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Learning to Write – Getting Ready, Posture, and Pencil Grip

In the era of technology, handwriting is fast becoming a lost art but there are many benefits that handwriting practice can offer which make it a worthwhile art to preserve:

  • Helps develop reading skills
  • Trains the brain
  • Affects the way children learn
  • Develops thinking, language and working memory

Monkey barsGetting ready for writing

If you want to help your child get ready for writing, Gill Connell from Moving Smart has this advice:

Put your pencils down and go play on the monkeybars.

If this advice sounds counter-intuitive, it’ll make more sense once you look at how Gill breaks down the process of writing:

  1. The upper body must be strong enough to hold the body in an upright standing or sitting position.
  2. The shoulders muscles must be strong enough to control the weight of the arm, and flexible enough to rotate freely to position the arm for writing.
  3. The upper arm holds the weight of the lower arm and hand, delivering the hand to the page.
  4. The lower arm provides a sturdy fulcrum on which the wrist rotates.
  5. The wrist holds the hand steady and rotates to the appropriate position.
  6. The fingers fold around the pencil which is held in place by the thumb.
  7. Together, all five fingers do a precision dance on the page: a. placing the pencil at the exact angle to meet the page, b. pressing down and maintaining the right amount of pressure to leave the imprint, and c. coordinating the tiny up, down, left, and right movements across the page.

So if you want to help your child get ready for writing, movement is the first order of the day. Read the post on Moving Smart for more.

If you want to learn more about movement and learning, check out Gill’s book “A Moving Child is a Learning One“.

Getting the posture right

It’s very easy for kids to develop bad postures from writing so make sure they get it right from the start. Invest in a good table and chair that will grow with your child and encourage him to sit properly – one that has an adjustable height for both desk and chair. An ideal desk should have a slanted surface to encourage a more upright sitting posture – most of the writing desks for kids these days come with an adjustable slant. If you’re using a conventional desk, you can also purchase a slant board.

adjustable desk and chair

Sitting right:

  • the chair should be adjusted so that your child can sit with a right angle at the knees (hips should be at the same height as the knees or slightly higher if this is more comfortable) and the feet flat on the floor.
  • the back should be straight and upright with the only bend being at the neck, although a slant board can also help to reduce the bending at the neck.
Writing Posture
Body Mechanics – Reading and Writing Posture

A great way to encourage the correct sitting posture is to get your child to sit on a stability ball. Now they even have stability ball chairs so your ball doesn’t roll away when you get up.

It appears that sitting on a stability ball is not just good for your child’s posture. It has other benefits as well:

  • strengthens core muscles and improves spinal alignment
  • encourages your child to sit up straight
  • improves focus
  • good for children with attention deficit hyperactivity and sensory processing disorders
  • improves productivity
  • reduces obesity
  • better academic performance

More information:

Writing Tools

Make sure you have the right writing implements to make it easier for your child to master the art of writing.

  • fat pencils are better than thin ones – they are easier to hold and control when your manual dexterity isn’t up to scratch yet
  • triangular pencils or a pencil grip can also facilitate holding the pencil and writing control

Holding the pencil right

This is one we have a lot of trouble with as well. No matter how many times I try to correct Hercules’ grip on the pencil, he ends up holding it in the pencil grip but with all his fingers on it. So here’s a technique that will help from Rocks in My Dryer:

Get your child to pinch a piece of bunched up tissue with his pinky and ring fingers, then get him to hold the pencil with his other fingers.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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