Developing handwriting with playful (writing) motor skills
Before children actually start school, they start writing their first words, such as their own name, perhaps, MUM or the name of a beloved pet. Letters are “drawn”, written incorrectly and also inverted. At this stage, this is absolutely normal.
For a child to be able to successfully write letters and words, short sentences and texts from the beginning, there are a number of gross and fine motor skill movements that first have to be mastered. Both simple and more complex movement sequences have to be practised and learned until they can be carried out automatically.
Getting into motion
To write successfully, they have to learn the necessary connections: the different movements involved in pushing and pulling a writing instrument, straight and curved lines, arches, lines and dots, complete upstrokes and downstrokes, changes in inclination, changes of direction and different starting points, but less so the precise shape of letters. These connecting movements result in – particularly for cursive writing – writing motor skills. The combination of accurate graphomotor skills with smooth writing motor skills results in orthographically correct, fluid writing.
Particularly writing motor skills have to be given sufficient practice and support. The flow of writing does not happen by chance; it has to be practised and guided! The basic movements and motor skills are fundamental here: targeted controlling of movements, space-position coordination, eye-hand coordination capabilities.
How to encourage writing motor skills
If children have poorly developed writing motor skills, they lose control over the shapes (graphomotor skills) when they have to carry out movements more speedily. This means their writing deteriorates considerably if they have to write quickly: their writing becomes illegible and they increasingly make mistakes.
Intense practising of letters and words is not the way to encourage children; this could result in children tensing up more when they write as well as greater learning and concentration difficulties.
It is far more productive for these children to practise important movement sequences, such as changes of direction, with their hands in the air or by drawing very large on paper or in sand.
The more children are shown a link from movement impulses through elementary drawing to writing, the more easily they succeed with the learning-to-write process. Children who experience problems with the motor skills involved in writing must therefore be given help with the movements involved in gross and fine motor skills. Sweeping movements of all kinds are the perfect preparation for children in pre-school and reception class.
Paying too much attention to the right letter shapes and orthography alone is not a help but a hindrance. The ideal practice for children are movements in the air, on the back of another child, using their hands on a table, using their feet on the floor – both with their eyes open and closed. Moving is fun, gets rid of tension and allows children to practise movement patterns.