Happy Birthday John Hancock! Who knew you would be helping us celebrate handwriting all of these years later? Today is National Handwriting Day. It was established by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association in 1977 to help promote and sell their products. In this technology age handwriting is fast becoming a thing of the past. I have to say as an educator and a parent this saddens me. The art and importance of handwriting should be taught in schools in generations moving forward. Unfortunately, the trend seems to be moving away from handwriting after the primary grades. Studies show that the learning process may develop more quickly when reading and writing are used together. Here is a link to a great article I found in the New York Times that further discusses the importance of handwriting.
As a home educator I will definitely continue to foster a love of handwriting. We currently use a variety of materials including Handwriting Without Tears (This is great if your child is struggling with writing left to right or top to bottom, https://www.hwtears.com/hwt), Draw Write Now and New American Cursive.
Developing handwriting skills can be difficult as it requires several areas of the brain and body to work together. Here is a list of age appropriate activities that will help.
9-12 months: Scribble on paper. Encourage writing left to right and top to bottom. Things such as puzzle cubes also help develop fine motor skills for this age group.
12 months-2 years: Your child can create horizontal, vertical and circular marks on paper. Allow sensory play with things such as finger painting and flour trays. Allow your child to play with clay or play-doh.
2-3 years: Bake cookies with your child in letter shapes, create letters with clay and create letters out of food such as pretzels, carrot sticks or celery. They may also draw lines, dots and curves in repeated patterns.
3-5 years: Write letters in shaving cream, use sidewalk chalk to practice writing letters, practice high frequency letters (e, o, a, t, n, s, and r) and allow them to use fun writing materials. They may also begin writing their name during this time. Create an alphabet poster with your child.
5-7 years: Learn the “alphabetic principle”. This states words are composed of letters which represent sounds. Write words with consonants in all positions and all short vowel sounds present (by the end of the stage). Students should know diphthongs (sh, ch, th). Students should be writing fewer letters in reverse and learn the conventions of capitals versus lower case (by the end of this stage). Students should be able to write complete sentences (by the end of this stage).