Children and young people need to be physically and developmentally ready before they begin to write. This includes both gross and fine motor areas:
- Gross motor factors: core strength, control and postural stability.
- Motor planning skills.
- Development of a consistent hand preference.
- Ability to coordinate both sides of the body together.
- The ability to reach across the midline of the body.
- Fine motor factors: Good wrist and hand function, finger dexterity.
- Development of a pincer grip.
- A functional grip > on the pencil.
From The component skills required (© National Handwriting Association):
Handwriting requires very fine perceptual judgements to be made and linked together. Visual perception and visual memory are two key areas which impact on handwriting.
Visual motor integration is necessary, which consists of coordinating visual perceptual skills together with gross and fine motor movement. This enables a child or young person to visually observe a letter or shape and then make the required movements to reproduce that letter or shape with a pencil on paper. Before children are developmentally ready to learn letter formation, they need to be able to copy and draw simple geometric shapes including the oblique cross X.
Unlike other movement skills, handwriting is language based and involves learning the conventions of a written script. Other important cognitive components include:
- An interest in talk and communication through mark making.
- Sufficient cognitive ability to pay attention, follow instructions and remember letters and shape formations.
- An understanding of prepositional language such as up, down, in front, behind, top, bottom so that they can follow verbal handwriting instructions.
Handwriting can be a difficult skill for some children to master. Motivation and engagement are essential to maintain self-esteem for all, but especially for those who struggle. The way handwriting is introduced at the very beginning will have a lasting effect on their confidence. This awareness should permeate all aspects of the curriculum and be shared with the whole school community.
Left handers can experience particular challenges. Here are some tips for left handed writing > (PDF).