Frustrated With Handwriting!!!

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  • shannon

    I have a 7 year old and a 4 year old who will be 5 in october. I am have a very difficult time with my 4 year old who struggles with pencil grip. I personally have not a clue of how to help him with this problem. To make matters worse he writes so hard, and with his whole hand rather than his fingers. 

    I am using the handwriting lessons, but most of the time my 4 year old gets frustrated and tired and this is with only going for 5-10 minutes. Of course, when he masters a letter he is elated, but this is rare. I just know he really struggles and i don’t know what to do. I try my hardest not to show my frustration, so i usually just end the session, but then i am concerned that without enough time spent on this subject, his skills will only get worse. My husbands believes that the lessons are a waste of time and that they should strictly just write letters and words over and over again, in other words repitition without the quality.

    Please help!!


    4 years old is very young!  My son at age 4 was not close to being ready to learn to print.  I offered many different fine motor activities (stringing beads, perler beads, cutting shapes, poking holes with a push pin – then shine a flashlight through to see the picture the dots make on the wall), and so on.  Just trying to get him to hold a crayon was sure to end in a fight.  He just wasn’t ready.

    He turned 5 in June.  In July he wanted to learn to write numbers (he’s a math guy).  So we started slowly learning them.  He is now motivated to learn the letters of his name.  His pencil grip has improved immensely.  Now he is ready.

    My advice would be to just wait.


    Rachel White

    Please forgive my bluntness, but my advice is to just drop the matter of handwriting with him all together-he’s too young. There are only a few children who start writing this young but they are generally girls.

    If you want to pursue letter formation knowledge then let him use his fingers in the sand or dirt; give him chalk and he will learn his grip naturally and not be forced into it.

    MAke sure he’s playing with playdough-that helps his finger development better than forcing a pencil into his hand.

    Give him fat crayons and let him color and make letters as he feels like it-using his whole hand is normal, but it doesn’t mean he’ll do it like that in 2 years. If you push this too soon, he’ll hate writing and you’ll have an even harder time later.

    Give him large beads to string.

    I agree w/your husband that the lessons are a waste of time, but I do’t agree that having him copy at this age is going to be useful, but actually the opposite effect.

    HWT also has large letter wooden pieces to put together to make letters as well as crayon books, see and stamp screen and other items if you want to “do school” or if your husband needs to see him doing something, but it’s not absolutely necessary for future good handwriting; but I wouldn’t even use those yet, but next year when he’s closer to 6.

    Pre-K materials:

    Also, a company called Lauri Toys has wonderful materials for this age which develop great hand and finger control. Their stuff is excellent.


    In my opinion, 4 is very young to be doing handwriting exercises, especially for a boy. I think his grip and motor skills will naturally develop over the next year.


    I agree with others. I’m not having my 4yo write formally yet, although she does write a few letters of her name on the magna-doodle from time to time.  She writes the letters VERY LARGE and not neatly, but for now I am okay with that.  When she wants to do something for “school” during her older brother’s  formal lessons, I hand her pre-school worksheets I printed out online that have dots to trace with straight lines or zig zag lines (arrows show that she is supposed to start at the top and write it down).  She is no where near ready to write or trace letters neatly.  She likes to  I am not worried about it.  My ds is 6, and while he can write all his upper and lower case letters, they are not too neat, so I am just having him do 5-10 minutes of copywork/day concentrating on copying each letter neatly and with proper spacing.  After 5-10 minutes (which is about 1-2 sentences or less), his letters start to get sloppy, and I make him stop at that point even if he wants to continue.  


    I feel horrible, but relieved at the same time. Thank you all for what is truly common sense. I guess I misunderstood the early years guide, where it says for the 4 year old to write upper and lower case letters. I am actually still confused, because wouldn’t he need to do the lessons that teach him how write strokes, in order to write the upper and lower case letters? Or am I dreadfully missing something…or maybe I’m just over thinking this.


    Most children will want to write letters that are meaningful to them, like the letters in his name. But on unlined paper. You could peak his interest in the alphabet with alphabet books from the library or simple games. And then when his fine motor skills have developed more, try lessons again. I second the playdoh suggestion. My dc love to roll it into ropes and then cut it with scissors.


    I think on the early years guide it refers to using a chalkboard or poster board.  Large letters with a big chunk of chalk (we sometimes use sidewalk chalk) is a very different thing than small letters on paper with a pencil.  Even then, I wouldn’t worry about it unless the child was expressing interest.  Because she asked for it and was motivated, my DD was printing all the letters before she was 5, and learned cursive when she was six, but she is a very crafty kind of kid who spent hours colouring at an early age.  Boys are almost always later in developing their fine motor skills.  They are busy developing other skills at this age!  The early years guide just gives general guidelines and ideas.  Tailor it to your own child.




    You can teach him how to make the strokes by telling him how you are making the letter while you are doing it and these two things have been helpful in our house for this:

    My dds 5 and 3 love the tupperware tupperware deviled egg container I found in the thrift shop for $.25 that has 2 sections in it.  I removed the egg holders (what wonderful containers for mixing watercolors in) and put sand in both sides of the divider.  I can pull the lid off, make a letter in my side, let them try it in their side and then gently shake to erase.  Put the lid on and it is safe.  You can use any kind of container with a lid for this, btw.

    Another fun way to teach is to cut out sand paper letters, tape to the wall or paper and use a finger to trace.  The “tactileness” of it will show those muscles what to do. 😉 


    My ds and dd are very different. With ds we did alot of using playdough, gel packs, sand, letter tiles, blackboard, rocks anything reaaly that you can use to form a letter shape. When he would try to write he would prees hard and strain his hands, break pencils and reaaly dislikes writing. Ds is now 10 and is very good at typing. He does do copywork still now. He will do a small amount each day. BUT when it is meaningful like a note or letter etc he does it quite well. In the early days he would hold his pencil ‘wrong and form letters backwards (still does sometimes) but I’ve let him find what is comfortable for him and he is starting to write very nicely. I will keep helping him with this but I think for some children especially boys it can seem a much harder thing to get beautiful and flowing. Handwriting is his difficult skill, but can confidently say not pushing it has made all the difference.

    DD4 almost 5 is a natural and holds her pencil perfectly and forms her letters beautifully and will pick up handwriting much easier than her brother. She is already wanting to write on her own instead of copying over dotted lines. We still do the above hands on approach to developing letters she jus seems to have better fine motor skills than her older brother. 

    It will happen. Guides are only that and all or children are so different.

    Warmest wishes, Renelle


    Sonya Shafer

    Yes, with young children, let them learn how the letters are formed when they show a desire to learn, but let them use their large motor muscles first by writing in sand or a pan of raw rice or on a chalkboard or white board. Learning the strokes and letters doesn’t have to mean pencil and paper. You can even make a game of it by writing a letter they have learned in the air and seeing if they can identify it, though it’s not actually showing. 


    Handwriting without tears has some GREAT resources for pre k and getting them ready for handwriting! So far my first grader LOVES HWWT!

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