Handwriting legibility is the quality of written output. A child’s handwriting legibility can impact their schooling, including their grades. Legibility is impacted by a range of skills such as word spacing, letter placement, letter formation and pencil control. Improvement in one or more of these areas can assist in enhancing your child’s handwriting.
Being able to distinguish between words can make it easier to read the handwriting sample. Schools use a few different ways to teach spacing between words such as using Space Man (an astronaut on a paddlepop stick) or putting a sticker between each word. Another way is to teach children to use one or two fingers for word spacing – A Finger Space. This may be a more practical way to practice spacing as a child may not always have their Space Man or stickers with them!
There are a range of strategies to develop letter placement based on the type of lined paper used. Schools may use different lined paper depending on the year level therefore it is important to check with your child’s school what type of lined paper they are using. They may use red and blue lines, just blue lines, or sometimes no lines.
Lined papers can become visually distracting and some children may benefit from visual reminders of where to write. Highlighting in between two lines can make it less distracting for some children. Alternatively, some children may benefit from having the bottom line coloured in using a bright coloured marker. As the child progresses, learning “head, body and tail letters” can also improve their letter placement skills but we might leave that for another post!
Letter formation is a very important area but one that might be commonly missed. Correct letter formation is used to develop cursive writing and can improve handwriting speed as the child progresses through their schooling life. One way to remind children where to start and stop their letters is by using the Green and Red Dot method. Simply place a green and red dot to indicate start and stop respectively on each letter. I often use the Traffic Light system to introduce this method.
Me: “What does green on a traffic light mean?”
Me: “What does red on a traffic light mean?”
Pencil control is affected by a child’s fine motor skill, with a common reason being reduced finger strength. Developing finger strength allows children to use their smaller hand muscles rather than their bigger arm and forearm muscles. The use of smaller hand muscles means they have fine control over their pencil. A great method to increase finger strength (and to make chores interesting), is incorporating a spray bottle into daily activities.
- Water household plants by filling a spray bottle with water and asking your child to water the plants.
- Spray painting. Hang up a big piece of paper on a wall or fence. Add water and a couple of drops of food colouring or poster paint to the spray bottle. Have spray bottles with different colours. Your child can create a piece of “spray painting” artwork.
- Fun chores. As you are cleaning the windows or benchtops at home, ask your child to help you out. They can have their own spray bottle with water and clean with you!
- Water play. During the hot days, why not give each family member a spray bottle and spray each other with water. A great way to cool off and have fun together as a family!
Tell us how you found these strategies by commenting below! These are just some ideas of what could be impacting your child’s handwriting legibility. For specific strategies for your child, please consult your Occupational Therapist.