Learning to write systematically

Motor skills develop naturally

Before children start school, they begin to write their first words; for instance, they use capital letters to write their own name, MUM or the name of their favourite pet. Letters are rather “painted” than written and their shape is frequently incorrect or mirror-inverted. This is no cause for concern during this particular stage of development.
To make sure that, right from the start, your child will be able to successfully acquire the skills needed for learning to write letters and words, short sentences and texts, he/she should master a multitude of gross and fine motor skills. Simple and complex movement sequences have to be learned and practised before becoming automatic. Many traditional activities and games performed by children (such as clapping games, hopscotch, hide-and-seek, tag, pantomime, throwing and catching a ball, short dances, counting-out rhymes and many more) as well as playing outdoors will encourage the development of these important skills and abilities. The latter embrace important balancing, swinging, rotating and crossing movements which point into various directions at different levels – often in combination with spoken rhymes.

Relying on the gross and large body movements (gross motor skills) they have acquired, children develop smaller, more refined movements (fine motor skills). These skills must be nurtured and encouraged by material and specific assignments to become automatic: e.g. with modelling clay, toy building blocks, plug-in toy building blocks, puzzles, bead stringing, ribbon tying and the like. This variety of different, well-trained combinations of movements will finally give rise to graphomotor skills. The lines drawn by children during their first years of life become more and more refined and form the basis for children’s ability to write. During this phase, children already deliberately start practising various characters while increasingly monitoring and controlling the shape of the characters drawn (graphomotor skills).

The more incentives children are given to engage in basic drawing activities, the easier it may be for them to master the task of learning to write. For this reason, children experiencing handwriting problems due to poor motor skills must be given incentives for practising their gross and fine motor skills. Exercises encouraging children to practise wavy lines with sweeping pencil movements are the best way to prepare your children for pre-school and their first year of school. Only paying attention to correct letter shapes and spelling would not be conducive. Simply let them practise movements with their own hands by tracing lines/shapes in the air, on another child’s back, on the table or on the floor with their feet – with eyes open and closed.