We just got in these two new products from Clairefontaine that we special ordered weeks ago, specifically for handwriting and great for kids, and along with so much great interest from the recent Globe & Mail article on cursive handwriting, I thought I would share some tips on teaching your child handwriting.
Seyes, or French-ruled paper has been pretty popular ever since we started carrying it – with people looking to improve their handwriting, people looking to learn, calligraphers. If you’re not sure on how to get started with Seyes-ruled paper, I wrote a blog post on using it here. The tricky thing about the Seyes ruled paper is not only are there so many lines, they are also pretty close together.
If you read my post on improving your handwriting (as an adult), you’ll know I think it’s easier to learn and master handwriting by practising larger first, especially if you’re not quite at the stage where fiddling with smaller o’s is working for you. We just received in a larger sized Seyes ruled paper in two formats: loose leaf and in an A4 notebook. This is the same Seyes ruling proportionally, except about 25% bigger.
This is also, of course, perfect for kids. If they’re ready to move on to more precise cursive, or a bit more of a challenge, help them learn how to write “French-styled” cursive.
If you’re looking for reasons to teach your child handwriting, you can check them out here, but I suspect you’re already convinced, or you would be here.
Here are a few tips on helping your kid learn cursive handwriting:
- Go to your local bookstore, or a place that sells materials to teachers, like Scholar’s Choice, and pick up a workbook on cursive writing. I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend one over another, as cursive handwriting isn’t too complicated – just look for one that gives lots of room for practise. You can get a special notebook for your kids to practise writing stories or copy out sentences on separately.
- Get your child a special pen, maybe one that they pick out on their own. Even if you’re a traditionalist for blue inks in thank you notes, maybe your kids can still practise in green or purple or pink. If they can only write with this pen to practise their cursive handwriting, it may be an incentive to practise.
- Have everything set up in one place, or in a box, so when you’re all finally sitting down to practise, you don’t have to go hunting for that pencil sharpener or more worksheets.
- Consistency is key – better 15 minutes a day, or every other day, than 2 hours a week. This also has the advantage of not making it turning it into a crazy two hour writing session where you all come out like zombies.
- Watch them form the letters, rather than just looking at the final product. The letters may look good, but it can be hard to tell sometimes if they’re forming their letters in one stroke (properly), as opposed to breaking them up, and joining them up separately.
- An occasional treat, like practising cursive handwriting at a cafe with a hot chocolate, may be something to keep the learning fun.
- I give out stickers, both for completing a section, but also smaller stickers to acknowledge a group of letters or words that are particularly well done. Kids need some incentive for doing the work, but also for doing it well, which has the added bonus of incentivizing them to learn what is good.
- As much as learning should be fun, there are some things, like multiplication tables and also cursive writing, that just need to be practised. While you shouldn’t become a drill tyrant, sometimes your child just needs to put in the hours to develop that muscle memory.
- Lead by example with your own handwriting, or at the very least, show them what they’re aiming for and why it’s important. Remember, you’re teaching them a skill that can be helpful for the rest of their life, and they should know that too.
A few frequently asked questions:
Should I ask my child’s teacher about cursive writing?
You should ask your child’s teacher about anything that’s important to you. That being said, cursive writing is only on the Grade 3 curriculum, and only as an “optional” way for your child to express him or herself in writing, so your teacher may not be intending to teach it. Your child’s teacher may already have curriculum or long range learning plans in place, and I’m not kidding when I say there is really is more in the curriculum than there is time for kids to learn it all (well).
My child doesn’t hold his pencil properly, should I fix this?
We’ve come a long way from forcing left-handers to write with their right hands, but this is a bit different. I’m of the opinion that if you can, you should definitely encourage your child to hold their pencil correctly. I know this may be an ironic comparison, but if you type relatively fast with your two index fingers, but then decide to learn to type properly, with all of your fingers, your typing speed will slow down dramatically. Once you master it, though, you will always be able to type faster with all of your fingers than just your index. However, each child and situation can be different, so approach everything with flexibility.
The proper way is to the “tri-finger” grip, rather than wrapping the thumb all the way around the index finger, or using four fingers to hold the pencil in the “grip of death.”
I’ve heard that you can try cutting down a pencil really short, so the hand holding it doesn’t have a choice except to hold it correctly. You can also try triangularly shaped pencils, or even something like the Lamy Safari fountain pen.
My child is left-handed, should his writing slant to the left instead of right?
Caleb (our baby) is only 13 months, but I think he may be left-handed! This is just a guess based on how he reaches for things and feeds himself, but he also does use his right hand if something is coming at him from the right. Is he doomed???
I don’t think left handers necessarily have to have writing that slopes to the left. You can show your child how to angle his paper and his body so it’s easiest to slant to the right, but I’ve seen lots of lefties with right slanting handwriting.
These are just a few tips and thoughts on teaching your child handwriting – at the end of the day, it just comes down to consistent practice so it becomes muscle memory. The more they practise, the better developed and more agile their fine motor skills will become.
You can bet that we’ll be teaching Caleb how to write in cursive, just like we’ll be teaching him how to type properly, so he can do so quickly and without having to look at the keyboard, and how to clean out his fountain pens, and how to sweep the floors in the shop….