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Boys and Handwriting

(31 Posts)
zeke Mon 06-Jul-09 17:34:52

My son is 4 yrs 11.5 mths old and at the end of his reception year at school.

His handwriting is not good! He can form most of the letters well enough (well, it is possible to tell what they are) but tends not to bother with gaps between words, worry whether letters are in the correct order etc.
Certainly compared to the older girls in the class his handwriting is very bad and maybe just bad compared to the rest. Spelling is phonetic.

His reading is absolutely fine (can read turquoise band 7 with little/no help), but I have given him a lot of home support with that.

My question is do you think this is:

a. a boy thing and he will get better in his own time
b. due to lack of adequate support at home (if this is the case then he will be on handwriting boot camp with me over the summer!)
c. a general ability thing

What are your experiences of boys writing in reception class?

ingles2 Mon 06-Jul-09 17:40:10

zeke, it's not a problem at all grin he's not even 5 bless him.
ds2 is 8 yr 3, his handwriting is all over the shop still.
I was despairing until I went to open eve last week... you can spot the girls a mile off, beautiful neat writing...
some of the boys was nice, but the vast majority still have big erratic writing with inconsistent spacing...
just keep an eye out for bad habits in formation, it's much easier to rectify them early.

sagacious Mon 06-Jul-09 17:46:16

Ds is 7 and left handed
He still hasn't mastered the proper grip

Everything else is fine (he's exceptional on the computer wink) so TBH I'm really not worrying.

Agree re: girls as well.

mrz Mon 06-Jul-09 18:18:39

At 4yrs 11.5 mths he probably isn't developmentally ready as a reception teacher I recommend you take him to the park on the monkey bars everyday over the summer hols ...have fun.

zeke Mon 06-Jul-09 18:51:28

Thanks everyone :D
It was his reception teacher who pointed out how weak his writing is compared to, seemingly, everyone else in the class today and asked if I had been doing the 'extra' handwriting work that was sent home blush. In a nice way though!
I hadn't worried about it much up until this point as I figured he was still pretty young for it. I did feel a bit bad today thouh, as I know I have done next to nothing with him with his handwriting, or his maths for that matter. I know some of the other mums get there children writing diaries and shopping lists and so on.

mumtoone Mon 06-Jul-09 22:04:13

zeke - my ds sounds quite similar and he is one of the oldest in reception. He's a good reader but writing is a real chore for him. We get no gaps between words and very large writing. He's finally getting the hang of forming most letters. He loathes writing so I've not pushed it much until now. I'm hoping it is a boy thing that will get better in time.

Goblinchild Mon 06-Jul-09 22:17:13

It's usually a boy thing. smile
If he'll tolerate it, tracing pictures, maze games and colouring in all help with pencil control. Don't worry.

mrsmaidamess Mon 06-Jul-09 22:21:43

My SENCO has a theory (and I agree) that as some children learn one thing with writing something else will go, like sand in a pocket that has a hole in it.

So for example, if your ds is concentrating so hard on letter formation he will lose the finger spaces between words, or his writing will start drooping down the page.

But he is, at not even 5, VERY young to have mastered writing. Oh and please don't do a handwritng boot camp!

clutteredup Mon 06-Jul-09 22:56:18

just make sure he's holding the pencil properly - the clear formation will come in time - IME after another 4 years !!

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 06-Jul-09 22:58:38

4 and not yet 5?!

Worry about it if it's still really bad when he's 8...

EdwardBitMe Mon 06-Jul-09 23:03:48

Don't stress. It will all come with time. Don't get him worried over his handwriting, it might disillusion him with writing and school.
Try activities to strengthen his fine motor skills (threading beads, picking up coloured grains of rice, Lego! etc)

cat64 Mon 06-Jul-09 23:11:24

Message withdrawn

Mistymoo Mon 06-Jul-09 23:15:08

My ds is 9, left handed and a really messy writer. He can write neatly if he slows down and takes his time, but that happens rarely! His teacher is not bothered, her reasoning is that when he is older most things will be done on a computer anyway hmm.

Not sure if I agree so I do try to encourage neat writing. My dd, 5, definately has neater writing than he did at that age.

EdwardBitMe Mon 06-Jul-09 23:16:10

Ahh cat64, all that wonderful advice that I just couldn't remember to post!!

cat64 Mon 06-Jul-09 23:25:57

Message withdrawn

spellicious Mon 06-Jul-09 23:28:06


luckylady74 Mon 06-Jul-09 23:38:11

My ds2 is 4 and starts school next January on his 5th birthday - so you see it's because of a postcode lottery over school age start dates that handwriting is an issue for your ds whereas people are amazed my ds can (just) write his own name!
The teacher is over eager and there's some excellent advice on this thread already.

zeke Tue 07-Jul-09 07:48:16

Thank you so much for your continued support and suggestions - all extremely useful.

No, I will NOT make him do loads of handwriting practise. Last night, after he finished his reading book, I asked him if he wanted to write a few senteneces from it. Yes, he did! So he did about 3 on his magnetic doodle board thing and seemed to really enjoy it and then left. Clearly that was enough!

We will do lots of gross motor activities and a little handwriting but only if he wants to and he can stop as soon as he has had enough.

I know his teacher used to teach yr 6 before reception so maybe her expectations are a litte unrealistic as to what the average 4/5 year old boy can produce re handwriting! There was concern about his speech when he started, just four, but it all seemed pretty normal to me and the speech therapist I contacted said the same - no issues now he is nearly 5!

mrz Tue 07-Jul-09 07:52:07

I'm a reception teacher and SENCO and I don't think handwriting practise is appropriate for a child who after all isn't five!

Things to remember:

Upright working surfaces promote fine motor skills. Examples of these are: vertical chalkboards; easels for painting; flannel boards; lite bright; magnet boards (or fridge); windows and mirrors; white boards, etc. Children can also make sticker pictures; do rubber ink-stamping; use reuseable stickers to make pictures; complete puzzles with thick knobs; use magna-doodle and etch-a-sketch as well. The benefits for these include: having the child's wrist positioned to develop good thumb movements; they help develop good fine motor muscles; the child is using the arm and shoulder muscles.


Moulding and rolling play dough into balls - using the palms of the hands facing each other and with fingers curled slightly towards the palm.
Rolling play dough into tiny balls (peas) using only the finger tips.
Using pegs or toothpicks to make designs in play dough.
Cutting play dough with a plastic knife or with a pizza wheel by holding the implement in a diagonal volar grasp.
Tearing newspaper into strips and then crumpling them into balls. Use to stuff scarecrow or other art creation.
Scrunching up 1 sheet of newspaper in one hand. This is a super strength builder.
Using a plant sprayer to spray plants, (indoors, outdoors) to spray snow (mix food colouring with water so that the snow can be painted), or melt "monsters". (Draw monster pictures with markers and the colours will run when sprayed.)
Picking up objects using large tweezers such as those found in the "Bedbugs" game. This can be adapted by picking up Cheerios, small cubes, small marshmallows, pennies, etc., in counting games.
Shaking dice by cupping the hands together, forming an empty air space between the palms.
Using small-sized screwdrivers like those found in an erector set.
Lacing and sewing activities such as stringing beads, Cheerios, macaroni, etc.
Using eye droppers to "pick up" coloured water for colour mixing or to make artistic designs on paper.
Rolling small balls out of tissue paper, then gluing the balls onto construction paper to form pictures or designs.
Turning over cards, coins, checkers, or buttons, without bringing them to the edge of the table.
Making pictures using stickers or self-sticking paper reinforcements.
Playing games with the "puppet fingers" -the thumb, index, and middle fingers. At circle time have each child's puppet fingers tell about what happened over the weekend, or use them in songs and finger plays.

Place a variety of forms (eg. blocks, felt, paper, string, yarn, cereal, cotton) on outlines
Match shapes, colour, or pictures to a page and paste them within the outlines

Self-Care Skills
Fastening Snaps
Using a screwdriver
Locking and unlocking a door
Winding a clock
Opening and closing jars
Rolling out dough or other simple cooking activities
Washing plastic dishes
Sweeping the floor
Scissor Activities
When scissors are held correctly, and when they fit a child's hand well, cutting activities will exercise the very same muscles which are needed to manipulate a pencil in a mature tripod grasp. The correct scissor position is with the thumb and middle finger in the handles of the scissors, the index finger on the outside of the handle to stabilize, with fingers four and five curled into the palm.
Cutting junk mail, particularly the kind of paper used in magazine subscription cards.
Making fringe on the edge of a piece of construction paper.
Cutting play dough or clay with scissors.
Cutting straws or shredded paper.
Use a thick black line to guide cutting the following:
A fringe from a piece of paper
Cut off corners of a piece of paper
Cut along curved lines
Cut lines with a variety of angles
Cut figures with curves and angles

Sensory Activities

The following activities ought to be done frequently to increase postural muscle strength and endurance. These activities also strengthen the child's awareness of his/her hands.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking
Clapping games (loud/quiet, on knees together, etc.)
Catching (clapping) bubbles between hands
Pulling off pieces of thera-putty with individual fingers and thumb
Drawing in a tactile medium such as wet sand, salt, rice, or "goop". Make "goop" by adding water to cornstarch until you have a mixture similar in consistency to toothpaste. The "drag" of this mixture provides feedback to the muscle and joint receptors, thus facilitating visual motor control.
Picking out small objects like pegs, beads, coins, etc., from a tray of salt, sand, rice, or putty. Try it with eyes closed too. This helps develop sensory awareness in the hands.

Midline Crossing
Establishment of hand dominance is still developing at this point. The following activities will facilitate midline crossing:
Encourage reaching across the body for materials with each hand. It may be necessary to engage the other hand in an activity to prevent switching hands at midline.
Refrain specifically from discouraging a child from using the left hand for any activity. Allow for the natural development of hand dominance by presenting activities at midline, and allowing the child to choose freely.
Start making the child aware of the left and right sides of his body through spontaneous comments like, "kick the ball with your right leg." Play imitation posture games like "Simon Says" with across the body movements.
When painting at easel, encourage the child to paint a continuous line across the entire paper- also from diagonal to diagonal.

Activities To Develop Handwriting Skills
There are significant prerequisites for printing skills that begin in infancy and continue to emerge through the preschool years. The following activities support and promote fine motor and visual motor development:
Body Stability
The joints of the body need to be stable before the hands can be free to focus on specific skilled fine motor tasks.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking, and wall push-ups.
Toys: Orbiter, silly putty, and monkey bars on the playground.

Fine Motor Skills
When a certain amount of body stability has developed, the hands and fingers begin to work on movements of dexterity and isolation as well as different kinds of grasps. Children will develop fine motor skills best when they work on a VERTICAL or near vertical surface as much as possible. In particular, the wrist must be in extension. (Bent back in the direction of the hand)
Attach a large piece of drawing paper to the wall. Have the child use a large marker and try the following exercises to develop visual motor skills:Make an outline of a one at a time. Have the child trace over your line from left to right, or from top to bottom. Trace each figure at least 10 times . Then have the child draw the figure next to your model several times.
Play connect the dots. Again make sure the child's strokes connect dots fromleft to right, and from top to bottom.
Trace around stencils - the non-dominant hand should hold the stencil flat and stable against the paper, while the dominant hand pushes the pencil firmly against the edge of the stencil. The stencil must be held firmly.
Attach a large piece of felt to the wall, or use a felt board. The child can use felt shapes to make pictures. Magnetic boards can be used the same way.
Have the child work on a chalkboard, using chalk instead of a marker. Do the same kinds of tracing and modeling activities as suggested above.
Paint at an easel. Some of the modeling activities as suggested above can be done at the easel.
Magna Doodle- turn it upside down so that the erasing lever is on the . Experiment making vertical, horizontal, and parallel lines.

Ocular Motor Control
This refers to the ability of the eyes to work together to follow and hold an object in the line of vision as needed.
Use a flashlight against the ceiling. Have the child lie on his/her back or tummy and visually follow the moving light from left to right, to bottom, and diagonally.
Find hidden pictures in books. (There are special books for this.)
Maze activities.

Eye-hand Coordination
This involves accuracy in placement, direction, and spatial awareness.
Throw bean bags/kooshi balls into a hula hoop placed flat on the floor. Gradually increase the distance.
Play throw and catch with a ball . Start with a large ball and work toward a smaller ball. (Kooshi balls are easier to catch than a tennis ball.)
Practice hitting bowling pins with a ball. (You can purchase these games or make your own with pop bottles and a small ball.)
Play "Hit the Balloon" with a medium-sized balloon.

zeke Tue 07-Jul-09 11:45:36

Thanks Mrz!

WOW! A lot to things to try there. I know my son will love to do a lot of those activities. Very interesting about the vertical surface.


mel37 Tue 07-Jul-09 13:07:53

This is very interesting stuff for me as I have a 4 year old daughter in reception who is really struggling with writing also. I have been worried sick for the last few months as the teacher first of all said there could be a 'problem' but are now saying she is just very immature! but are now talking about putting her on an IEP next year in year 1 if it doesn't improve which I felt was rather extreme, she can write her name and form letters but because she cant write sentences they feel she has a probelm?????!!!!!

After reading these posts I am feeling slightly better about it all. The pressure these young children are being put under to do various things ie read, write etc at a certain time is ridiculous and it seems if they are not doing what the powers that be say they should be by a certain time they are being labelled - whats that all about, surely all children do things at different times!

LupusinaLlamasuit Tue 07-Jul-09 13:16:23

mrsz is my new hero smile

noideawhereIamgoing Tue 07-Jul-09 13:30:57

Agree Mel - we have the same thing. We are told that all kids develop at different rates but then we are told they are failing to achieve at the age of 5 - it's madness.

After going through a similar experience to the OP - my dc's Reception teacher told me she had the worst handwriting in the class - I did put my dc through writing bootcamp - wish I'd have known better, it caused a lot of agro between us and her progress was unstable. Her writing is gradually improving - I have taken a back seat...she'll get there eventually or she'll type!wink

mimsum Tue 07-Jul-09 17:26:22

when ds2 started y2 an OT told us that he would probably never be able to do joined-up handwriting because his shoulder joint was so unstable - he has low muscle tone, and had both fine and gross motor skills delays. His writing was painfully slow (literally painful for him ) and very hard to read and because it was all so difficult he avoided writing at all costs.

We were already doing all the fine motor skills stuff - lego, pegs, playdough, putty, chalking on easels etc etc

We carried on doing all the above but also started doing "Write from the Start" - just a couple of sheets every day but no pressure. Because it wasn't 'writing', just patterns, ds didn't seem to mind (he's a very biddable little sausage really wink). At first he didn't seem to make any progress, but about half-way through y3 he suddenly changed. He went from writing in a horribly awkward, cramped printing style with lots of extra curlicues cos he thought he should be writing cursive like the others one week and the next week he was doing joined-up writing.

We have to keep on top of his writing as he will very quickly slip back into being incredibly messy, but mostly it's ok and perfectly legible. He's now in y4 and has finally started writing with a handwriting pen rather than a blunt pencil hmm and that's helped a lot as well

basically that was a very long-winded way of saying hang on in there! it will eventually click with a little bit of tlc

ps he still doesn't have a tripod grip and probably never will have, but it doesn't seem to affect him too much anymore

zeke Thu 09-Jul-09 16:00:32

Thanks again, for the further comments.

Just got my son's EYFS profile and he got a 4 for writing. Not a great shock though!

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