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Should kids be taught handwriting?

With increasing technology in our homes and schools, is it still important to teach a child the basics of handwriting? In a word: yes. Fewer schools offer handwriting as graded curriculum, yet an estimated 25 to 30 percent of school-aged children have difficulty with writing. 

If a child is struggling with handwriting and making letter shapes incorrectly, it is easy to think, "Let's just teach them keyboarding because we don't need to write anything anymore." However, research has shown traditional handwriting instruction improves the cognitive development, school success and mental health of our children. For example: 

  • Writing by hand activates more areas of a child's brain than keyboarding — the same areas of our brain that are activated by reading.
  • A child's handwriting success is a strong predictor of his or her reading and math success.
  • Handwriting instruction has been shown to improve the writing confidence of first graders.
  • Students completing handwritten test essays show content skills two years greater than students who completed essays by typing, even though the speed for typing and writing was similar.
  • Students using handwriting were able to write more words, write them faster and expressed more ideas than keyboarders.
  • College students taking lecture notes by hand learn the content and focus on the key messages more than if they took notes by keyboard.

Children who struggle with handwriting are more likely to have a negative outlook when completing handwriting assignments. When handwriting curriculum is taught to children, rather than simply provided by exposure, children's writing abilities, including quality, quantity and speed improves. 

Handwriting instruction isn't just about how the letters look, but also deals with posture, grip, letter formation, visual understanding and more. If your child is discouraged, occupational therapists can evaluate and help children with handwriting difficulties. You, too, can make a difference. Here are a few ways you can help your child:

  • Make writing fun by having coloring books with words and letters instead of only pictures at home.
  • Draw and write with your child, and encourage him or her to write notes to Grandma and Grandpa or a sibling.
  • If your child draws a picture, ask that he or she write a story on that piece of paper describing what he or she drew.

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