- Starting handwriting before the sweet little hands are strong enough leads to poor grip.
- Allowing a little child to work on handwriting of letters before they can make the strokes easily or even recognize the shape of letters allows them to learn a wrong process which will have to be unlearned later!
- Teaching your 4 year old to write their name, poorly, often instills bad habits if the letters they need to form are developmentally inappropriate. Take the name Anna for instance. It's short, but that letter A requires a child to make two diagonal lines. Four year olds can't draw diagonal lines usually and so they tend to round the corners.
Toddlers and pre-schoolers should also do activities that strengthen the hands -
- play with clay - or playdough: just make shapes; hide beans in the dough and let them knead them out (they can sort them after they are found for a visual discrimination excercise)
- practice matching images (visual discrimination is needed to draw letters)
- practice tearing paper (developing a pincher grip)
- practice drawing simple shapes and tracing line patterns (there are books and worksheets for that)
To develop shape discrimination toddlers should
- do puzzles
- match shape
- make patterns with colored blocks or beads
- play with big plastic letters and also make letters with playdough or build them with sticks (a HWT activity)
The handwriting program which I think provides the most developmentally appropriate activities for this age group is Handwriting Without Tears.
The teachers guide for HWT provides you with the knowledge and the instruction you need to help your child develop proper handwriting form through ages 3 to 5. Because it was developed by an occupational therapist, you can trust that HWT is paced at a developmentally appropriate rate. For instance children begin with simple drawing activities and proceeds to letters being introduced at the kindergarten level in a sequence that builds skills and visual discrimination.
When I say it is a complete program I mean it includes physical exercises through songs and action
exercises followed by visual discrimination activities with a shape puzzle called Mat Man. It also includes a lesson sequence chart and step-by-step lesson plans for the mom.
What I like most about Handwriting Without Tears is the consistency of presentation and the manner in which is guides the mom/teacher to teach using a modeling methodology called Wet-Dry-Try and to use multimodality methods (it is out load, hands on and celebrates the child - from the video on this page)
HWT also has introduced a keyboarding program and a couple of apps. Be sure that you look through the resources on this page!
I realize that many people want to use Bible verses for handwriting and these are certainly appropriate practice. However, it doesn't help to try to write sentences if you haven't mastered all the letters. Save the verse practice and other copywork until elementary school years where the child is actually able to follow them easily to increase fluency.
I am not an affiliate of Handwriting Without Tears, but I am a certified HWT teacher. I love this program and have never found any program for pre-school or early elementary grades that matches it.
Once your student can write by forming the letters appropriately and fluently it is OK to branch out into other types of copywork or dictation. Dictation is a great means to practice handwriting along with other global composition skills -- listening, punctuation, spelling. Personally, I found that I had a hard time working dictation into my homeschool unless I had a "turn key" program to help me.
The Build a Bundle Sale has several products I can recommend for this practice. Remember that you can avoid waste by choosing your own products and 'building' your own personalized bundle.
I highlighted one program yesterday called Start Write. There is a font in this program that is very close to Handwriting Without Tears. The price for this product is less than half of the normal price.
In looking through the different products today I found several others that would either help your pre-schooler develop the foundation skills of handwriting, or help your elementary child practice.
There is a Bible verse manuscript practice product in this bundle:
I am an affiliate with Build Your Bundle and I'm disclosing that according to the requirements of law. If you click on the banners and subsequently make a purchase I will receive a small commission. I was not paid to provide a positive review of any of these products. All the opinions are my own.