Improve Children’s Handwriting – without them realising!

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Introduction – how to improve children’s handwriting 

Improve children’s handwriting and you boost their confidence and make writing more enjoyable at the same time.  Read on to find out the official (sort of!) 13 hardest letters to write for a five year old and how you can group them to make it easier (or skip straight to the game and activity ideas at the end of this post).

Over the summer holidays I had two schooly things (based on their reports) that I wanted to help my biggest two with (aged 5 and 7).

The first thing was letter formation for the five year old. He finds some letters a lot easier to write than others.  They have to do EVERYTHING together, so I’ve gone with handwriting for the pair of them – Maths games will be coming soon!

This post focuses on activities writing lower case letters – letter formation. This is where a lot of children are at in foundation / year 1.  I shall have some cursive practice to sit alongside it for biggest (he’s just finished year 2 and loves cursive handwriting, as much as I used to love my sums). If you want to know more about cursive (joined up!) writing practice, there is a lovely link that helped me right here! There is also an interesting read about why you shouldn’t introduce it too early here!

I must say that having cursive writing going on, helped me justify to middlest why it’s worth following the arrows. Even if letters look right if you draw them a different way. It seems that letters drawn “correctly” in year 1 will join up far easier in year 2.

I have a bit of a problem…

Best ‘fess up – I’ve run into a little difficulty… this being time! We are halfway through the holiday and I don’t have much of it left!

So, I’ve taken a look at the alphabet and worked out what (I think) are the trickiest letters. See below! From memory and from looking at his writing around the place I think I’ve got the right ones!

Once identified I grouped these hard letters together if they’re similar to write….see immediately below!  If you want more detail see ‘Identifying the Letters’ below.  Or feel free to pop straight to the ‘Games and Activities’ at the end of this post.

I’m hoping to have time to cover them as five separate groups.🤞🤞🤞 I’m not looking for big chunks of time, just little warm up / practice activities and games to sharpen them up, ready for September!

Identifying the letters

As I said, I struggle to remember which letters he finds trickiest. So, my first job this evening was to lay out the whole alphabet.  You might find that improving your child’s handwriting is just sorting out a few rogue letters!

Using this link to help me I eliminated all the letters that can be done with one stroke. Even if it’s a very curvy one stroke. N.B. I didn’t count the dots!

The above link was very helpful as it feels like I can’t remember how I actually write letters – I think I’ve converted the knowledge to muscle memory! A bit like how I can put my buggy down, but can’t explain how to do it to anyone else! 🤷‍♀️.

I also found this “Water Magic” Galt book in our collection – it has great arrows and the water magic books are great for mess free fun and learning.  A brilliant way to improve children’s handwriting – especially if you ave a long journey coming up!

P.S. This is another good link on letter formation.  So, these are the letters that just need one stroke of the pen…

Next I eliminated the easier letters that needed either two strokes or two/three changes of direction of the one stroke….

These letters have something else in common – you don’t go over the same line twice at any point, this really seems to confuse middlest at the moment.

This left me with the lovely letters below! With the exception of “k” these letters all require you to register-trace your steps at some point. This seems to make them extra tricky!

Finally I sorted them into groups – I had never realised how similar it is to write “a”, “d”, “g” and “q”!  Try it! – it definitely makes sense to practice them together. Especially if you’re short of time!

The Games and Activities

1) Print Shop!

This one is perfect if you think you’re little one needs more support writing the letters as its basically an opportunity to trace them,

I modelled some letters (with arrows to show the direction of the pen!) and cut up lots of greaseproof paper.  Wished I had proper tracing paper as could only get sharpies to stick to the greaseproof paper – and getting the sharpies out always feels like a risky game!

The idea is that they fulfil a print shop order, by tracing over the letters needed, in the quantities given.  I am planning on using the a, d, g and q set here, as I think that they’re the trickiest!

2) Secret message!

I’m going to leave a message on their whiteboards with a letter or two to practise.

Asda do a brilliant white board – really gets my boys in a writing mood!

3) Dot to dot

Wriiting letters with dots is a really quick, easy and effective way of providing some extra support with letter formation, specially useful with the harder letters.

4)  Letter Gym

Middlest loved practising his ‘p’s while planking and his ‘a’s while working his abs!  We also yoga-ed some ‘y;s and squatted some ‘q’s!  You really will be improving your child’s handwriting without them realising!

5) Stick it up

Sometimes sticking up some practice is all you need to do to get the ball rolling.  I stuck up a few sheets of paper around downstairs, each letter came complete with three boxes of decreasing sizes.  Middlest loved completing the boxes and is ‘art gallery’ of letters.

6) On their level

Not sure how this activity happened – wasn’t planned as such!  Either way Middlest really enjoyed writing the ‘perfect fart ‘ so thought it worth a mention!

My TOP TIP for how to improve children’s handwriting

My favourite thing to say as they write is ‘Take it from the top!’  With the exception of ‘d’ and ‘e’ all of the lower case letters start from the top.  If you try any of these activities it would be lovely to ear back from you in the comments.

'Take it from the Top' Letter Gallery


    1. Yes, I can’t remember doing cursive at school at all but biggest seems to do loads on it. My five year old’s target / next step on his report was more practice on letter formation so really wanted to give him a bit of a boost with the ones he seems to find tricky. May add that to post so it makes more sense!
      Going to look out for some dot to dot, probably easiest to buy something in here as dot drawing could take some time!

      1. That is interesting that it is still taught. So many education systems seem to have done away with it. Maybe it is making a comeback. Hooray. I was certainly taught printing and cursive at school.

      2. Your comment got me thinking – as they often do 😁. Had a google and there seems to be mixed ideas with some saying a waste of time. Not sure how this can be the case?! My biggest has loved learning it at school, don’t know if it’s a compulsory part of curriculum or not but so important. Also useful for 5 year old to see as I could explain that if he draws the letters following the arrows next year, joined up writing will be easier in year 2. If I didn’t join up my writing would take forever!

      3. It may be a waste of time in the sense that most of us eventually develop our own writing style which often looks nothing like the writing we learned at school. But, of all the things I learned at school, handwriting and sewing were the most fun. I probably would have enjoyed woodwork if it had been offered.

      4. I guess so but it’s a very good place to start so I’m with you. Although all I remember about seeing is not having a clue how the machines worked and really
        Hoping nobody would notice! 😂

      5. I need to investigate this! I used to love that sort of sewing too (cloth with holes?). Great for concentrating – thanks for the tip and name for fabric – have tried and failed to find it in the past!

      6. I think it is making a comeback so the material should be reasonably easy to find. Some children do better when the fabric is held by an embroidery hoop.

  1. Some great tips in there. Isaac’s reception teacher was amazing (at everything actually I’m still sad we can’t keep her!) He went from having awful writing to this lovely neat same sized writing! Xxx

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