Handwriting Lessons

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  • dmccall3

    Hi all!

    My son is 4 years old. I haven’t done much schoolwork with him up until now. I sat down with him this morning for his first handwriting lesson since I know he can write a few things (his name, his sister’s name, etc). I wanted to see how many letters he could write on a dry erase board. I went through the alphabet and had him write each letter after me. I was at a whiteboard on the wall and he was sitting at his own whiteboard. I went through upper-case then lower-case. He wrote all of the letters to a recognizable degree, some better than others. My question is… How much guidance do you give in how it is actually written, as in where they start and finish the letter at this age? For example, start at the upper left and draw a line down instead of drawing the line from the bottom to the top. Etc. And how picky are you at this age at getting it really nice and neat? I’m happy with him just being exposed and beginning to get a feel for it but I also don’t want him to get into bad habits. I did correct the direction of the s and z but didn’t make him stop going from bottom to top when writing it. What is your advice?




    I would correct any mistakes that you see right away. That way he doesn’t get into a habit of forming his letters the wrong way.


    Thanks! Does that include situations like:

    – Let’s use the letter O for example. It was definitely a circle but it wasn’t a beautiful, smooth, perfect circle. It was a little squiggly. Would you correct that?

    – Let’s also say I’d draw an O clockwise but he went counterclockwise. Or the line for the D: I would draw it top to bottom but he drew it bottom to top. Would you correct that?

    Would you even be messing with handwriting at 4? The only reason I did this with him today is because he’ll go around writing letters and I wanted to see what he already knew. I don’t see any reason to actually have lessons except, like you say, he may get into a habit of forming his letters the wrong way. I also noticed on the SCM Early Years guide that teaching them to write their upper and lower case letters on a whiteboard was something to do with them. I wonder if he’s good on his writing at this age and maybe I should ignore it until a later time. Or maybe we could do letter activities where we focus on the writing of each one separately making sure we write it properly, start to finish. These are just some thoughts running through my head at the moment.

    Thanks again!



    If he’s interested in writing, I don’t think it hurts to start him on a little bit of handwriting, but I certainly wouldn’t push it hard at this age, especially if he starts balking. I am using these tracing sheets with my ds who is almost 4 – I print them and put them in page protectors, and then he can do them over and over again with whiteboard markers…


    (scroll down to get the file for each letter – I am only using the ABC tracers though. I like these because there is a green dot that shows where to start and a red dot where to stop so we are getting into good formation habits from the beginning.)

    Or here’s another set of alphabet tracers which are a little smaller than the above…






    Just thought I’d throw this out there, I know it is a DVD and personal attention is obviously better. But, if you start getting some resistance from him from any correction you are giving, this DVD is wonderful. It was made by an occupational therapist and it shows the children how to sit properly, how to hold the pencil properly and how to form each letter correctly. Her voice is very soothing. After several letters, she takes a “drawing break” and shows you how to turn a letter into a pictures. It is really fun. You could even sit down next to him and practice, or if you have older ones, it’s a nice thing for a younger child to do while you work with your older ones. There is a print DVD and a cursive one.



    It is much easier to teach the kids to form the letters properly from the beginning than to undo bad habits later. This is the same principle as applies to any habit training. My young ones often start writing on their own, incorrectly forming letters bottom to top or clockwise instead of counter clockwise. This is my cue to gently begin instruction. How the letters are formed matters for simplicity, fatigue, cursive transition, etc.

    The simplest method I’ve seen for print is Handwriting Without Tears workbooks. For cursive first, which I do, I like Pencil Pete or Donna Young’s letter animations or the Cursive First program.

    HTH. Christie


    Thanks everyone! 🙂


    Meghan Kuhn

    Hi Dana,

    I know you posted this awhile ago but I thought I’d share anyways.  I’m an occupational therapist who works with kids in the school districts on writing and penmanship. 

    The muscles of the hand don’t really finish developing to allow for the precision of writing until 6-7 years old.   So with my kids (almost 4 and 2), I’m only doing written work as they are interested with a focus on drawing.  When using utensils we almost never use pencils and I always use the fat crayon/markers so their hands don’t have to work so hard. 

    You should definitely correct errors now and not just let things go.  Kids very easily develop bad habits, so why make more work for yourself later.  I actually don’t allow my son to use any writing/coloring utensils unless he is using the correct grasp.  I literally take the utensil away if he refused to correct it. 

    Also, you should have your child use an easel to do their written work or coloring.  It encourages top to bottom motions and further develops the should, arm, and hand muscles. 

    The program I like most is called Handwriting Without Tears, they have a great website and I love their materials.  I use them almost exclusively at work and will be using them with all my own children.

    Hope these help.


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