How to Encourage your Child to Write

By Sheree Feldman

 There are lots of strategies that you can use to build fine motor and writing skills:

(1)      Start building your child’s fine motor skills by encouraging fine motor activities, e.g., encouraging your child to pick up small objects using the thumb and pointer finger, encouraging your child to feed him/herself, encouraging your child to spray water from a spray bottle in the bathtub, encouraging your child to cut with scissors, encouraging your child to string beads, etc.

(2)      Be a good model.  Use the correct grip and always start at the top and write from left to right.

(3)      Encourage the use of the correct grip by having your child hold a small object, e.g., cotton ball, with his/her ring finger and pinky finger.  This will promote the use of the tripod grip, which means the writing utensil will be held between the thumb and index finger and rest on the middle finger.

(4)      Have your child use smaller writing utensils, e.g., golf pencils, instead of adult size ones. Smaller utensils provide your child with the ability to have more control and to develop the appropriate grip.

(5)      Have your child trace lines and shapes with his/her finger to get the feel first and then proceed to tracing letters with his/her finger.  Only then do you place a writing utensil in his/her hand.

(6)      Start encouraging your child to start at the top and make vertical lines, e.g. “big lines down” and then proceed to horizontal lines (“big lines across”) starting at the left side of the paper.  This will develop the habit of starting at the top and going from left to right, which are important concepts and skills in learning to write.

(7)      When your child is ready to begin writing, start with his/her name and start by encouraging writing with all capitol letters.  Capitol letters are easier to write and will provide your child with more opportunities for success.

(8)      Do not force handedness.  Allow your child to pick up the utensil with the hand that s/he feels most comfortable with.  You may find that your child switches hands for a while.  This is okay, as it will provide him/her with the opportunity to figure out which hand s/he is most comfortable with.  If your child has not decided on handedness by 4 years of age, then you may want to watch closely and start encouraging the use of the hand that s/he appears to use most often and appears to have more control in writing with.  This is important, as at 4 years of age it is critical for handedness to be established in order for your child to develop more control and strength in writing.

Most importantly, make sure your child has opportunities to just have fun drawing and using writing utensils.  The more experience, the more strength, control and confidence your child will develop.