6 ways to help your child improve handwriting

By Julie Rawe

At a glance

  • You can buy or make simple tools like pencil grips to help with messy handwriting.

  • Games like “Sky, Grass, Dirt” can add some fun to handwriting practice for kids.

  • Teachers can help kids with handwriting in many different ways. 

Handwriting involves a complex set of skills. But there are some simple ways you can help if your child has messy handwriting. Learn how low-cost tools like pencil grips can help your child improve handwriting. And get ideas for ways to add some fun to handwriting practice for kids.

1. Buy a pencil grip.

Does your child’s hand get tired easily? Pencil grips are low-cost tools that can help kids learn to hold a pencil properly. These tools can help kids write more neatly without their hand muscles getting so tired.

There are different kinds of pencil grips. You can find some designs at office supply stores. If you have trouble finding the right grip for your child, you may need to look in online catalogs for .

2. Make a slant board.

Does your child hunch over when writing? Poor posture can make it harder to write neatly. You can help by encouraging your child to write on a slanted surface. The right slant can improve the position of your child’s wrist and shoulder. 

You can buy a slant board. Or you can make one by turning a three-inch three-ring binder sideways, so the surface slopes down toward your child. Use clips or a big rubber band to keep papers from slipping off.

3. Raise the lines on lined paper.

Does your child have trouble staying within the lines? Use glue or puffy paint to trace the lines. When dry, the raised lines help kids learn to stay within the lines. Kids can feel it if they “bump” into the lines with their pencil. 

Add some fun by using sparkly glue or letting your child choose which puffy paint to use.

Download free handwriting sheets your child can use for practice.

4. Use a spacing tool.

Does your child leave too little or too much space between words? Use a wooden craft stick as a spacing tool. After writing a word, have your child put the stick at the end, pointing straight up and down. Start the next word on the other side of the stick.

Ask your child to decorate the stick, like drawing a face on the top or adding a cool sticker. Encourage your child to keep it simple so the spacing tool looks fun but not distracting.

5. Play “Sky, Grass, Dirt.”

Does your child have trouble making letters the correct size? For example, does your child write hOpS instead of hops? Practice using the right letter sizes by playing a game called “Sky, Grass, Dirt.” Here are two ways you can play using a word like hops:

Use hand signals

  • For tall letters like h, point your thumb up to the sky. 
  • For short letters like o and s, make a fist to indicate grass. 
  • For descending letters like p, point a thumb down to the dirt.
  • Use these hand signals to quiz your child about different letters. 

Use highlighters on lined paper 

  • For the sky, color in a blue row between the top and middle lines. 
  • For the grass, color in a green row between the middle and bottom lines. 
  • For the dirt, color in a brown or orange row below the bottom line. 
  • Use the striped paper to practice writing letters and words.

6. Talk with your child’s teacher.

When kids struggle with handwriting, it doesn’t mean they’re not smart. But messy handwriting can get in the way of learning, since it can keep kids from showing what they know.

Ask the teacher if handwriting challenges are making it hard for your child to learn. If they are, you can come up with a plan together for helping your child improve.

There are different things teachers can do for kids who need help with handwriting. For example, the teacher could let your child use special lined paper or have extra time to finish written work.

Technology can help too, like typing instead of handwriting. And in some cases, schools provide occupational therapy, which can help kids build fine motor skills.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.