Handwriting is a skill that is somewhat under pressure in these days of keyboards and touch screens. It is often debated whether handwriting should even be taught in schools.

In today’s world, keyboard skills are important, but people still need to be able to handwrite as 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, while cursive writing allows for thought processes to flow more easily.

School holidays mean that kids will shy away from anything remotely resembling schoolwork and parents worry that skills such as handwriting can decline as more time is spent on devices. Rather than forcing kids to write, here are some ideas to improve dexterity over the holidays.

handwriting in sandSand

Writing in sand is great fun. If you have been to Ballybunion beach you may have seen the magnificent sand art on the 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 that their hands tired easily; writing in sand creates resistance and helps to strengthen fingers and wrists.


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 or burgers is another way to strengthen little (or not so little) hands.

Shaving Foam

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 whiteboard where kids can write what they like inadvertently practicing letter formation or cursive writing. Putting hair gel in a plastic bag is like the shaving foam but a lot less messy. Just put hair gel into a clear Ziploc bag with a drop of food colouring. Get rid of all the air & close 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.

handwriting exercisesWater Fights

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. Just be sure not to waste water if we have drought conditions.

Postcards from the Edge

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 practice what they are going to write beforehand, including writing the address.

Screen Time

Over the holiday period, it is important to limit screen time. When going on a journey, insist on the phone, iPad or DVD player being off for a while. 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.

Is Handwriting still Necessary?

I firmly believe that 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 at Hummingbird Learning Centre Adare & Tralee.


Elaine Sparling is the CEO of the award-winning Hummingbird Learning Centre®. Based in Adare, Co Limerick and Tralee, Co Kerry, she works with clients on a one to one basis and can be contacted on 087-2996054 or through their website www.hummingbirdlearning.com. In addition to their core 10 session programs, they also have a 4 session one to one Study Skills Program called Study Success for second and third level students. Call now for more information

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