Does your child write like an angel? Or is penmanship an elusive art in your home leaving a lot to be desired? As technology becomes embedded in our lives and we use computers, tablets and smartphones to communicate the written word, the importance given to teaching neat handwriting at school seems to have slipped down in the rankings.
Today, emails and text messages are sent to thank for gifts, where once a handwritten note on the finest laid paper would have been the best and only option. The art of letter writing is dying and perhaps for the adults of the future, beautiful handwriting will be a rarity.
My sister and I had a French penfriend called Muriel from Marseille and I still remember the letters she wrote. She would describe her daily routine and her after school activities, an exercise your children will be familiar with, in the most beautiful and elaborate handwriting: curves and scrolls, twists and turns. It looked so different to the way everyone else we knew wrote.
When preparing for exams, we tend to worry more about what a child knows before we worry about what that knowledge looks like when it is transferred onto paper. But the written word can create a positive first impression if presented well and can even be a contributing factor in determining success in exams.
When Lynda was growing up in Paris, she was renowned for having the most beautiful handwriting in the district! She works as one of several handwriting teachers at Magic Link Handwriting, set up by Lee Dein to tackle the growing problem of poor handwriting, and just one of many companies across the country trying to help children improve their script.
In case you think this is of little consequence, here's a little food for thought:
HANDWRITING WIRES THE BRAIN FOR LEARNING - It improves the development of motor-skills and is essential in enhancing hand/eye coordination. Slowing down and thinking about your thoughts in order to write them down with a pen uses more brain power.
PUPILS LOSE MARKS IN EXAMS WHEN THEY HAVE POOR HANDWRITING - It’s not exactly rocket science. Almost two-thirds of teachers admit that if they can’t read something a child has written, and it is basically illegible, marks will be lost.
So what can you do to help your child?
Posture and positioning: when working at a desk, your child’s feet need to be supported and their body correctly aligned to the desk. In my home, we have used an IKEA foot rest and for a while both children actually enjoyed using a massive plastic slantboard as it promotes good shoulder and wrist positioning. If you are storing an adjustable wooden highchair like the ones Stokke make, don’t get rid of it! It is perfect to get your child at the right height and ready to write.
Get a Grip - Young children tire easily when writing and one thing handwriting experts agree on is that children seem to have ‘weaker’ less agile hands than they used to. Build hand strength by using scissors, playing with playdough, milking a cow (yes, really - if you have one to hand this apparently works wonders!) and cooking - peeling hard boiled eggs is a classic example of how helping in the kitchen improves dexterity.
Stabilo - a great starting point to find out more about ergonomic pencils, left handedness and colouring activities. Stabilo also have a free early writers handwriting pack that you can download for younger children. Visit https://www.stabilo.com/uk/ and click under "stories" to find the pdf.
Stationery! (with an e not an a) - Most children love stationery … so get a few new pens and pencils and perhaps a notebook to start a bulletjournal. See my post on Instagram (the pencils) to read a clever way to remember how to spell stationEry.
Consider a Bullet Journal - Have a look at #bulletjournal on instagram. Your child might catch on to this addictive way of keeping a notebook and also benefit from the layout involved in putting the journal together. Visit https://myinnercreative.com/ for how to get your child bulletjournalling with positive results.
Calligraphy - the art of producing decorative handwriting which for many, will be seen as a fun break from work. It has to be learnt quite slowly, but if your child can master this, they could be on the way to having the most beautiful handwriting in the school!
Magic Link Handwriting - this is where you can find tutors like Lynda. There are many companies offering handwriting tuition - this is a good starting point: https://www.magiclinkhandwriting.com/
So here endeth the lesson. Let’s face it – writing is a tricky skill to master, arguably the most personal, creative and individual thing that you will ever learn to do. So it's worth giving it your best shot!