Learning letters can be fun. Writing can be fun. Some kids love it. Some kids have been ridiculed and shamed in front of their classmates for their handwriting until the joy and fascination of letters has dissipated. This generally isn’t done intentionally. Most children are aware of the fact that everyone else is moving on and they are left behind. Helping them rediscover the joy of letters and writing (the ability to express yourself to others and be understood) is powerful and fulfilling. It also makes school more enjoyable for everyone (mom or dad included). So here are 8 ways to make learning letters and writing fun.
- Give more positive reinforcement than negative. I don’t mean “good job”. I mean specific, exact feedback. Give your child a different perspective on writing. “I love how neat this letter A is. Look at how the lines stop at just the right place”. “Oh wow! Look at how these letters are all on the line!” If there are no neat letters then praise creativity or thoughtfulness. “I think that is the best story! I love the way your mind works and is so creative”. “I can tell you are thinking really hard about what to write. I really appreciate how hard you are trying. Can you tell me what you’re thinking and I can help you?”
- Combine physicality with letters and writing. Want your child to be able to recognize letters? Play hide and seek with letters written on paper around the house. Want to work on spelling words? Leave magnetic letters on one side of the room and play “The Floor Is Lava” to get the letters to a whiteboard on the other side. It takes more brainpower but adding a physical component to handwriting can help improve a kiddo’s outlook on something that used to be only accessible if they are seated in a classroom.
- Don’t just work on letters or writing. Work on the underlying skills such as visual-motor integration. Visual-motor integration is the child’s ability to see something and use their brain and their muscles to recreate what they see. It is a very complex neurological process. There are many activities to work on this, like using your fingers to write or draw in shaving cream.
- Play ball or play with playdough! Both of these things work on hand strength and hand endurance to decrease the likelihood that fatigue is preventing your child from engaging in handwriting. You can also try adding different pencil grips to pencils to make them more comfortable to hold as well as encourage proper grip.
- Use Mad Libs to create silly stories. Let them be as silly as possible. The more fun, the more likely they are to be willing to write.
- Don’t always make them write. A big part of writing in the later years is sentence ideation (the ability to creatively think of words and phrases to create a story/create a sentence that makes sense to others). You can work on this by telling silly stories. This roll a story game is one of my family’s favorites!
- Work on fine motor control and pencil control. Mazes, coloring inside the lines, and poke art are all great ways to work on this.
- Visual perceptual skills are key in handwriting being legible. Visual perceptual skills are a child’s ability to see and interpret what they are seeing. This can be worked on through playing iSpy, completing hidden pictures, or playing games such as Spot It or building tangrams.
Some of these underlying skills mentioned may be a weakness and could be the reason that your child is struggling. If you have concerns about your child’s handwriting and feel that some of these tasks are difficult for them please contact TEAM 4 Kids and schedule an evaluation with our awesome OT team! (Remember, sometimes behavior is a way of avoiding something difficult).
Camiel Clark, MOTR/L