Six-year-old Michael had his head down on his writing paper, shoulders heaving with sobs. “I can’t do it. It’s too hard.”
I knew he was right. It was too hard for him.
As a teacher, I know and believe the more children write, the higher their reading level becomes. What would help him start to enjoy writing?
For many children writing becomes a tedious chore accompanied by many tears and gnashing of teeth, for everyone involved. There are several reasons for children’s frustration with writing.
One is that the hand is not prepared to take on the task.
The muscles in the hand and arm are underdeveloped and lack the fine and gross motor control necessary. A second reason is the inferior quality of paper and writing instruments we give to our children. How can you help?
The fine motor control necessary to form letters on paper is a process that you should start developing indirectly with your children from about age three.
There are many exercises you can offer your children in terms of work and play that will build their fine motor skills.
- Activities such as sorting beans and buttons into an egg carton or muffin tins will help strengthen the muscles and coordination between your child’s thumb and index fingers.
- Three-year-olds love to clean, and polishing things with small circular motions will help build up the hand and forearm.
- Using colored pencils instead of crayons or markers for coloring activities will also help build up the hands.
- Sewing, painting, squeezing sponges, digging in the yard, any activity that keeps the hands busy will build the hand muscles and develop hand-to-eye coordination.
By age four-and-a-half your child should show an interest in writing his or her name.
If you have given lots of hand strengthening activities, writing should be successful and fun.
Please note that video games and computer activities do not give enough opportunities for the kind of hand and arm activity your child needs to develop.
Even if you have helped your child prepare his hand for writing, many times the tools for writing can create an obstacle and subsequent frustration.
Most of the lined paper for young children is of very poor quality. It tears easily if too much pressure is applied while writing, and erasers can rip holes in the paper. Pencil marks can smear easily on low quality paper. The color and texture of the paper can also be uninviting to the child. Try to obtain high quality paper for your child’s writing. Offer half sheets of high quality copy paper and encourage your child to use the front and the back of the paper.
Poor quality writing instruments can also be frustrating to the young writer. Test the quality of the pencils. Many of the leads drag on the paper and require too much pressure to obtain a good mark. Some pencil leads break too easily. Others do not erase well. Crayons are too broad tipped and smear too much for a quality writing experience. Markers do not require much pressure or muscle strength to use, and it is tempting to use them if your child is having difficulty with writing. Markers, though, do not contribute to building up the muscles in your child’s hand like using a pencil. To help keep a pencil in your child’s hand, have colored pencils available for your child to decorate and illustrate their writing.
You can be of great assistance to your child by providing them with lots of activities that require the use of the hand, arm and eye.
Provide them with quality writing materials, pencils, papers and erasers, to ensure that their writing efforts are successful.
Writing will build reading skills in your child in a strong and powerful way.
Prepare your child’s hand with strengthening activities and supply his work environment with quality materials.
Then watch frustration turn to smiles.