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Handwriting - What do I need to know?

One of the most common referrals to Occupational Therapy is for handwriting. It is important to recognise that like anything, if you want to improve at it, you need to practice, practice, practice. This is absolutely the case with handwriting. If you want to improve, you need to practice! HOWEVER, it is essential that you practice correctly!

This template shows the correct style that children are, or will be learning in any NSW school. This is called the NSW Foundation Style. From kindergarten they will be learning the Foundation Print, from year 3 they will begin the Foundation Pre-Cursive writing.

The outcomes for a kindergarten student in NSW in regards to handwriting are:

  • To be able to produce most lower-case and uppercase letters

  • Understand the movements that are required to achieve the NSW Foundation style

  • Begin to understand the sequence of letters

  • Write from left to right and leave spaces between words

It is important for children to check their posture when they are handwriting. The ideal position for them to be sitting in is a 90-90-90 seating position. What this means is that their ankles, knees and hips are all aligned at 90 degrees. For even better positioning their feet should be firmly planted on the floor.

In regards to your child's grip, please don't be to concerned if they do not have the perfect grip. Research has consistently shown that normal handwriting performance can be achieved with a variety of grasps.

However, try to bring awareness to how tightly your child is holding their pencil. Having too tight a grip results in fatigue of muscles and pain.

To help your child reduce pencil pressure, ask them to colour in a picture using different shades of grey. 'Light grey', 'medium grey', and 'dark grey'. Talk to your child about how different pressures change the shade of grey.

Remember to improve handwriting there is a need to provide lots of opportunities for practice. Now, this does not mean sitting your child down in front of a work sheet and force practice. This does not create an environment that is conducive to learning. The aim is to make the child WANT to practice.

Fun Activities to practice handwriting

  • Write the shopping list for your family

  • Order their lunch each day - e.g.. write 'Mum' a note requesting items in lunch bag

  • Writing a plan for the weekend - different activities, outings

  • Write your friends names down

  • Keep a journal - thoughts and feelings

  • Write a list of favourite animals

  • Write a list of favourite things

  • Create a craft project - write down all the materials that you need

  • Use different things to write with e.g. crayon, texts, pencils, thick texts, glitter glue

  • Write a word e.g.. tree, then make that word part of the picture of a tree

  • Write birthday cards for friends and family

  • Draw pictures.

  • Have your child write a letter to their future self to open in 1,5, or 10 years time.

  • Make a time capsule- They could write a list of all their favourite things, book they are reading, what they want to do when they are older.

  • Interview a family member and record their child hood memories and how things are different today.

  • Join a young writers group.

  • Holiday activity - write a book!!


Schwellnus, H., Carnahan,H., Kushki, A., Polatajko, H., Missiuna, C. & Chau, T. (2012). Effect of pencil grasp on the speed and legibility of handwriting after a 10-minute copy task in Grade 4 children. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59, 180-187. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1630.2012.01014.x

Hoy, M. M., Egan, M. Y. & Feder, K. P. (2011). A systematic review of interventions to improve handwriting. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78 (1) 13-25. doi:10.2182/cjot.2011.78.1.3

Wallen, M., Duff, S., Goyen, T.-A. and Froude, E. (2013), Respecting the evidence: Responsible assessment and effective intervention for children with handwriting difficulties. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 60(5): 366–369. doi:10.1111/1440-1630.12045

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