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Learning to Write Part 1: The Skill of Handwriting


Writing is a vital and valuable skill which we use on a daily basis. For children, it’s a skill they have to learn and develop gradually.

What does it take for a child to learn the skill of handwriting?

There are two types of motor skills that children will develop during their childhood - gross and fine. Motor skills are a learned sequence of movements that combine to complete a task.

  • Gross Motor Skills involve larger muscles in our bodies, controlling the movement of arms, legs, and the whole body. Using and practising these skills, children learn to lift their heads, sit and stand, crawl, walk, and run.
  • Fine Motor Skills involve smaller movements that occur in our hands, fingers, feet, toes; usually in coordination with the eye. These skills follow on from the gross motor skills. Using and practising these skills, children learn to reach and grab, hold a spoon and use it to eat, take off and put on their clothes, hold and use pencils, pens and craft materials.

Children develop these two sets of skills together. Through each development stage of a child’s life, from baby to toddler, through to school age, their motor skills will gradually progress. These skills are essential for handwriting as studies show that without these fine motor skills children will not be able to develop their handwriting. Alongside this, children need to have coordination skills and visual-motor control of the fingers and hands.

How to help to ensure that your child is one step ahead

Encouraging children to make their mark from a very young age with their hand and fingers in sandpits, water, paint and in the air is a great place to start. This will also allow them to develop hand-eye coordination and build up the control of muscles in their hands which are later needed for controlling a pencil or pen. Imaginative and colourful scribbling and drawing at an early age is one of the best ways to prepare them for learning to write, as studies show that drawing helps children develop the required motor skills for flowing and automatic handwriting.

Developing the fine motor skills further

Drawing shapes will help children to improve their fine motor skills, and the same movements will later on apply to handwriting. First, children can learn to draw lines up and down, side to side, circles and diagonals. Drawing different size shapes will allow the children to see that the action and shape is the same no matter what size it is and the automatic motor skills will start to kick in. These simple lines and shapes then lead gradually into the shapes of individual letters, leading the children from basic drawing through to handwriting. Using a short, wide pencil, crayon or chalk can encourage children to hold it between the thumb pad and index finger pad (like a bird beak). It can then rest on the middle finger, naturally forming the 'tripod' grip. The STABILO Woody - a coloured pencil, watercolour and wax crayon in one — is a great pencil to start children off with, as its chunky shape is perfect for small hands to hold, and encourages the development of the correct grip, especially for colouring.


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