Handwriting: What Approach Works?

Sprout Academy uses Handwriting Without Tears

Children today receive far less instructional time and practice time on handwriting than most of us who are over the age of 30.

In many districts, teachers are told to provide 15 minutes of handwriting instruction in 5K. That’s it!

If you have a daughter who enjoys writing, she will probably have legible writing without additional instruction.  If you have a son, who is really good at gross motor activities like running, playing ball, etc., he will need more instruction!  If you have a child who was developmentally delayed or has speech delays, he/she will need more instruction! Children who struggle with speaking, sometimes struggle with handwriting because its a fine motor skill.  Other examples of fine motor skills include: scissor work, playing the piano or typing!

How do children get better at any motor skill? Practice! Perfect practice is what they need, otherwise they reinforce and practice the wrong way! That’s why at Sprout Academy, we whole heartily agree with the Handwriting Without Tears philosophy and methodology.  Let’s look at a few common writing problems:

  • unusual pencil grip
  • sloppy or large handwriting
  • little interest in coloring or drawing
  • letter reversals
  • spacing between words

Often times many of the pre-writing skills they need can be attained by doing fun things.  Take a look at this blog for specific activities to do with preschoolers or children who are still struggling with some of the aforementioned skills. If your child is in 5K or going into first grade and you or your child’s teacher still has concern with his/her handwriting, you may want to consider this approach to helping your child to succeed in handwriting! Handwriting Without Tears was created by an Occupational Therapist, who worked with thousands of children who struggled with dressing, using a spoon, tying shoes and handwriting! She designed this curriculum to be a multi-sensory approach to teaching handwriting.

Handwriting is so much more than holding a pencil.  It involves visual tracking across a piece of paper, like one does when he/she is reading.  Handwriting involves holding a pencil correctly and building endurance like preparing for a 5K. Handwriting involves learning the amount of pressure one needs to make a mark dark enough to see without breaking the lead. Understanding pressure with a pencil is like understanding how different car’s brakes respond to ones foot pressure. All these things are going on simultaneously while a child is also trying to remember how the letter looks, what the name of the letter is and the sound it makes.

Before you seek private instruction, start by reading and giving your child 15 minutes a day to complete activities suggested here. Better trunk control will decrease your child’s wiggly body movements, allow for more focused attention and ultimately create better arm and later, finger strength and control. A few tips we reiterate over and over in our Handwriting Without Tears Camps and private instruction sessions are: blog_04

  1. Sit up tall. Preferably feet on ground and body in a 90/90/90 degree posture.
  2. Tilt book up on the corner that matches your child’s handedness! So lefties tilt top left corner of book up and righties do the opposite. This helps them see what they are writing as they write.
  3. Use their hand that is not writing as their “helper hand” to stabilize the book. We often name the helper hand something memorable like “Lu Lu.”
  4. Use a tripod grip when holding the pencil. This habit is often very hard to break but must be addressed, so they do not have writer’s fatigue when they are in 2nd or 3rd grade. Here is a video and song to help if your child is struggling:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP5htYZ5jjQ&list=PLA-QV7Rn1toslP8LX5w_bJ_dVbcUdojri&index=1
  5. Play with Play doh or color with crayons.
  6. Squirt water guns in both hands or use clothes pins for sorting, playing, etc. Here is a great blog for using clothes pins educationally.
  7. We sing lots of songs as we try to help them remember what we are teaching. Here’s the song we learned about starting letters at the top. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcAYnrh6fdw
  8. We also teach body awareness and drawing a person with 8 features by singing Mat Man and using the wooden pieces to build him. They all love Mat Man and here’s his song.  This helps them draw a man with 9+ body parts! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXLxUPpuRjQ
  9. The last thing we would encourage you to buy and use is the Wet, Dry Try app that is $4.99 on all Ipads. Tt simulates what we do on our mini chalk boards and keeps them doing the strokes in the proper order. It’s also great for travel and practice when they don’t want to do the written work! It also encourages this way of writing.


There are different philosophies of writing out there, but if we stick to one method it won’t confuse them! Please contact us for a Handwriting assessment or to speak with us about private handwriting instruction by one of our Handwriting Without Tears certified instructors!

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