing. Kids who struggle or are younger may forget how to hold the pencil from one day to the next.  Review here how to hold a pencil and how grasp develops in children. It is important that all your practice work reinforces good habits. Eventually, how you hold a pencil is as much a habit as how you brush your teeth. You want it to be a good habit and not one you need to break!

Next, choose an activity your child will do. I recommend alternating from day to day what you chose to do as a warm-up. Variety means your child develops a wider variety of skills. However, if your child really likes repetition, choose below the one that works best, and work through a workbook together doing a few pages a day.

Coloring

Coloring is a great choice, as it strengthens all the right muscles for handwriting, without the stress of remembering how to write letters. Younger kids often enjoy coloring a picture with a parent. Older kids may be willing to color in 1-inch boxes for a set amount of time, like 5 minutes, as a purely strengthening activity. It is important to understand that the goal is to work the fingers, not necessarily make art. Not that I discourage budding artists, just that I appreciate that coloring a set of squares black, also accomplishes the goal.

Dot-to-Dots

When you complete a dot to dot, you have to do a targeted drawing. Each line has to connect to the right dots, in the right order. Those lines ideally are straight lines. Being able to put a line exactly where you want it on paper, is the start of good handwriting. Visually scanning for the next number or letter in the puzzle strengthens the eye muscles needed to track while reading and copying written work. Start with fewer dots than you think your child is able to work on, and gradually increase until your child is working on this task, but not so much they feel frustrated.

Mazes

Mazes are wonderful for working on pencil control and visual-motor scanning. Your child has to look for where to take their pencil next and plan ahead. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, especially in more challenging mazes. However, encourage your child to try to not hit the edges, to work on that pencil control. There are tons of free printable mazes online. The trick is to find ones that are neither way too easy nor way too hard. If you aren’t sure, start with easier ones and gradually choose ones marked challenging.  Kumon books are also a great way to do mazes that gradually get harder.

By choosing one of these to do every day before your child starts their handwriting practice you will be preparing them for success!

About the Author

Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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