Primary school holidays are almost here, state exams are over (or almost over) and already the secondary school kids are beginning to get a little bored! My favourite thing about school holidays – not having to make the lunches! School holidays also mean that kids will shy away from anything remotely resembling schoolwork and parents can worry that skills such as handwriting can decline.
So how do we keep kids writing during their holidays? The first thing to do is to limit screen time. Obvious, I know, but really important. An hour a day is loads. When going on a journey, turn the phone or iPad or DVD player off. Have conversations with the kids in the car, get them listening and observing. These are skills which, while not directly linked to handwriting, will stand to them in every part of their learning. I know it can be easier to allow more screen time, especially in the car, but as parents we have to parent and say no and insist on things. That stance may bring on tantrums or sulking but kids need to experience these emotions and learn how to deal with them.
Writing on sand is great fun. If you have been to Ballybunion beach recently you may have seen the magnificent sand art on the Ladies Beach when the tide is low. Create your own with the kids. Use your hands, sticks and stones to draw your own masterpieces. Take a photo & share with the world. Another great game is to write a word in the wet sand just at the water’s edge – the game is to write as many words as possible before the wave comes in and washes it away. I find that often the reason kids don’t like writing is because their hands tired easily; writing in sand creates resistance and helps to strengthen fingers and wrists.
Kids love getting messy so writing with shaving foam is always popular. There are 2 ways – spraying out a letter / word or writing the word on the foam. The first way, actually spraying out the word is excellent to exercise the index finger because the nozzle has to be kept pressed down. The second method is just a foamy white board where kids can write what they like inadvertently practising letter formation or cursive writing.
Another fantastic way to build dexterity and strengthen fingers and wrists is to play with Lego. Throw away the instructions and get creative. Encourage new designs. The kids will learn so much without even knowing that they are learning about maths, engineering and physics. They are also developing their creative side, and this will benefit them when writing because it will help with flow – writing while thinking.
If they are going to be around the house, we as parents may as well get the benefit. Set your kids household jobs to do. Putting clothes on the line is fantastic for dexterity which in turn improves handwriting. Using clothes pegs is a super way to develop the pincer movement needed for a correct pencil grip. Kneading dough or making homemade meatloaf of burgers is another way to strengthen little (or not so little) hands. For more on why a good pencil grip is important: read here.
This is very similar to the saving foam but a lot less messy. Just put hair gel into a clear ziplock bag with a drop of food colouring. Get rid of all the air & close up the bag. Squelch the gel & colour together and you are done. To use; place on a flat surface & use a finger or cotton bud to write on it.
Ok, let’s keep the water fights strictly as outside activities! Spray bottles, water guns and water balloons are brilliant fun and again promote dexterity. The index fingers get a work out on the spray bottles and water guns while the pincer grip is needed to manipulate the balloons to fill them with water.
In the age of Snapchat & Instagram, not to mention ‘old school’ Facebook and Twitter, writing a postcard is so retro that it is almost back in fashion. We don’t really get postcards from far-flung places anymore, so when we do it is a real treat. It means that someone was really thinking of us. If you are away on holidays, have the kids write a postcard to someone and post it. They can practise what they are going to write beforehand, including practising writing the address.
There is a debate going on which queries if handwriting should even be taught in schools. Many parents think that keyboard skills are more important in the modern world. I believe that both are important. Keyboards are great but not always necessary. People still need to be able to hand write well. Like it or not, our handwriting gives people an impression of us and poor handwriting may give an impression of lack of education or poor attention to detail, even though the opposite may be the truth. Physically writing something down has been proven to aid memory. Cursive writing allows for though processes to flow more easily.
I firmly believe that cursive handwriting and keyboard skills should be taught (and taught well) to everyone. That is why Handwriting is one of the skills we teach in our programs