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Help With Handwriting

In my son’s school, I have noticed a significant shift away from creating children who can write neatly.  So, I try to find ways to get my kids motivated about writing – and writing legibly – without feeling like it is such a chore.  Here are a couple of suggestions to try with your young writer:

  • Making a (shopping) list – on the way to the store, I dictate a short list to my son of things we need to purchase.  Then, I allow him to add one or two extra items that he feels we may need (we talk about them first, though, before adding them!).  He realizes how important it is to write well when others will be using your “work”!
  • Portable writing center – this is an idea I gleaned from my preschool classroom.  I try to keep a supply of paper and pens or pencils in the car, usually in the glove box or among the children’s belongings in the front seat.  When we are out running errands, I let my sons write letters to their friends.  They can also choose to write relatives or far away friends as well, and we mail those off to get to their destination.  From time to time, I will stock my car with postage-paid postcards for my boys to write letters.  Then, we make our final errand stop the post office!  To practice writing for another person’s enjoyment is a good motivator to use legible handwriting.

What are some ideas you have for getting kids to write legibly?

Reduce, REUSE, Recycle

Like most of us, I get oodles of mail throughout the week, but only a handful of things that are truly necessary.  While my family is extremely conscious of our recycling efforts and recycle all the paper we get in the mail, I have found that several pieces of mail can be reused as quick and fun activities for my boys.

The best “junk mail” or “mass mailers” are the ones that come with freebies – labels, notepads, bookmarks, and calendars.  I sort through these items, putting contribution request forms in one pile, explanation letters in the recycle bin, and the stickers, labels and other items in an envelope.  My husband and I go through the contribution requests towards the end of the year (which is probably why we are on so many mailing lists that send us these things!) to make donations, and the kids get to have some fun with the extras that come along with these requests.

I save up return envelopes for the kids as well.  The boys will write letters, make drawings, or even create lists (this week it was a Christmas list) on the freebie notepads.  Then, they stuff these into the envelopes which they then decorate with stickers and return address labels.  My older son loves to cut the little pictures off of the address labels and use just the picture stickers for decorating, while my younger son (age 4) simply loves seeing how many stickers he pile on the envelope.

This is a great activity for restaurants, doctor’s offices, anyplace where kids need something to occupy their time.  It is small and easy enough to stuff into a purse or bag, and when you reuse things you receive in the mail, the cost is appealing as well!

Working With Preschool-Aged Children – Pre-Writing Fun

“Practice makes perfect.”


These words couldn’t ring truer for preparing a child to become a writer.  Writing isn’t an acquired skill; it is learned and practiced long before pencil is actually placed in hand.  Here are some great ideas to get your preschooler ready to write – and still have a great time doing it!

  1. Take a ziplock baggie and place about 1/4 cup of hair gel inside.  Seal the bag, squeezing out all the excess air (depending on the size of bag, you might need more or less gel, and colored gel works better).  Place the sealed baggie on a flat surface and use as a writing “tablet”.  Children can draw and doodle in the gel, wiping their “slate” clean by simply smoothing out the gel.  Place the gel baggie over a piece of paper with squiggle lines or simple shapes and have the child “trace” the shape with his or her finger.  This can even be used with large letters written on paper as well.
  2. Spread sand on a cookie sheet or other edged pan.  Have children use this surface as a writing surface.  It can be easily “erased” as well.  Use fingers as well as other items, such as straws, unsharpened pencils, pasta and even small cars to “write”.
  3. Place a dollop of shaving cream on a table.  Have the child spread the shaving cream out and then use it as a writing surface.  Children can “erase” by simply covering their marks with more shaving cream.  (I use this method at the end of the day, and the shaving cream helps “clean” my tables!)  To make it more interesting, add a drop or two of watercolor.  Children can make shapes, squiggles, pictures or even write letters.
  4. As children become more intentional in their strokes, give them several markers or crayons.  Have them trace the same shape over and over with different colors.  These shapes can be arcs, circles, lines, zig-zags, or even letters.  My class calls this “rainbow writing”.
  5. As a culminating activity as we learn our letters, I give each child an unbaked breadstick (Pillsbury makes a good one, as does my generic store-brand).  Children then form their breadsticks into either their favorite letter or the first letter of their name.  Bake and eat!

Reading Readiness – Get Ready For School!

Here’s a fun activity to try with your child that promotes critical thinking and school readiness.  This idea can be adapted for any age from preschool through grade school and beyond.  Best of all, no supplies are needed!

Have your child turn his or her back to you.  Using your finger draw a letter on your child’s back and see if he or she can identify the letter.  After he or she guesses the letter, see if they can come up with a word that begins with that letter!

If this is too difficult for your child, try it out first on the palm of his or her hand.  That way, your child can see the letter being written.  With younger children who might not know their letters yet, try simple shapes, like circles, triangles and squares.  Older children will enjoy the challenge of entire words or a more complex picture, such as a tree, a plane or a house.

Have your child do the same to your back as well.  It is great practice for writing, spelling and simple fine motor skills and dexterity!

Reach That Budding Writer!

Here’s a quick and fun activity to do with your child to encourage creativity and writing.  If your child is not old enough to write yet, he or she can dictate the words or tell a story about what they see.

Browse through magazines and newspapers and cut out interesting pictures.  Glue them to construction paper and have your child create captions, stories or simply funny sayings for the characters pictured.  This is also a great activity to get a child involved with participating in a family scrapbook or album.  Let your child create captions for photos, or have him or her make “speech” bubbles or “thought” bubbles to go with the pictures.

This is an excellent way to get children thinking beyond what they know and to be creative with what they see.  With younger children, make a collection of simpler pictures, perhaps one or two objects in a frame, and record their reactions to the pictures.

This is a wonderful way to get ready for the more formal work of school while still having fun together.

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