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Handwriting Help for Kids: Encouraging the Reluctant Writer! (Part One - Letter Practice)

Let's agree to agree about one thing! Sometimes worksheets are . . . well . . . not exactly exciting! And for active kids? And for kids with poor fine motor skill, visual processing challenges, limited attention? They can border into the realm of agony.

Sadly though, paper and pencil tasks will likely always be a part of early education. And, frankly, practice with writing does improve skills over time.

So . . . The Question: What do we do when a young child needs to put in the time and effort to improve handwriting, but dislikes handwriting practice?

I'd like to help out a little here and turn to some games I've used with my OT students. Here are three of my favorite activities for motivating the (understandably) unmotivated writer. While doing these activities, encourage kids to use correct letter formation, with their letters always starting at the top.

Okay, Let's jump in!

1- SKY WRITING and/or BACK WRITING and/or CARPET WRITING - For Letter Practice

This game can be played by two children together and it takes concentration (so younger kids may only last a few rounds). Also, it forces kids to really process and think about the kinesthetic "feel" of correct letter formation.

What You Need:

* A back, a carpet, or air (that sounds funny!)

* Cards with letters written on them or magnetic letters or styrofoam letters - whatever you have as letter models.

How to Play:

* One child is given a letter. Try to play this game using letters grouped according to similar letter formation (like D, B, P, R). The other child must not see this letter.

* Next, children sit beside each other and the first child draws the letter in the air with a finger. He or she starts at the top to form it. The second child tries to guess what the letter is.

* Kids can either switch roles, with the second child writing in the air now, or a different method can be used (like writing the letter on a carpet with a finger or writing it on the other child's back.) I recommend you play with this as kids sometimes prefer one method over another.

2- COPYCAT - For Letter Practice

I like this game because it has a multi-sensory (and a little bit messy) element. And if kids work in pairs it's especially fun for them.

What You Need:

* A tray with a thin layer of shaving cream or paint or beans or sand in it.

* Cards with letters written on them or magnetic letters or styrofoam letters - whatever you have as letter models.

* Regular writing paper.

How to Play:

* One child is the WRITER. One child is the COPYCAT.

* The writer takes a card and slowly writes the letter.

* The COPYCAT copies this letter onto a piece of lined paper - whatever paper he or she is used to using.

* After about five letters, kids switch places.

* This can be modified to make it more challenging and kids can be given cards with sight words or CVC words written on them.

3- THE LETTERS GO SWIMMING! - For Letter Practice

This game is a make-believe scenario in which letters get hot on a summer day and decide to go swimming! (You know, to cool off a little!) Letters will end up in the swimming pool - (AKA: written on the child's paper). The objective is to get the child to have fun while writing letters.

What You Need:

* Regular writing paper - whatever the child is accustomed to.

How to Play:

* Say something like this: "Okay. It's hot out. The letter 'P' wants to go swimming. And he wants to bring his friend, letter 'R' along with him." You get the idea, I think.

* A variation is to have letters go to the moon, go to the desert, etc.

* If you are in a classroom, another variation is to use the first letter of the names of students. "Carla wants to go swimming. Her name starts with 'C'. Everyone write 'C'." If you are a parent, use the first letters of the names of family and friends!

I hope these activities are fun for you and your little ones! If you enjoy this blog, Follow me on FACEBOOK for games, activities, and ideas to help kids master skills!

Lisa Marnell MS, OTR/L

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