Helping Young Children with Handwriting

There are various aspects to handwriting which need to be considered when we think of improving it. This question usually arises in the mid-junior years so that is the stage of development that I shall concentrate on, listing each point and the things to look out for.

Pencil Grip

Do check how your child is holding the pencil and encourage a grip which is both comfortable and allows proper control of the pencil. Some children press very hard when they write which is tiring and hard work, resulting sometimes in handwriting which deteriorates as more is written. They need to be encouraged to relax their grip more.

Holding the Paper

This may seem silly but there are children who don’t keep the paper or book in place with the non-writing hand with the obvious result that the paper or book moves and the child’s writing suffers each time.

Letter Formation

Forming the individual letters correctly is crucial to good handwriting so check to see if this is the problem with your child. The best way is to ask her or him to copy out a sentence which contains all the letters of the alphabet while you watch closely. Here are two example sentences to choose from :

  • The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
  • The six jet planes zoomed quickly over the big flight tower.

(Incidentally, getting your child to make up his or her own alphabet sentences can provide good handwriting practice!)It is worth mentioning that one of the biggest problems in learning a joined style of writing can be where children form their letters in an unorthodox way – even though the finished product looks alright in the printed form.

Spacing between words Children will often leave too little or too much space between words which makes the writing more difficult to read. Leaving a space about the size of the letter m is a pretty good guide to spacing – an m in the child’s writing, not this print, by the way!

Overall Size of Writing

Although it is difficult to be precise about this all adults will recognise writing that is too small and cramped or writing that is overlarge! Writing that fills the space between two lines is too large, for example.

  • Are the letters which are closed (e.g. o a b d) closed properly without gaps ?
  • Is any slope to the letters regular? That is, letters do not slope in different directions e.g. a backward leaning b and a forward leaning d.
  • If your child gets ‘b’ the wrong way round, show him/her that it faces the same way as a capital b. You can demonstrate by making a small ‘b’ into a capital.


Improving handwriting is never easy: it takes lots of practice which can be boring for children unless they are copying out something for a reason such as a letter to granny or a favourite poem to put up on your wall, for example. It’s even more difficult if you are the one who thinks the handwriting needs improving and not your child. If you are in the fortunate position of having a child who is just learning to write, you can do a lot to prevent handwriting problems arising and bad habits being practised by making sure that your child learns to form letters correctly right from the start.

Some parents have found that all the above points to look for in handwriting have helped them to improve their own!