We love opportunities for children to get writing practice because it’s an important skill that is directly tied to reading and letter recognition. We also know that handwriting is losing importance as technology becomes more integrated into our daily routines. So we were especially excited when first grader Gavin suggested we write letters to the chickens we’ve been hatching at the library!
How often do your children swipe, pinch, or tap on a screen? Do they get equal or more opportunities to hold a writing utensil? Hand dexterity and strength is weakening as children get an increased amount of screen time. Occupational therapists have even noticed that children don’t have the hand strength that they had 10 years ago.
Handwriting starts with scribbles that children make with large motions that are controlled by the shoulder (not their hand). As children build muscle control from practice with early scribbles they start making lines—horizontal, vertical, curved, or diagonal. Around age 2 ½, children know that writing is made up of lines, curves, and repeated patterns. They will imitate these lines in their unplanned drawings. At age 3, they start planning their drawings. Their drawings will also have symbolic meaning (a drawing could be a house or a cat; your child will tell you what it is). Once children have plenty of practice writing their name, children will make pretend letters that mimic familiar letters.
Writing skills develop with practice just like playing a sport, playing an instrument, or reading! You can encourage writing at home by writing pretend lists, menus, or even expressing feelings through artwork. A manipulative like playdough can also be really great for building hand muscles.
We’ve gotten some cute responses based on Gavin’s brilliant idea, and they’re hanging up in the Youth Department for members to see. Here are a few that highlight the differences in writing development.