Julie is a homeschool handwriting wizard. If anyone knows how to make handwriting practice fun, she does. My youngest son hates handwriting but I’ve been trying some of Julie’s ideas and slowly but surely it has been less of a struggle (in other words, he’s stopped screaming “I hate this!!” every time he picks a pencil) and — dare I say it — handwriting is becoming fun. I am delighted she is here to share her secrets today. Read on.
My kids are horribly allergic to worksheets. Their symptoms include making noises of frustration and oozing out of their chair into a puddle on the carpet. For my oldest child, his worksheet aversion is legit. He has dysgraphia, a learning disability that makes writing very challenging. Meeting these challenges was the beginning of my quest as a mom to help ease my child’s frustrations and build his skills in the handwriting department.
When I began to share our struggles and the solutions we were finding helpful, I found that there were many families who also had children who hated handwriting. I began to research this and dig a little deeper and soon found that what we were doing was helpful to others. I wrote a book about it and I continue to share new ideas about handwriting on my website, Creekside Learning.
Here’s my biggest tip.
You’re going to think this sounds crazy but it works. If you have children who balk at handwriting worksheets, who become easily frustrated with handwriting practice, stop doing the worksheets.
You can come back to them later but for a while, just use the worksheets as your guide to what your child is learning and do these activities instead.
10 Ways to Make Handwriting Practice More Fun
2. Make an easy Sensory Salt Tray and do exactly what the worksheet tells you to do but do it in the 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.
3. Write with window crayons on a glass window or door. Here’s one way we do this in a 24-second YouTube video.
4. 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. I have one child who likes to copy silly nonsense words that we make up and another who copies text out of Anne of Green Gables.
5. Give your child bath tub paints in the tub or shower for handwriting practice. P.S. 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. Here’s an easy recipe for bathtub paint from Nurture Store.
6. Use cornmeal, flour or sand on a cookie sheet. Write with fingers, a chopstick, an unsharpened pencil. Just changing up the materials you use can make a big difference.
7. Encourage handwriting that doesn’t look like schoolwork or homework such as making birthday cards, drawing and labeling maps or keeping a nature journal. Write to each other on post-it notes, or set up a family mailbox system with shoeboxes and leave short letters for each other.
8. Take handwriting practice outside with sidewalk chalk. Tip: If you have a brick patio or a deck, they can act like lines on paper.
9. Write on a 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.
10. Dip cotton swabs in water and write on a chalkboard, or dip them in paint and write on paper. This is sort of addicting. Try it and see.
We’ve used all of these and more. When my oldest child was really struggling in kindergarten, I let his teacher know that we would be doing all of his handwriting homework but much of it wouldn’t be on paper. I took pictures of the activities we did and sent them in.
These ideas and many more can be found in the book When Your Child Hates Handwriting: Peaceful, Practical Solutions for Parents.
Julie Kirkwood is a homeschooling mom to three who lives in Virginia. She writes about STEM activities, handwriting resources and naturalist learning at Creekside Learning. She also shares lots of ideas on Facebook and Pinterest.