Improving Handwriting without Actually Writing

Homeschool boy climbs on log to build strength

On many Facebook groups I hear opinions of "why write when typing is faster?" or "Speaking to type makes writing and even typing obsolete". Though typing and even dictation are accommodations sometimes necessary for children that have extreme difficulty with writing, in general, writing is a very important skill. Simply put, handwriting

1) engages the brain differently impacting memory

2) changes the relationship with material because of the this motor task

3) helps us to slow down in this fast paced world and really engage with the material we are learning.


Before a child begins to engage in this important skill, there are some underlying skills to develop.

1) Strength- A child needs to be stable through the core. This means strong in the belly, and even shoulders. This is frequently overlooked and is a must before the hands and fingers can work efficiently!! You can build this through crawling, climbing, and even writing on a vertical surface.


2) Fine Motor skills- To assume a good grip, the fingers need to be able to move without using the entire forearm. Reminder- you must first have core and shoulder strength- These smaller muscles can be developed through playing with small objects, moving objects around the hand, and using many styles of utensils. Sometimes, we contrive these activities through sensory bins or set up activities. Sometimes, they naturally occur when outdoors or play with simple toys. I find in our homeschool we have a split. We love to include everyone in cooking, nature study, and chores which all naturally encourage fine motor development. 

However, for our youngest, we also add in many simple activities to keep his hands busy while I work with the older kids.


3) Visual Motor Skills and Visual Perceptual Skills- Vision is so much more than acuity. To write, a child needs to recognize all letters no matter the font, scan from left to right, be able to locate a letter on a busy page, and coordinate the eyes and hands. I write more about this on a larger scale here

4) Motor Planning- Motor planning is the ability to remember and perform the steps necessary to make a movement happen. Simply put, a person must be able to remember the actual steps to write an a. This often starts with knowing directionality ie left, right, up, down, before, and after. It then progresses to diagonal lines, and crossing over letters like x and t. I write more about this on a larger scale here.


5) Posture- Having a seated position for optimal writing can influence its neatness, as well as amount of time that a child can focus. In general, the back and butt should be against the back of the chair, feet flat on the floor with knees and hips at 90 degrees, shoulders resting, and elbows slightly off of the table. This is actually not easy with small children. Thankfully, we have the privilege to wait for our children's specific timing before learning to write and learning from writing.


Because handwriting involves so many skills, it often requires assessment, and then problem solving. For direct intervention with your homeschool student, please seek out an occupational therapist in your state. For ways to add these skills into your homeschool day, please reach out to Collins Academy Therapy Services for a consultation.



Dinehart, L. H. (2015). Handwriting in early childhood education: Current research and future implications. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 15(1), 97–118.


Hoy, M. M. P., Egan, M. Y., & Feder, K. P. (2011). A Systematic Review of Interventions to Improve Handwriting. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78(1), 13–25.


Volman, M., Van Schendel, B., Jongmans, M. (2006). Handwriting Difficulties in Primary School Children: A Search for Underlying Mechanisms. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 60, 451-460.


Sarah Collins

Sarah is an OT and home school mama whose zone of genius is bridging the gap between OT's and homeschool parents with resources to help them both thrive.

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