Encouraging reading & writing

6 Tips for Helping Young Kids Learn to Write

By Amanda Morin

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Holding a pencil and forming letters can be tough for kids with writing issues, who may struggle with fine motor skills. Here are some tips to help your child learn these skills.

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Young girl writing on a chalkboard with a piece of chalk
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Use golf pencils.

To help your child get a better grasp when he starts learning to write, consider buying some golf pencils. These are the small pencils you see at mini-golf courses and bowling alleys. Their size makes them easier for little hands to hold on to and balance correctly. If you can’t find golf pencils, that’s OK. A broken crayon, half a piece of chalk or even the short leftover piece of a well-used pencil could work, too.

Close-up of young child holding pens
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Get (or make) a pencil grip.

A pencil grip can help your child learn to hold a pencil properly. A great grip is the kind that looks like a squishy blob with fingerprints in it. But you can also make your own. Roll a piece of clay into a ball about an inch across. Poke the tip of a pencil through the middle and push the clay up an inch. Then, hold the pencil as if you’re writing and push your fingers and thumb into the clay to make the indents.

Close-up of young boy with hands in flour
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Choose the “write” time to play with food.

Your child can practice writing letters in mashed potatoes, sugar, flour or even shaving cream. Spread whatever substance you use on a table, in a shoebox lid or on a plate. Have your child use his pointer finger to draw letters and even write small words. Help him remember to move from top to bottom and left to right. Writing this way will help him learn how it feels to make the letters without having to worry about how to hold his pencil or crayon.

Close-up of child struggling to keep letters even
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Use raised lines and textured surfaces.

Sometimes kids can’t feel themselves making letters when they write. Using raised line paper and textured surfaces can help. To get a textured surface, have your child put his paper on top of something bumpy, like sandpaper or a rough plastic placemat. If he needs to feel the lines with his pencil, ask his teacher for some lined paper or use wide-ruled notebook paper. Then trace the lines with fabric paint or school glue and let them dry. Your child’s pencil will “bump” the lines when he writes.

Close-up of young child making colored guidelines on her paper
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Darken or highlight lines.

If your child has trouble staying within the lines when making tall letters (like “T”) and letters with tails (like “y”), it may help to make the lines easier to see. Use three different colored markers or highlighters to trace the top, middle and bottom lines on lined paper. This can help your child remember that tall letters start at the red line (for instance), small letters stay between blue and yellow and letters with a tail dip below the yellow.

Download bold line paper, which can also be used to create textured paper.

Close-up of popsicle stick project for word spacers
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Use a “spacekid.”

If your child has trouble with leaving too much or too little space between words, try a “spacekid.” Give your child a clean Popsicle stick. Have him put it down on the table pointing straight up and down. Ask him to draw a face on the top so it looks like a person. This is his “spacekid.” When he writes, have him put his spaceman down at the end of a word. The next word starts on the other side of the stick.

Download a free “spacekid” template.

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About the Author

Portrait of Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Ginny Osewalt

Ginny Osewalt is certified in elementary and special education, with experience in inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.

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