Does Learning To Write Need Be A Problem?
Drawing & painting helps develop creativity & motor skills


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Hermione Gerry

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In an ideal world, by the time a young child is taught to write, they will already have developed a strong enough hand control, a correct pencil grip and good hand-eye co-ordination. If you compare a 2-3 year olds hands with those of a 5 year-old, you will notice the immaturity of those of the younger child. Now if you put a pencil or ‘chubby’ crayon on a table in front of the 2 year old, or even younger, and watch the way in which they pick it up, almost certainly they will clutch it using the whole hand rather than using their thumb, index and middle finger only. In that case they are not physically ready to write and some parents make the process unnaturally arduous and unpleasant by trying to make small children write. So what can be done to prepare them in a natural way that will encourage them to flourish?

There are many activities which will enable the child to develop the hand control necessary for fluent writing in a way which the child will love!

When you give a small child a crayon and paper it doesn’t matter which hand they choose to use or how they hold the crayon because what they are doing is building up strength in their fingers and hand muscles. After a while they will probably show a preference for one hand rather than the other. Quite naturally, scribbling will start to develop into drawing and forming shapes e.g circles and faces. At this time the child will be learning to direct the crayon/pencil across the paper thus needing more control which will help to develop those immature muscles.

Drawing not only helps to prepare the child for writing, but it’s also a wonderful way for them to develop their creativity. Painting further enhances motor skills.

Having mastered the art of scribbling, drawing and painting, tracing is also a good way to increase the child’s hand control as well as their observational skills. This activity demands more precise hand control and so can be quite a demanding occupation, but they love it! The use of stencils is another good activity, also requiring a fair degree of skill whilst the child learns to control the stencil from moving, with one hand, whilst drawing around it with the other. Any activity, for instance sewing, threading or leaf rubbing, which requires the child to develop good hand-eye co-ordination will be beneficial, especially if you build up their skills within their capabilities In this way they will not get the idea that ‘I can’t do it’. Plainly some children will be more skilled and find it easier than others. Less adroit children will need more encouragement but if allowed to ‘play’ at it for them selves, should achieve good hand eye co-ordination in time.

Once the child’s hand muscle control is developed sufficiently they will be able to copy and are well on the way to writing and forming letters correctly: a skill which they will obviously need to be taught. It is important that they start off in the right way and do not practice forming the letters wrongly. Once a practical skill such as this is ingrained, it is much more difficult to break that habit and start forming the letters in the right way. There are many good and helpful booklets to be had on how to form letters.

Initially letter shapes will not mean anything to the child any more than hieroglyphics will mean to most of us, however they will soon start to associate letter-shapes to objects, the first normally being the very personal letter for their name. The acquisition of writing is closely related to that of reading and goes very much hand in hand in development.

As long as the child can develop the correct skills and muscle control in an enjoyable way before being confronted with impossible tasks of writing letters, thus destroying their confidence, the process should not need to be a problem. As I said, some children will obviously develop the necessary hand control more readily. This, in the majority of cases, is normal.


Hermione Gerry
Co-founder Prospect House School

April 12, 2013