I made the mistake of taking away screen time because I felt like my first grade son’s hatred for writing was about attitude.
Now in retrospect with one son who has graduated and two others in upper grades, I know writing is more about aptitude than attitude. I wish I could turn back time to erase my mistake of crushing the spirit of my energetic son.
Although I can't fix my mistake, I can give you three handwriting tips that help you embrace the differences of boys when it comes to handwriting.
1. Wait for Maturity
Maturity will happen. Understanding that some boys are behind girls in their fine motor skills helped me to appreciate that handwriting is more of a physical act in the beginning. Tears and crying were my son’s way of articulating that something was not right. He simply was not ready for the amount and type of work that I gave him.
I had to get creative to help him hone his fine motor skills with these fun, boy-friendly activities that I included as part of our handwriting practice:
- form letters with flexible licorice strips
- for letters with edible play dough
- write with invisible ink
- build letters with LEGO blocks
- paint letters with eye droppers
- work alphabet puzzles
- use lacing puppets and cards
- writing on balloons, in sand, in shaving cream, in sweetened kool-aid mix, or in chocolate pudding
- writing with your big toe
Next I had to educate myself about when my son would have more control over his fine motor skills.
2. Know When to Expect More
What good would it do to ask him to write on the lines if he still did not have control over his fine motor skills? What I learned is that about half-way through first grade is when a lot children develop fine motor control.
Though each child develops at a different rate, this was a good rule of thumb for me to start expecting a bit more legibility. Up until that time, I had to learn to relax and wait on my son’s fine motor skills to catch up. It did not mean that he wasn’t required to write with a happy attitude, but it did mean that I shortened his writing assignments to ensure quality.
Also, I cut back his hand writing on other things like our phonics worksheets so that he could focus on what was important. Key to beautiful penmanship, which did eventually come, was doing some kind of handwriting each day. Consistency matters at this age.
Penmanship for my son required keen concentration and time, and I was determined to keep it as stress free as possible. I set a goal of one neat, well-written sentence over three sloppy ones.
Was it easy? No. Some days were downright tedious, but I persevered because I felt neat penmanship is a hallmark of a well-educated man.
3. Choose Cursive Curriculum Carefully
Though he eventually considered print easy, I knew that a simplified form of cursive would hook him on writing much more easily than the traditional cursive I learned in school with a lot of superfluous movements. If he could see the print in the cursive, then he had a head start on cursive.
Then I introduced cursive copywork because it gave my first grader a visual model and lessened the stress on him to always remember details of grammar and punctuation.
Instead of making a choice between learning how to type, which is essential today, and learning the art of handwriting, we have time to teach both skills to our boys. Don’t let the physical act of handwriting dampen your son’s enthusiasm to share his overflowing ideas. Once he masters the art of handwriting, your first grader will have a priceless skill that will be used his entire life.