So if your child is anything like mine, writing is a challenge. Sure there are those kids who were born to write, but most find it challenging. This post isn’t going to make them great at writing, but hopefully, it will help you find out the reasons why they are struggling. Once you find out why, it’s easier to help your child with writing challenges.
Most people think that writing is simply the act of putting something down on paper. I did. In fact when my child started to struggle with it, I asked a trusted friend (who also happens to be an ex Montessori teacher) what she thought I should do. She asked me which part of writing was difficult. This was a new idea to me.
Turns out writing is a multi-step process. It involves the brain which needs to come up with ideas and thoughts. Then that must be translated into a muscular function of the arm and the hands. So the first challenge a parent faces is deciding which part of the process is causing difficulty. Is it the brain struggling to come up with the ideas and thoughts, or is it the actual act of writing that is the problem? Or both?
Thoughts and Ideas
The struggle to come up with your own ideas and thoughts is real. Especially when you’re young and have had limited life experiences. So for kids this is a real challenge. Especially, young children.
One of the things you can do to initiate good writing is to have starter stories, writing starters or writing prompts. These can be found for free online by googling “story starters” or “writing prompts for kids”. You can also purchase them online easily. They come in books many times. You can find some of them HERE.
If your child is very visual you may want to try picture story starters or picture writing prompt books. These books start with a drawing or picture and allow the child’s imagination to come up with a story. It’s simple and effective and it works very well for many children. You can find some of these HERE.
Muscle Strength is a real problem. Not just for kids but for adults as well. Think of it this way. You spend your whole life as a couch potato and one day you say, “I’m going to the gym.” How does your body feel the day after? Fantastic right? When we ask children to start writing for the first time, it’s the same. It takes many muscles in the body all working together to complete the act of writing. If those muscles aren’t strong, the physical act can literally be exhausting.
Fine Motor Skills
While Muscle Strength is a problem, for many children the real issue lies with fine motor skills. These tiny muscles in the body that control minute movements can be very weak or underdeveloped. Boys in particular tend to struggle with this due to the vast majority of things they play with as children. Girls are often taught to color and do things with their hands. Boys often play with trucks and action figures. Different muscles get stronger by doing these things. So in a sense some children literally have “writing atrophy”.
It’s extremely important to develop these fine motor skills because they control functions such as writing, holding pencils, buttoning your clothes and more. By working on fine motor skills you will improve not only dexterity but also the quality of your child’s writing.
Hand Strengthening Exercises
If writing is a problem due to muscle weakness, you will want to focus on hand strengthening exercises. Montessori techniques are wonderful. Montessori focuses on pincer grasp development. Pincer grasp is the ability to hold something between the thumb and the first finger. These movements particularly strengthen the muscles used for writing. If you don’t know where to begin, just google “pincer grasp activities”. Many of these simple and free techniques can help children become proficient writers. You can also purchase toys specifically designed for strengthening these muscles HERE.
A great technique if your children are younger is to literally break all their crayons in half. Yes, your kids will find it weird and so will your friends. Especially when you go to a restaurant and start breaking crayons on the table. But so what? Think of it as a great conversation starter. You can do this with pencils as well, although I found buying golf pencils worked much better. Using these mini writing devices forces the hands to work in the desired way. It requires more use of the pincer muscles, which will help strengthen the hands.
It can seem very frustrating when you feel that your child is not as successful at doing something other children the same age are doing. Try to keep in mind that all children develop different skills at different times. However, you can definitely create a more positive, successful environment by first determining what the real issue is behind the problem and then coming up with the appropriate solution. This will make it much easier to help your child with writing challenges.
The worst mistake we can make as educators is to force a child to complete a task they aren’t ready for. They will end up in tears, hating what they are doing. Sometimes it’s better to wait until they are ready. So it may be that you need to put the pencils down and play with some legos, or teach your child beading. Improve those fine motor skills, then go grab a pencil. You will be amazed at the difference it can make.
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