January 23rd is National Handwriting Day. As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, one of the primary areas that I work on is the development of writing skills. This typically involves everything from the way a child holds their writing implement, to their visual perceptual skills, to how they make their marks on the paper. Other areas of importance that I look at are how the child is sitting, where their hands are when they’re writing, where their feet are, what type of writing implement they are using – crayon, marker, pencil, etc. I know…who knew there was SO much to look at when working with handwriting.
In fact, from a developmental perspective, the very first thing I look at are the Building Blocks needed to develop writing skills. These include the following:
- Hand Dominance: has your child picked one hand that they consistently use?
- Hand and Finger Strength: does your child possess the ability to exert enough force against the resistance of the writing surface using their hands and fingers? Can they use the necessary muscle power needed to control the movement of the pencil/crayon?
- Pencil Grasp: how does your child hold the writing implement? Are they holding it in an age appropriate way that will allow for age appropriate movements?
- Upper Body Strength: does your child have enough stability throughout their shoulders and arms to generate controlled hand movements?
- Core Strength: does your child possess the core strength needed to allow for the upper body strength and the ability to sit at a writing surface and engage in drawing/coloring/writing for an extended period of time?
- Crossing Midline: can your child cross from one side of their body to the other so that they can draw/color/write on the top left side of the paper with their right hand?
- Bilateral Integration: can your child use both hands together in a coordinated manner? Can they hold the paper with one hand and write with the other?
- Visual Perception: does your child have the ability to interpret what they see? Can they see a shape and then create that shape?
After I analyze the building blocks I then move on to the Pre-Writing Skills. Pre-writing Skills are lines and strokes that typically develop in a sequential manner and must be mastered before a child will be able to print the alphabet. Think about it – most upper and lower case letters are created using a series of lines, strokes, arcs and circles. If a child cannot complete one of these skills, they will experience a very difficult time learning how to write their letters.
The development of Pre-Writing Skills typically follow this sequence:
I know that some may question the relevancy of handwriting in today’s digital age, but these foundational skills are important and will provide your child with a strong base to build upon. Believe it or not, the development of your child’s Building Blocks and Pre-Writing Skills can have a great impact on other areas of development.