In this day and age of technology, writing is becoming a lost art. However, before we write it off as being redundant (pun intended), it is important to be aware that handwriting skills offer numerous benefits to the development of our children (in addition to it being one of the 3Rs that children need to be successful in life):
- Handwriting helps develop reading skills – the kinesthetic approach is a powerful memory aid to facilitate letter recognition. Having to image a letter before producing it also reinforces letter recognition.
- Handwriting trains the brain – it improves idea composition and expression and may aid fine motor-skill development. Handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter which activates massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.
- Why handwriting is important – changes how children learn, affects brain development, develops memory, and even engages different brain circuits compared to typing.
- Cursive benefits go beyond writing – it improves brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing (See: Research supporting cursive handwriting).
Why is Handwriting is Good for the Brain?
- It generates more ideas more quickly because it “activate brain regions involved with thought, language, and short-term memory”.
- Writing increases brain activity
- Good handwriting scores higher results
- It enhances reading ability
- learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn the capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.
- in a study, children who had practiced self-generated printing by hand had neural activity that was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than those who had simply looked at letters
- another study of children in grades two, four and six revealed that they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard
- the benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument
Printing or Cursive?
There is a strong movement to discard the teaching of cursive handwriting in schools because it is believed to be outdated, obsolete and a dying art. However, there is indication that cursive handwriting offers significant benefits to a child’s development that printed handwriting does not offer.
- Brain Research and Cursive Writing
- Should Students be Taught Cursive Handwriting in the 21st Century?
Teaching Children to Write
How can we teach our children how to write by hand? Here are some articles that will assist:
- Learning to write – getting ready, posture, pencil grip
- iPhone App for Writing Practice
- Teaching Your Child to Write: Handwriting Practice
- How to Make Your Own Textured Alphabets and Numbers for Teaching Writing
- How to encourage children to practice their handwriting skills
- Mark Making and Emergent Writing: Supporting Children’s Writing at Home
- The Art of Writing by Hand Still Relevant in the 21st Century
- Literacy Resources: Read Write Inc
Prior to beginning writing, it is important for young children to develop their fine motor skills. Activities that are useful in this period are those that train the pincer grasp.
- Bead Mazes are great for developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
- Play Dough helps to develop fine motor skills and strengthen the fingers.
Early writing tools for young children should have a large diameter and/or a triangular shape to make it easy for little hands with poorer manual dexterity to hold them. For example:
- Side Walk Chalk – fat instruments with a short barrel make it easier for little hands to grip and control.
- Triangular Pencils – triangular ergonomic shape promotes proper pencil grip.
Kumon books are great for practicing writing skills. Colouring, maze and tracing books develop pencil skills for writing. Letter and number books teach children how to write.
- Kumon: My First Book Of Tracing
- Kumon: My Book of Easy Mazes
- Kumon: My Book of Coloring
- Kumon: My Book Of Numbers 1-30
- Kumon: My First Book Of Uppercase Letters
- Kumon: My First Book of Lowercase Letters
- Brain Quest Series
- Brilliant Minds Montessori Reading and Writing Kit – developed by Dr. Meredith McCurdy for her students at Brilliant Minds Montessori in Sanford, FL. Dr. McCurdy is a Certified Montessori Teacher and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Syracuse University, a Master’s Degree in Child Development and Education from the University of London, England, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of London, England. Dr. McCurdy is licensed and certified by the State of Florida in Child Care Center Management. Dr. McCurdy’s research into the cognitive-developmental processes of the preschool years has been published in The Journal of Child Study.
- Recommended App for the iPhone/iPad for teaching children to write letters and numbers
- Free Handwriting Worksheets – Free Printables
- Free Worksheets – Preschool Learners