If you’ve worked with kids in school based OT or in peds occupational therapy in outpatient settings than you may need a few handwriting practice ideas that kids’ don’t hate. You’ve probably seen it: Kids that struggle with handwriting really can give push-back on the writing practice, especially when they perceive the task as hard or meaningless. Today, we’re covering some low-key and low pressure handwriting practice ideas that you can add to your handwriting toolbox!
Use these handwriting practice tips to support writing needs.
Handwriting can be a stressful situation for many students. Encouraging written communication in a stress-free environment can help kids write more fluently and legibly.
Kids that are reluctant to write may really stress out or even refuse to practice handwriting! They’ve probably seen their fill of writing pages, rote practice sheets, and letter activities’ that just don’t mean anything to them! It is possible to add a few handwriting practice sessions into therapy or the classroom (and home) while building functional writing abilities…and not totally stressing the kid out!
When you make handwriting practice less stressful, you will gain writing practice that is meaningful and motivating.
Then, you can plug any handwriting samples into a handwriting rubric for monitoring progress on the IEP goals.
Stress Free Handwriting Practice
For the student who is who struggles with handwriting, practicing written work can be very overwhelming. He or she may scribble down whatever is on their mind as quickly as they can just to get the task done.
Encouraging an environment where students feel respected and less handwriting-related stress can help with handwriting legibility.
When kids push-back on handwriting sessions, there may be underlying skills that need developing. These challenges mean that even when the individual practices over and over again, they still may have unmet underlying skills that contribute to handwriting legibility.
Some of those skill areas include:
- visual motor skills
- visual perceptual skills
- fine motor skills
- attention and focus challenges
- difficulty organizing thoughts on a page
- trouble with near point or far point copying skills
Use the ideas below to encourage a climate of acceptance and respect where students can write in their own manner.
Stress free handwriting practice ideas
Having a handful of handwriting practice strategies in your therapy toolbox (or parent or educator toolbox!) helps to make the handwriting practice sessions less stressful for both you and the student.
Try some of these tips when it comes to handwriting practice sessions:
- Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Just like we break down tasks that seem overwhelming or too big, we can make a handwriting task seem more manageable by breaking up the requirements into steps. If a task feels too big or complex, break it down into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks. This can make the overall task seem less daunting.
- Incorporate mindfulness: Yep, really! When things seem too difficult, sometimes a mindfulness session is a practical way to reset the overthinking and just do the thing we need to do. This can work for handwriting practice needs, too. One easy way to do this is to use some deep breathing exercises and then write about it. Use that time to practice areas such as legibility and letter formation.
- Encourage an environment of acceptance students can then right as they like without worrying about how letters are formed how they’re spaced or how hard they’re pressing with their pencil.
- Use rewards. Do you have a little box of prizes for therapy sessions? This can be motivating for some kids. Celebrate achievements like forming letters correctly or writing on the lines.
- Encourage the freedom to write as they like. Let the students know it’s OK to write as they normally do and to be spontaneous and written work. This simple freedom can enable students to write more fluently and efficiently.
- Take away the stress by limiting criticism, comparison, judgment, and competition regarding handwriting legibility. In this way students can know that what they are writing down on paper is more important than the way it looks. This is important to limit the stress of writing. You don’t want the student to get into a perfectionism mindset. Teach them to accept that handwriting tasks don’t always have to be perfect. Show the student that they can do their best, but recognize when handwriting is “good enough.”
- Make writing fun! Take away the seriousness of handwriting practice by balancing freedom to experiment with ideas putting ideas on paper and producing clear written work. Encourage a fun writing assignment but make sure the student knows that it does take work to make written material legible.
- Share excitement and encouragement about handwriting. Kids that see that handwriting practice can’t be fun will be more eager to practice. Use big motions, music, songs, rhymes, and any creative ideas like fun ways to work on letter formation to help kids spark enjoyment of handwriting practice.
- Remove the obstacles of handwriting. Take away comparison, Over-analysis, judgment, and over-reactions to mistakes to help kids feel more at ease with handwriting.
- Allow time. Give kids lots of time to put their ideas on paper. A graphic organizer can be one way to help kids get ideas down on paper in a visual way. They can then use the graphic organizer as a sloppy copy to help hand writing occur in a timely but efficient manner where they are given enough time to put their words on paper. Many times kids can work practice letter formation in legibility of him ready when they don’t have to think about what they are writing.
- Let kids write without asking them to stop and correct mistakes. Students can write down their ideas and get answers on the paper without worrying about legibility mistakes or letter formation mistakes. Use a short period of time at the end of the assignment to quickly go over and check any legibility errors.
- Collaborative writing. When kids right with others they can see the momentum that goes into hand writing. For the reluctant and writer sharing good ideas in writing in a group setting can help them to see that others are writing just as they are. Kids can also see good writing skills happening. Create a small group writing area where students can sit at a desk or table of 3 to 4 other students and each writes about one particular item that is sitting in the middle of the table such as a bowl of pipe cleaners. Use that physical picture as a writing prompt for students.
- Balance the seriousness of handwriting with the freedom to experiment in written work. Kids should know that writing does take hard work but it can be fun to put your words on paper so that others can read them. Set up a writing pen-pal relationship where students correspond with students in another school. Here are a few sites to find a pen pal for students.
Handwriting Practice Activities
Now that you’ve got some strategies to support the student in mind, what are some stress-free handwriting practice activities?
Here on The OT Toolbox, we LOVE to share all things handwriting, so you’ll find many fun and engaging writing activities to keep kids interested.
Some ideas you may want to try include:
- Make it motivating by writing lists about the things that interests the individual. Use our Interest Lists resource for ideas and writing sheets.
- Bold Line Paper for Line Awareness
- Select writing prompts that are meaningful. Here are many writing prompt ideas to get you started.
- Use a middle school journal prompt for middle school students.
- Color Mixing Rainbow Writing Letter Formation Activity
- Small Pencil Trick for Helping with Pencil Grasp
- Thumb IP Joint Flexion Pencil Grasp Trick
- Take away the stress by using paper that meets the needs of the individual. Here is our list of adapted paper.
- Pair writing with fine motor skills. Use this Spring Handwriting Cootie Catcher to mix things up.
- Here’s a Fall Handwriting Cootie Catcher for the Autumn months.
What are your favorite ways to encourage stress-free handwriting?
The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.
The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.
- Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
- Ideas for combining handwriting and play
- Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
- Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
- Tips to improve pencil grip
- Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.