Multisensory instruction can help kids who struggle with writing in more ways than one. That’s because handwriting involves more than just making letters on a page. It requires strong fine motor and skills. Here are some multisensory techniques to try.
Use dark ruled and “bumpy” paper.
Does your child have trouble staying within the lines when writing? Download wide-ruled paper with bold lines at the top and bottom with a dotted line in between. This can help kids see barriers so their letters don’t drift.
You can also trace the top and bottom lines with glue. When it dries, the pencil will “bump” the lines as kids write. Remind them that tall letters (like T) go to the top line, and that smaller letters (like c) should fit between the bottom and middle lines.
Trace and do mazes.
Tracing is an effective way to teach handwriting. By having kids trace shapes and maze-like paths from left to right, top to bottom, or through jagged and curvy lines, you can help them develop fine motor control. This can also help them learn how to orient their movements from top to bottom and left to right.
Mazes can also help kids practice staying within a designated space. Download mazes and tracing worksheets for kids to use.
You may have heard of the Wet-Dry-Try app from Learning Without Tears. But you can do a low-tech version of the activity, too. All you need is a small chalkboard, a sponge cut into small cubes, and a piece of chalk.
Kids can wet a sponge cube and squeeze it out so it’s not dripping with water. Write a letter on the slate as a model. Next, kids write the letter using a wet sponge. Then they can trace it with a dry sponge. Finally, they can write the letter using chalk.
Use a “Spacekid.”
Some kids, especially those with visual-spatial issues, have trouble spacing out words on the page. If kids leave too much or too little space between words, a “Spacekid” can help. (Download the template to make one.)
As kids write, they can place their Spacekid down at the end of each word. The next word starts on the other side of the Spacekid tool.
Try sensory freezer-bag writing.
Fill a freezer-sized Ziploc bag with a couple dollops of colored hair gel. (You could also use clear hair gel and add food coloring or glitter.) Seal it tightly, taping over the top to make sure it stays closed.
Kids can place the bag on a table and smooth it out until it’s flat. Ask them to use their finger or the eraser end of a pencil to practice writing words or letters. The resistance of the hair gel will help them feel how the letters are formed.
Show sky, grass, or ground.
Kids may have trouble making letters the correct size. For example, they may write dOgS instead of dogs.
This activity uses hand positions to help kids understand letter size. Start off with the word boy to practice. For tall letters like b, kids point their thumb up to the sky. For small letters like o, they make a fist to indicate grass. And for descending letters like y, they point a thumb down for ground.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Keri Wilmot is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.