When your child struggles with handwriting, the best way to make handwriting practice fun is to put away the worksheets. You don't want to pressure reluctant writers, but it is still important to work on handwriting skills so kids can continue to improve.
Kids who struggle with dysgraphia or other writing related learning disorders can still enjoy working on learning letter formation, spacing, and spelling, especially if teachers, occupational therapists and parents find alternatives to handwriting worksheets.
Pardon the pun, but these fun, hands-on handwriting activities will motivate even the most reluctant writer!
1. Encourage handwriting that doesn't look like schoolwork or homework. Write to each other on post-it notes, or set up a family mailbox system with shoeboxes and leave short letters for each other.
2. Make writing practical. When your child wants to remember something, have them write a note on a notepad, calendar or Post-it note.
4. Engage your child's interest as motivation to practice handwriting.
- Write a letter to a favorite Disney character. Knowing they will get a postcard in return from that character is very motivating!
- Show them how to make a small booklet to write a story about Star Wars.
- Make their own Pokemon, baseball or other themed trading cards
- Print out this small coloring page booklet like the one in the video below so they can write their own story to go along with the illustrations!
Make a book.
5. Write in code.
- Teach your kids the pigpen cipher. They will love writing messages to others to decode!
- Create a scavenger hunt which requires them to decode messages. My kids thought a superhero decoding scavenger hunt I set up for them was the best after school activity ever!
- Learn how to write with invisible ink! Writing with something they can't see forces them to work carefully on letter formation and legibility.
6. Set out extra large paper sheets on the floor. Getting down on the floor engages the whole body and important muscles required for handwriting, and changes your child's perspective in more ways than one.
- Create a giant dot to dot like this one to start out with;
- then move on to making a giant comic strip. Both ideas were a big hit in our house.
7. Learn letter formation with alternative materials.
- For example, kids can learn how to form letters with magnet alphabet cards.
- Use a writing app, like Writing Wizard or Handwriting Without Tears and use a stylus instead of tracing letters with a finger. The stylus encourages proper pencil grip.
8. Make a sensory salt tray. This is great for kids who get frustrated when they don't feel their writing is perfect because they can give the tray a little shake to quickly erase. Alternatively use flour, cornmeal or sand or these other suggestions. Write with fingers, a chopstick, an unsharpened pencil. Just changing up the materials you use can make a big difference.
9. Write with window crayons on a glass window or door. This feels rebellious, which kids love!
10. Use copy work in place of handwriting worksheets/workbooks. Copy work can be as simple as one word (for a young writer) or a sentence from a favorite book or movie (for an older writer). Think, "Luke, I am your father." or a Harry Potter quote, or whatever your child finds inspirational.
11. Give your child bath tub paints in the tub or shower for handwriting practice. This is even more fun when it's the middle of the day and not the usual bath time. Invite them to get their swim suit on because school/homework is in the tub today. Use this easy recipe for bathtub paint from Nurture Store.
12. Write "bathroom words." Seriously! I am not too uptight to let my son write the word "fart" (or worse!) 100 times, if it means he is writing. This is a great activity when kids are learning cursive!
13. Take handwriting practice outside with sidewalk chalk. Tip: If you have a brick patio or a deck, they can act like lines on paper.
14. Write on an easel. This encourages muscle development of all the muscles kids need to strengthen for handwriting from their fingers, and hands to their wrists, arms and shoulders (yes, all those muscles are engaged in handwriting tasks). Don't have an easel? Hang a piece of paper up on a wall or window. A new set of markers added to this activity makes it even more enticing.
15. Dip cotton swabs in water and write on a chalkboard, or dip them in paint and write on paper. This is sort of amazing. Try it and see.
16. Paint on a chalkboard easel with water and a paintbrush. There's no chalk dust to worry about and the water creates a fun handwriting experience. When my son painted with water on the chalkboard he got his whole body moving!
17. Keep a nature journal. Use these nature journalling tips for kids hate writing but love to be outdoors. Be sure to add an "I Wonder Why?" journal page. In fact, any kind of creative journal will do!
18. Draw and label maps! Making maps, whether they are of imaginary landscapes or familiar neighborhoods is a fun handwriting activity because it frees children up from worrying about sentence structure and grammar. Plus, the drawing of lines and shapes is also great writing practice.
BONUS! Ideas from Occupational Therapists around the web:
- DIY pencil control worksheets from The OT Toolbox.
- Write on a light box. I have got to make one of these from The OT Toolbox.
- Sensory handwriting practice with a pen at Sugar Aunts.
- Working on pre-writing shapes at In the Playroom.
- Ingenious trick to develop better pencil grasp from My Mundane and Miraculous Life.
- Practice lines with firework handwriting from Therapy Fun Zone.
- Draw and write about a monster from Therapy Fun Zone.
- Clever cat trick from Learn with Play at Home
- Quick tip about tall, short and tail letters from The Inspired Treehouse.
Julie Kirkwood, of the blog, Creekside Learning, contributed to this post.