Children learn skills in a typical sequence in order to be efficient and effective in that skill. For example, in development for walking babies first learn to roll, then crawl, then sit up, then pull themselves to stand, followed by cruising along furniture and finally walking. The same goes for handwriting skills. There are steps that we follow in order to have appropriate legibility, endurance, and speed with handwriting. A child may skip crawling and still be able to walk. However, they missed an important step in development that may impact other areas and skills. The same goes for handwriting skills. Skipping the pre-writing skills may impact a child’s ability to write efficiently and effectively and may impact other areas of learning and development. Below you will find 10 reasons why handwriting is an important skill for children and how it can impact other important skills in our lives. Following the list is a table of the typical sequence of handwriting development.
10 reasons handwriting is an important skill
Handwriting is multi-sensory
Handwriting involves multiple sensory systems which helps to develop adaptive responses. Sensory systems included are the visual system, tactile system, auditory system, and proprioceptive system.
Learning letters by hearing and writing them involves the tactile system and auditory system. Writing letters also utilizes the visual system by looking at a letter and copying it down on paper or other surfaces. Utilizing a crayon provides greater proprioceptive feedback. Crayons also create more resistance and build strength in the hands to prepare for a strong pencil grip.
Forming letters by hand while learning sounds activates the part of the brain responsible for literacy
Foundational for building fine motor skills to improve independence in daily skills
Early exposure to coloring, writing, and painting build the muscles in our hands that are important for completing other skills. These important skills include buttoning a shirt, zipping a jacket, opening bags and containers, tying laces on shoes, and so much more.
Encourages bilateral coordination skills
Bilateral coordination is when we use both sides of our body in order to complete a task. We frequently do this throughout the day and encouraging children to complete activities that incorporate both hands helps to build this foundational skill. Coloring is one way we can encourage children to use both hands.
Ways to promote bilateral coordination skills
Stabilizing the paper whie coloring
Pulling caps off of markers
Coloring on a large piece of paper and crossing the midline of their body to make marks
Tracing their hand
Coloring inside stencils
Promotes visual motor integration
Visual motor skills allow us to produce or motor plan what we see with our eyes. Seeing a line, shape, or letter and being able to copy it down builds visual motor skills.
Building a good sense of directionality will allow students to reduce reversals and write in the proper left to right sequence. Understanding directions is also an important skill that impacts the ability to locate items in an environment, follow directions, and participate in gross motor games with peers.
Visual perceptual skills
Visual perceptual skills allow us to understand what we see. There are 8 different types of visual perceptual skills. All of these have an impact on our daily life. Handwriting is an area where we can build visual perceptual skills.
Improves organization, planning, and sequencing
Organizing words on a piece of paper, motor planning how to write, and sequencing letters and words together to form sentences and stories are essential to building confident writers. Organization, motor planning and sequencing are also important life skills that allow us to be independent in our everyday lives.
Building a good working memory through handwriting can have positive impacts on our executive functions. Seeing a letter or word and having the ability to remember long enough to write it down is one way we can improve our working memory.
Promotes creativity and imagination
Children thrive on play, creativity and imagination. These areas of play and development help build social skills and encourage independence. Handwriting and coloring is a great outlet for children to express themselves and be creative.
As you can see handwriting and coloring have a great impact on development and independence as children grow into adults. Skipping the important developmental sequence of handwriting can impact many other areas of our lives. Below is a chart that highlights the development of writing skills. If you are curious about your child’s current skills and want to learn more about how occupational therapy can help in this area, book a call by clicking here.
Handwriting and grasp development