Do you want your child to learn their alphabet but often find it difficult for them to focus? How often do you feel like a broken record, telling your children to practice handwriting?
Well, handwriting is actually a really hard task!
Handwriting requires a combination of complex skills such as visual, physical fine motor, gross motor, and planning skills. Many of which
In this article, we will break down what sensory handwriting is, the benefits of multisensory strategies, and give some activities that utilize multi sensory learning to help students learn letter sound relationships, reading fluency, handwriting & writing more generally.
What is Sensory Handwriting?
Sensory handwriting is a multisensory instruction that uses more than one sense to learn handwriting. For example, using a range of tactile materials for your child to “feel” the letters. A multisensory instruction or multisensory technique such as these use multiple senses to help struggling readers & writers.
This is a great way for your child to practice letter formation without the need of holding a pencil (and in a more fun and motivating way!). It removes the additional difficulty of how to hold the pencil correctly. This is a great way to encourage your child to practice writing, especially if they have learning disabilities or are hesitant to do the writing.
For a child to learn to handwrite, it is a great way to use a multisensory method – this simply means using a few of their senses at the same time. This can make it easier for a child to remember and learn their alphabet. This is learning using a “multi sensory” learning approach.
It is also a good idea to learn by incorporating and using a range of senses. For example:
- Touch (i.e. feeling the letter using sensory handwriting)
- Visual (i.e. seeing the letter)
- Auditory (i.e. listening to the name and/or sound of the letter)
Try and incorporate more than one sense when you are teaching your child.
Benefits of Multisensory Learning
Multisensory learning is a learning technique that teachers often use in classrooms. These multisensory techniques are the act of using more than one sense to help students learn.
An example of using this multi sensory approach could be:
A teacher might have students feel their letters as they say them aloud or show children what a letter looks like on the page.
This type of multisensory instruction can be especially helpful for those with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. However, multisensory learning is good for all children because everyone learns in different ways. It allows the child to use all their senses to remember what they are learning.
Multisensory Learning in the Classroom: Multisensory teaching is often used by teachers when teaching letters, numbers, or words to help those who struggle with reading due to dyslexia or other disabilities. Teachers use multisensory methods such as visual cues (showing pictures), auditory cues (saying the word out loud), tactile cues (touching an object), and kinesthetic cues (acting out the word) to help those with comprehension and reading issues.
If you’re looking for effective ways to boost your child’s motor development, our guide on prone extension exercises can be a valuable resource.
Make letters using playdough
Depending on if your child knows how to write their letters or not, there are multiple ways that you can do this activity.
- If they know how to write the letter, you could get them to make the letter using the playdough.
- If they don’t know how to write all their letters, you can write it on a piece of paper and get them to make the letter using the playdough.
- If you want to play this game together, you can also take turns and have one person make the letter with the playdough while another person guesses what letter they formed and writes it down.
Use pipecleaners to make letters and words
Pipe cleaners are a great way to practice letter formation in a way that utilizes multisensory learning.
For example, you could get your child to make the letter ‘A’ by making an upside-down “L” with the pipe cleaner and then bending it at the top. You can also use pipe cleaners for other letters in their alphabet too!
Once they have created the letter, encourage them to use their finger to trace over the letter with their pointer finger so they can feel how the letter is formed. It is important for your child to trace according to how the letter is formed. If they trace incorrectly (e.g. start writing the letter from the bottom), then it can cause them to learn bad habits about letter formation.
This is a fun way to learn writing without having to worry about holding a pencil correctly or struggling with how they hold it. The best thing is that your child will be able to feel what they’re doing – this helps them remember better than if they were just copying something from paper or looking at something on the screen.
It’s important not only for teaching handwriting but also in teaching kids about shapes and patterns whilst doing this multisensory instruction!
Write in flour, sand or dirt
With this multisensory instruction, there is so much space that you can write both letters and words. As your child starts to learn how to spell, you can get them to practice sight words using this method.
This is a great method to write multisensory handwriting, whether your child is learning their letters or words. You can use a variety of materials like using flour, sand, or dirt. This means getting messy! But it also makes it more interesting than sitting at a desk all day practicing cursive handwriting in pencil on paper. This multisensory learning activity is also great for using whole body movements instead of just wrist motions, something that most students & kids need to work on.
The feel of the letter will help you memorize its shape and formation better than if you were tracing over a letter with your finger on top of a piece of paper. As Occupation Therapists we love teaching literacy instruction through multisensory instruction!
Here are some ideas about different ways to use flour, sand, or dirt:
- You can use your pointer finger to draw letters and words in the flour, sand or dirt.
- If you have a child who is tactilely sensitive, then they may benefit from having a stick to draw the letters or dirt.
Use colored dry rice
Using a sensory bin, like colored dry rice, can be encouraging for children to learn their letters and words. And is a great multisensory learning opportunity for kids!
There are multiple ways you can use a sensory bin of colored dry rice to learn multisensory handwriting.
- You can hide foam letters and get children to find the letters to make a word.
- You can hide magnetic letters and get them to write the letter in the dry rice.
- You can have a thin layer of dry rice and get them to write the letter or word in the rice.
Dye wet spaghetti
Dyeing wet spaghetti is a good way to learn multisensory handwriting. You can use this activity for an easy preschool lesson or as an introduction to the colors of the rainbow.
Once you have some colorful spaghetti, get kids to form the letter with their hands. This activity would be great to introduce multisensory handwriting to young children. It’s an easy lesson that could easily lead to learning all 26 letters of the alphabet! Some kids have learning differences & might find prefer using numbers instead of letters, this is completely normal and acceptable!
Here’s a step-by-step method on how to make colored spaghetti:
- Cook a packet of spaghetti like you would if you were to cooking it to eat it.
- Afterwards, rinse the spaghetti under cold water to remove the additional starch.
- Let the spaghetti cool down enough for you to touch them.
- Separate the spaghetti into different zip lock bags.
- Add a few drops of food colouring and oil to each zip lock bag.
- Mix the food colouring so the spaghetti is fully coloured. You may need to add a few more drops of food colouring.
- Leave the coloured spaghetti in the bag for about 10-15 minutes so the dye can dry.
- If you have put too much food colouring, you can rinse the spaghetti under some cold water to remove the excess food colouring.
- Now you have coloured spaghetti to add to your multisensory kit!
Although you can do this multisensory instruction activity outside, it can get messy.
For some parents, I suggest doing it while the child is having a bath or shower. This means you can clean off the shaving cream easily after the child has finished playing with it.
If your child is in the bath, you can put the shaving cream on the wall or on the edge of the bathtub. Make sure the child is safe if they are standing up in the bathtub.
Get the child to write letters and words in the shaving cream with their fingers or a brush like you would do for painting!
If your should is in the shower, you can get them to press the nozzle and put shaving cream over the walls. They can then use their fingers to write letters and sight words they have learned.
Glue pom poms or sequins on the letter
This is a great way to learn multisensory handwriting without too much mess!
Get them to write the letter or word in glue and then press down pom poms or sequins on top of the glue. End result: a pretty piece of artwork and your child learns that letter.
If your child is not familiar with how to write that letter, you can draw out the letter on a piece of paper for them to trace over with the glue.
Make letters with your body
This is a great activity with a few children or even a classroom filled with children. Some letters are hard to make if there are only one or 2 children.
You can do this outside or inside if you have enough space.
As a teacher, this is a great activity to do for the whole class. You may need to think ahead of each letter to think how many children you need to make the letter. For example, the letter ‘c’ can be made by one child’s body. Whereas, the letter ‘g’ may require 2-3 children.
You can ask them to get into groups first and then make the letter. Some children like doing this by lying on the floor to make the letter. Other children can be creative and make the letter by standing up! It’s great to see how creative children can get in this activity!
If some children are not familiar with the letters, you can write the letter on the board first and then get the child to make it with their bodies.
Use a train or car
This is a great activity if your child is very young and not able to write. You can get them to trace over the letter with the toy car or train.
You can use the foam letter mats as the train track or road. You can get them to drive the train or car over the letters so they learn it.
These multisensory techniques are a fun way for children to learn how to write letters and words.
There are so many ways to do multisensory handwriting. If you have some of the materials mentioned above, get your to write letters with their bodies, shaving cream, spaghetti dyed with food coloring, glue pom poms, or sequins on top of the glue. You can also get them to draw over the letter with a toy car or train.
If you don’t have the materials, you can use other ones! These are just some ideas to get you started.
These are some great multisensory handwriting activities that you can do with your child, to help them learn how to write letters and words. Just remember that there are large learning differences between different kids, so if they are struggling on a specific multisensory instruction don’t be discouraged. Just try another!
If they are not familiar with how to write a letter or word, you can draw it out on a piece of paper for them first. If your child is struggling with writing in general, this is a fun way to learn letters and sight words. Multisensory teaching is a fantastic way to teach our little ones. And remember, multisensory teaching & learning is one of the best ways to develop the human brain!
Click on the link below to download ideas for Sensory Handwriting!
Multisensory learning is foundational in children to learn using a range of their senses. Next time when you are teaching your child something, think about different ways you can incorporate multiple senses.