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We would always want a child to hand write and build their skills as much as possible until at least the age of 8 years old as this establishes many necessary skills. Handwriting involves forming and putting letters together in an organised way to produce words and make sentences.  The reason we write is to be able to show and share our ideas and understanding with others. 

Handwriting is only one of a number of ways we can do this but it is a very important one.

Handwriting helps us to develop how we hold a sense of a letter sound and shape  in our minds and bodies- it actually helps us to learn to recognise letter sounds and the physical act of pencil on paper forming letters  improves spelling and reading. 


What you can do to help

As children start to control a pencil more they bring many skills together to produce new shapes and the beginnings of letters and numbers.

Children will be likely to start showing a preference for a particular hand. Children need to have enough strength, stability and control of their hands and bodies to write. Producing shapes is also linking what we see to our physical movements and our ability to form ideas of what we want to do and plan.  

In the first stages of writing:

  • Use chunky crayons and felt pens that are easy to hold and make bold marks.
  • Carry on with interactive drawing, a story adds great interest to drawing (see pre-writing page for details).

When learning early writing skills make sure it is all about fun and practice and beginning to see letters be formed out of marks!

  • Use plain paper as it is more about getting the shapes of the letters rather than neatness or size at this stage.
  • Children want to learn to write their names. Teach them the capital for the beginning of their name and the individual lower case letters. Some names are much easier than others so focus on the easy letters first.
  • Talk about them pencil actions and make them into stories or images. 
  • Start by teaching your child lower case letters first
  • It is important children learn the correct movement of the letters which is often not achieved from just copying/tracing.
  • Teach letters in groups that have the same shape or pencil stroke within them

    c o a d g q e

    r n m h b p

    i f I j l t u y

    v w x z k


  • It is also useful to look at and sort letters, according to whether they are tall letters (sometimes this is known as ascending), or go below the line (sometimes this is known as descending)

    a c e i m n o r s u v w x z

    b d f h k l t

    g j p q y

  • When you start introducing lines it can be useful to draw a dot at the top of the line where letters should start.

If your child has learnt their letters and is ready to start using handwriting to get their ideas on paper there are a number of tips which may help them. The first section has fun ideas and the more technical side of writing is below. Remember to discuss your child’s writing with their teacher if you have concerns. 

Cave writing

Keep writing fun, here are a few ideas… sometimes you may be sitting, sometimes you may be lying down, it could be inside or outside… Try cave writing, see image above.

If you want to know more about how your child sits please see our page.

  • Keep a diary when on holiday with pictures, tickets, brochures etc and your child adds drawings, titles,writes what they did etc.
  • Try writing shopping lists together or write out a menu for supper.
  • Make up a story together and then take turns writing bits.
  • Try spy writing – Use a candle and some black paint or you can buy an invisible pen that only shows under its own ultra-violet light.
  • Write a secret message and hide it to be found and the action done by the finder.
  • Make a treasure hunt.
  • Try cave writing – with paper stuck underneath the table - this is great for shoulder stability.
  • Do funny writing – Try a shaky pen, triple colours etc.
  • For more ideas see the pre-writing page 

Please click on each of the challenges below to find out more information.

Pen Grasps and Grips 

Is their pencil grip comfortable or do they say their hand or wrist is painful and that they get aches when they write? Ideally most of the movement when writing should come from the fingers from lots of children develop different ways of writing. Here are some ideas of things to think about and try…

  • Try different shaped pens/pencil including shorter ones, wider barrels, triangular shapes ones, ribbed ones or ergonomic ones
  • Try different ink, some pens are much more free flowing

    There are lots of different pencil grips you can add. If you use one consider the aim and if the grip is helping, watch our tutorial on grips for further information.

  • If the child has a very upright pencil you can try a ‘handiwriter’ or a flexible band around the wrist

It is not recommended to try and change the grip of children over 10 but try to find the most comfortable writing tool.


Handwriting Paper

 Many children need more structure to help them know where they are on the paper and handwriting paper, double lined paper or squared paper can all play a part as well as a visual prompt to distinguish left from right.

  • Double lined paper is used to teach and practise consistent size, shape and position.
  • Squared graph paper can help with numbers.
  • Putting a star on the page where you want the child to begin writing can often help
  • Teach and practice one letter at a time
  • Some handwriting paper is raised so children can feel when their pencil touches the line.
  • Some paper has definite zones for taller letters and zones for those that go below the line (see below)

Standard two lined paper and lines can give enough guidance for some children

This paper gives a clear boundary for middle sized letters, taller and below line letters then go outside the lines

This paper offers a good guide for letter size and can be a good introduction to working smaller writing.

This paper gives a clear boundary for middle sized letters, taller and below line/hanging letters should aim to reach the red lines. It is often found it school handwriting books. 

Handwriting programmes

 There are many handwriting schemes or programmes which can help and lots of apps for tablets that they can use for fun ways to learn letter shapes. Many of these programmes are used within school time, discuss with your school if they have any they recommend. All schools will have selected their own handwriting program. In addition therapists have developed some that focus on particular aspects of writing.

Here are some examples:

  • Write from the start
  • Speed up!
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • Write dance
  • Write start

Left Handers

 If you child is left handed learning to write may be harder, as they tend to cover their writing as they move across the page and writing can become untidy and smudged.

  • If your child tends to write from right to left a coloured star at the left margin will help to remind them where to start.
  • Seat you left handed child on the left side of a double desk, or next to another left-hander to avoid elbow clashing. The same applies at the dinner table.
  • Make sure they can see the blackboard without twisting round. .
  • Make allowances for clumsiness, smudging and untidiness and emphasise their achievements with lots of praise.

 Left Handing Drawing (August 2020) 2

Alternatives to Handwriting


At the same time if handwriting is not working well as a tool for your child to get their ideas onto paper then it may well be sensible to use other ways to produce work whilst still building on and using handwriting alongside this.

If you think your child may need different ways to get their ideas on paper, this is a good time to talk to school and they may want to involve other professionals including occupational therapy.

Other ideas for producing work could be –

  • Speaking ideas for an adult to write/draw
  • Typing on a computer
  • ICT such as Clicker software which has visual and written words for selection
  • Low tech – magnetic visuals (pictures or symbols)and words
  • Voice activated software that enables dictation

Using a key board is part of a longer term plan – at this stage it can be good to practice finding letters for letter recognition and key board familiarity if movement difficulties are such that handwriting is very frustrating and showing very slow progress.

How we can help

If your child is in year 2 or above and their handwriting is not developing as it should, speak to your child’s teacher to find out what they have done to try to help. A referral to occupational therapy would be appropriate if they are not making progress despite extra teaching and practice.

Ask your child's school, nursery or health professional to complete a referral form and send it to us. For professionals forms can be found on the 'contact us' page. Include a sample of their handwriting as this will help us to decide how we can best help them.

Need More Information?

  • The National handwriting Asssociation has lots of useful information and resources for home and school. Click here to find our more.
  • Useful resources for teaching  handwriting and activities to support the development of writing  for teachers and parents can be found here
  • Click here for great art ideas – for school age too! 
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