My Child’s Handwriting Is So Messy

Does your five-year-old’s handwriting look something like this?

messy handwriting

Typical kindergartener's handwriting. Actually, this piece of writing was already a great improvement over this child's previous work.

QUESTION:  If my child has messy handwriting, should I make him practise more writing to improve it?

You’ll be able to give a knowledgeable answer by the end of this two-part series on children’s handwriting.

The first time your child scrawled his name on a piece of paper, you took a picture of it and posted it on facebook.  The second time he wrote his name, you showed it to your whole family, immediate and distant.  The third time, you praised him and dreamed of budding authors.  But as time went on, it became a norm and ceased to excite you.

After half a year, he’s writing more than just his name.  Now he’s putting together letters of the alphabet (albeit sometimes in random order!), and is “writing” on every piece of paper he can find.  He’s learning to spell and write more than just his name.  Now the thing is:  why can’t he write neatly???

Keep reading.  Knowing this is going to save you months and years of frustration.

The reason  why a child starts off with terrible handwriting is that his brain has not yet learned to fully control the muscles in his hands.  Learning to make small, precise movements with their hands takes learning–just like learning to ride a bike takes learning.  You might recall when your little one was born, that he used a fist grasp.  Whether it was his bottle or your finger that he was reaching for, he grasped everything in his fist.  Over time, he learned to pick things up with his first finger and thumb instead of his fist.  He was beginning to learn how to control smaller movements in his hands.

Eventually, he started experimenting with pencils and markers.  Learning how to draw a circle was no small feat for him!  It involves many areas of development:  controlling his arm and hand muscles, making his hand do what his brain wanted it to do, and coordinating his hand with his eye.  Somewhere along the line, he began to learn how to form letters.

Staying on a line while writing was nearly impossible for him at first.  If it happened, it was totally by chance.  But then, requiring him to do it at that age is like asking a toddler to tiptoe in a straight line.  Their development just does not allow for it.

The letters were uneven, just a suggestion of what they should have been.  Capitals and lowercase letters were all mixed together, and the words were always flying off the line.  Sometimes the letters were fat, other times they were thin.  Other times, the r‘s looked like n‘s and the i‘s had disproportionate dots that rather looked like heads on stick men.

Perhaps you have a child at this stage.  What should you do to help him?  Make him practice handwriting anyway?  Just wait it out?  Or don’t try until he gets older?  Stay tuned for some solid suggestions and tips in the next article.  I’ll see you again tomorrow!

Thank you for reading!  If this was helpful to you, feel free to share it with others!


3 thoughts on “My Child’s Handwriting Is So Messy

  1. I’m looking forward to read the next post! I know a little (or NOT so little) girl with messy handwriting! But she’s learning slowly. Any tips about how to write neat Chinese characters? :)

    • Hey Vic, thank you for reading! Actually I think most children start off with messy handwriting. It starts getting neater by the time they’re K2, but it’s not an overnight change.

      Chinese characters? The tips apply too, because it’s the same thing—the movements she needs to make to write are still complex and precise. :)

  2. Pingback: Another Fun Handwriting Idea | Teacher Suzannah

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