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Help with Handwriting

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Do you have a child who struggles with handwriting? Are they bored of handwriting sheets? Forget writing over letters on a worksheet and try these engaging activities instead!

What is expected of children's handwriting?

The early learning goals state that children in reception should:

  • write recognisable letters, most of which are correctly formed.

The year one English curriculum objectives state that children should:

  • sit correctly at a table, holding a pencil comfortably and correctly

  • begin to form lower-case letters in the correct direction, starting and finishing in the right place

  • form capital letters

  • form digits 0-9

  • understand which letters belong to which handwriting 'families'

Initially, letter formation will be introduced alongside each letter and sound in phonics. Handwriting will then move towards learning to correctly write the letters in each letter family. These are letters which have similar shapes and directions of movement.

How should a child hold their pencil?

The most efficient grip is called the 'dynamic tripod grip'. This is where the child holds their pencil between the thumb and index finger, with the pencil supported on the middle finger. This grip allows for the pencil to be held firmly, whilst also allowing the child to write freely with no restrictions to movement. If a child in reception or year one still has a tendency to hold a pencil in their fist or with four fingers, you could ask them to hold a pom-pom underneath their ring and little finger. When they go to pick up their pencil, they will now only be able to use their thumb and two fingers!

child practising handwriting
Efficient grip

How can I help with handwriting?

Before setting children off with the activities shown below, ensure that you have taught the correct formation of the focus letter first. This will really help with handwriting in the long run. You can do this by demonstrating on a whiteboard. Model how to sit correctly, show children an efficient pen(cil) grip, where to start the letter and how to form it. You should then ask them to practise the letter so that you can check for correct formation. Children could:

  • write the letter in the air with a finger

  • trace the letter on a friend's back or on the floor

  • form the letter on a whiteboard

When you are confident that they are writing the letter using the correct formation, you can give these activities a go:

Rainbow Scratch Cards

Rainbow scratch card handwriting is a really engaging way to teach letter formation. If you want to make your own rainbow scratch cards simply use crayons to create rainbow colours on a piece of paper, then paint over with a 3:1 mixture of paint and dish soap and allow to dry! As children write on the black surface, it gets scratched away and reveals the rainbow colours underneath.

image of child practising handwriting on scratch cards
Rainbow scratch cards

Reusable Wallets

Place your letter formation sheet inside a reusable wallet. Children absolutely love writing with a pen and being able to rub it out with a little board rubber. What's more, they can practice writing their letters over and over again!

handwriting practice activity using reusable wallets
Reusable wallets

Rice Writing

Fill a tray with uncooked rice. You can dye the rice if you like, or if you're lazy like me, just add a piece of brightly coloured paper or card underneath! As children form their letters in the rice, they will reveal the colour underneath. I made my sensory activity in a small plastic case so that it can be closed and used again at a later date. The great thing about using sensory materials like rice is that children can really 'feel' the letters. You could also use flour or damp sand for this activity.

sensory handwriting activity using rice
Sensory handwriting activity

Letter Mats

Make your own handwriting mats for children to drive a car around or save time and buy alphabet tracing mats and number tracing mats from my shop. Simply choose a card and trace over the letter or number with a small toy car or a dry wipe pen! This activity is so much fun that children won't even realise that they're learning! Laminate the cards or place them in reusable wallets for longevity.

handwriting activity using a toy car to form letters
Drive and write letters

Loose Parts Handwriting

This is a great way to practise handwriting without actually writing. With this activity, children will learn about the shape of the letter and also develop their fine motor skills. Choose a selection of loose parts for them to arrange inside the letter. You can tidy the loose parts away and use the activity again and again!

handwriting activity using loose parts to make letters
Loose parts letters

Cotton Bud/Q Tip Tracing

Trace over letters without using a boring worksheet! You should write the letters in chalk for your child to write over, using a cotton bud dipped in water. Watch the letters magically disappear! A variation on this activity is writing letters with paintbrushes dipped in water outside. This allows the children to have more of a gross motor workout too!

handwriting activity using cotton buds dipped in water to write over letters
Cotton bud letters

Shaving Foam Letters

Combine handwriting with sensory play by using shaving foam. Squirt a blob of shaving foam onto a tray and ask children to smooth over it with their hands. They can then form their letters in the foam. If little ones make a mistake, it's fine because they can simply rub over the foam and start again! This activity is pretty quick and easy to wash up afterwards too, unlike paint!

sensory handwriting activity using shaving foam
Shaving foam handwriting

Feather Pencils

If you want your class to get some work recorded in their books, why not make it a bit more exciting by using feather pencils? Just tape a feather to a pencil and hey presto, you have a quill! You can also slip a bit of history into the lesson by explaining that people used to write with a quill and ink.

handwriting activity using a pencil with a feather stuck on as a quill
Write with a quill

Sticker Handwriting

Children love writing on stickers, so why not practise handwriting on them? They can write the letter in different colours and then wear the sticker to show off their handwriting all day!

handwriting activity - writing letters using pens on stickers
Kids adore stickers!

Bingo Dabber Letters

This is another engaging way for children to get a feel for the shape of a letter, without actually having to write it. Bingo dabbers are a win-win resource because children adore them whilst you don't have the mess of paint. They're great for developing postural control and hand-eye coordination too. You can buy bingo dabber activity books from my shop if this looks like something that your little one would love.

bingo dabber activity books for learning letters and numbers
Bingo dabber activity books

What Next?

1. You might also enjoy reading these blog posts:

2. Shop handwriting resources and more:

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