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Handwriting and typing

  • 5-11 Years
  • Child development and growing up
adult woman and child writing ABCs on large paper

Whilst technology has moved forward, learning to write by hand is still an essential skill. Handwriting helps us with how we picture a letter sound and shape in our minds. Also, having to write things on paper helps improve spelling and reading skills.

If your child is just starting to make marks or draw, but they are not writing yet, you can read our information about getting ready to write.

Left-handed children

Children will quickly show a preference for a hand. Left-handed children may find learning to write harder. They can often smudge their writing with their hand as they write.

How to help your left-handed child:

  • Put a coloured star or sticker on the left side of the page to remind them where to start writing.
  • Seat them on the left side of a table or desk, this prevents them accidentally bumping their elbow into another person
  • Make allowance for clumsiness, smudging and untidiness, whilst praising them for their hard work and achievements
  • Tilting the paper to the right. You can also use a slanted surface like a folder or sloping desk top to angle the paper/surface.

Learning to write letters

It’s important that your child learns how to make the letters correctly. Unfortunately, this cannot be done by just tracing or copying. Your child will need to make the movements without tracing or copying to learn them.  

Things to consider when starting to teach your child to write: 

Use plain paper – the goal is for your child to understand the shapes of letter and not to focus on the size or neatness of the letters.  

Teach them 1 letter at a time – learning lots of letters at once can be confusing to some children. By going 1 at a time, you will help your child remember the shapes and movements.  

Try to make the movements into stories or images – for example an ‘s’ is a snake slithering along the page. These little stories or images can help them remember the letter shape in the future.  

Writing their name is exciting! Teach them how to write the first capital letter of their name. You can then show them the individual letter shapes of their name. If your child has a difficult or long name, try to focus on the easy letters first. 

You should start teaching your child to write lowercase letters. You can do this by grouping the letters with other letters that have the same shape or have a similar movement in them. 

Below are some examples of letters grouped together by similar shapes: 

  • c o a d g q e 
  • r n m h b p
  • i f I j l t u y
  • v w x z k

Another way to group the letters is by height. This type of grouping would be best used when using lined paper.  If you are using lined paper, it can be helpful to draw a dot at the top of the line where letters should start. 

Below are some examples of letters grouped together by height:  

  • a c e i m n o r s u v w x z 
  • b d f h k l t 
  • g j p q y 

Common difficulties with handwriting

Some children can find writing especially difficult. There are a number of very common issues that children can experience as they learn to write.

How to make writing fun

It’s important to keep your child interested and enjoying learning as it helps them learn a lot more! There are many fun activities you and your child can do together once they have learned how to draw the letters.  These will help your child get their ideas out onto paper.

Below are some activities you can do with your child to make writing more fun:

Cave writing – this is where you stick a piece of paper underneath a table. Remember to use a sturdy table and to ensure the ground underneath is covered. It can get messy, especially if your child is using paints!

Make up a story together and take turns writing

Spy writing – write messages using an invisible ink pen which will only show it’s message under ultra violet also known as black light. You can also use glow in the dark paint.

Funny writing – try to write using a shaky pen or a pen with lots of colours in it. This can make some fun effects.

Family writing on paper on small table

Handwriting programmes

Some children may find that using a handwriting programme will help their handwriting skills.  These apps can be a fun way for your child to learn the shapes of letters.

All schools will have picked their own handwriting programme. These programmes or apps are used during school time.

Speak to your child’s school to find out if they recommend any particular books or apps. 

Here are some examples of handwriting programmes:

  • Write from the start
  • Speed up!
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • Write dance
  • Write start

Alternatives to handwriting

If your child is struggling to write their ideas down on paper or to work, you may want to use other methods to help them. These methods should be used as they are also learning to write.

You child can produce work by:

  • speaking their ideas for an adult to write or draw
  • using Clicker software at school which has pictures and words to pick from
  • using magnetic pictures, symbols and words
  • using voice activated software so your child can speak their ideas - please be aware that may be better used at home rather than in a busy classroom
  • typing on a computer

If you think your child may need different ways to get their ideas on paper, speak to your child’s school. They may want to involve other professionals including occupational therapy to help your child.  

Learning to type

A way to help children who struggle with handwriting is to help them develop their typing skills. This can help them communicate their thoughts and share what they know. Make sure to continue with encouraging your child to write.

Learning to type is an important skill for all children. The earlier a child learns to type, the easier they will find it.

Make sure that your child is sitting in the correct position. They should be sitting up straight with their bottom at the back of the chair. Their feet should be placed firmly on the floor. Some children may need a small step stool, wooden box or a similar surface underneath their feet. Read more about sitting and posture

The keyboard needs to be at the right height for your child. It should not be too high, too low, too far away or too close. Their forearms should be lightly resting on the edge of the table or desk.

As your child is typing their fingers should be curved in a comfortable position. Their wrists should be flat. Their fingers should rest lightly on the middle row of keys with their thumb on the spacebar. This is an important position to return to when they are typing. When possible, your child should use 2 hands to type.  

child typing on laptop


Who can help

If your child is over 6 years old and their handwriting skills are not developing as they should, speak to your child’s teacher to find out what can be done to help your child's handwriting. 

If your child has been receiving extra teaching and practice for handwriting and is not improving, a referral to occupational therapy would be appropriate.

Ask your child’s school or health professional to complete a referral form and send it to the children’s occupational therapy team. You will need to provide an example of their handwriting. This will help the occupational therapist decide the best way help your child.

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