How to improve or teach handwriting in small, easy steps.

Have you ever scratched you head wondering how you would improve your child’s writing? Has not knowing where to begin put you off? Have you started and given up in a state of confusion with it all? If you answer yes or maybe to any of these then click on the link below. I have created a handout that should tell you pretty much all you need to know. I explain how to hold a pencil, position your paper, how to form and where to place letter on a line and a suggested order of letter learning.

I have a motto that I make my class repeat “Perfect practice makes perfect!” In other words, write less but write better. Don’t write 10 lines quickly, it is much better to write two lines slowly and perfectly. Children rarely object to practicing when they know that they don’t have to do the whole page!

If you would like to download some free Handwriting Paper to use please click on the image below:

If your child is learning to write for the first time you will probably need wider lines. Please click on the image below:

I have taught many, many children to write and know that it is not always an easy task. It takes lots of time and practice. It you take it slowly and systematically you usually win in the end 🙂

Learning to write in playdough!

Playdough is a fun, multi-sensory way to learn or practice letter formation. I have been using it for years to teach beginning writers how to form their letters

Just “write” the letter in the playdough (write it quite deeply to create a groove for your child  to follow).

Both of you then hold the pencil and you guide your child’s hand around the letter while saying its name.

Your child is seeing, hearing and feeling the letter. (Research has shown that the more senses the easier it is for a child to learn.).

After a while your child will able to write the letter without your guiding hand. It’s so much easier to write in playdough than on paper.

Why not give it a go!

The Nuts and Bolts of Writing!

Montessori Practical Life Activity: Nuts and Bolts

This is another simple, yet effective Montessori Material.  I purchased all the nuts and bolts for less than 3Euro in Dermot Kehoe’s, my local Hardware Shop. You can purchase very chunky ones for beginners and narrower ones as they advance.

Age group: 3-6years

Choose the diameter of your nuts and bolts to match your child’s age/ability. Start chunky and replace them narrower ones over time.

What does my child gain from using this?

  • Your child will strengthen the two fingers that hold a pencil (thumb and pointer finger).
  • It will improve his/her visual discrimination. With practice your child will recognise the correct nut to use just by looking at it.
  • It develops concentration and an ability to work independently.
  • For a young  child he/she is forced into deciding their ‘handedness’ (which hand is easiest to hold the bolt and which hand to thread the nut with).

How to prepare this game:

Prepare your tray by placing the bolts in a container on the left-hand side and the nuts in a container on the right-hand side.

How to introduce the material:

  1. Quietly model using the materials
  2. Observe and assist your child
  3. Leave your child to learn from the material

(for more detailed instruction on how to present Montessori Materials please visit my blog “Clothes Pegs to Develop Pre-Writing Skills”).

How to play:

One at a time, you need to find and screw the correct nut onto each bolt.

When you are finished  you need to unscrew each nut, one at a time, and return them to their containers.

Very important note:

All materials remain in the containers unless you are actually using them.

Children are encouraged to complete tasks. If five bolts is too many for your child you can reduce the number.

Have fun 🙂

Clothes Pegs to develop pre-writing skills

Clothes Pegs

Opening and closing clothes pegs is a fantastic way of developing a pincer grip, to help future pencil control and grip. (A pincer grip is when we use our thumb and pointer finger to hold items).

This Montessori Activity is designed to encourage children to develop their pincer grasp and finger muscles, and to improve their hand-eye coordination.

How to prepare this game:

  • Attach pegs all around the container, leaving a small space between them.
  • Count these pegs into a container for your child to use and take away the rest.

You may discover that your container toppled over, oops!  Usually heavy plastic bowls or melamine are best. You will find the perfect one through trial and error.

To play:

The aim of the game is to try and place all of their pegs around the bowl.

Pegs are then removed, one at a time, and returned  to their original container.

(Your child may not manage to attach all of the pegs to begin with. This may be a result of their hand tiring or because they found it difficult to coordinate their actions. Remember, practice makes perfect.)

Very important notes:

Try and set this game up so the container of pegs is to the left of your child. This will help to internalize left-right orientation (the reading and writing direction). By passing their hand across their mid-line (or belly button) your child will engage both the right and left hemispheres of their brain.

Montessori stresses very strongly that you should show a child how to use materials and then walk away and allow them to practice it for themselves. An activity such as this demands lots and lots of concentration and practice. By staying with your child you are not actually helping them at all.

How to introduce the game:

Step 1: You model the game

Without talking (that’s the trickiest bit!), place the container of pegs to the left and the empty bowl in front of you.

Start attaching the pegs around the bowl.

When you have used all your pegs  start removing them, one by one , and returning them to their original box.

Step 2: Observe your child

Ask your child to see if they can attach and remove the pegs the same way you did.

Observe, smile, but don’t chat apart from giving some verbal reinforcers (well done! keep it up!)

Encourage your child to see how many pegs are still left in the box. Explain that with practice they will learn to empty the bowl ;).

Step 3: Leave your child learn from the material

Now that your child knows what to do you should just leave them alone to play and learn.

It’s that simple and ridiculously good for hands!

It’s also a transferable skill to your washing line if you need some help in the future. Sneaky, eh?


Alphabet Writing Card Review

Learn Together Alphabet Cards

I picked these up in Tesco this morning when doing my grocery shop. They only cost 3euro 30 cent.

They are dry-erase cards and wipe clean for re-use. ( You can buy another  whiteboard marker when the original dries out.)

What I really like about these cards is the fact that there is a dotted line to show you where to start writing lowercase letters.

All capital letters start at the top of a line, but most lowercase letters begin in the middle of a line.

You can also go on a “Letter Hunt” and look for letters in words. I went hunting for the Letter A and found lots of them in kangaroo 🙂

It is a fun way to train your child to look at words in very close detail.

You could keep a tally and find you the most frequently occurring letters in words. (Two for the price of one in this activity: phonics and maths, cheeky!)

Paint Bag Spelling

Paint Doodles

Another way to practice spelling and not a pencil in sight 🙂

Squirt a very small amount of  Poster Paint into a  large zip-lock bag.

Seal the bag making sure there is no air trapped inside. (You might want to use insulating or duct tape to make it tamper-resistant from tiny hands!)

Smoosh the paint around the bag and get writing with your fingertip or a cotton bud.

Rub the paint around to erase your doodles.

Easy peasy, eh?

This games keeps for a very long time if you use a good quality, sturdy bag.

Pretty simple, cheap and lots of fun:).

Note: Toddlers would just love to to draw and doodle with this.Tape it to a flat surface using masking tape to keep it in place. It would also be a fun way to learn to write your own name.


How to hold a pencil

First, pick up a pencil…

Look at how you are holding it.

Compare your grip to the photo. Does it match? You should only see two fingers  on top.

Congratulations if you got it right. Poor pencil grips are threatening to take over the world, trust me.


Here’s a little rhyme that I use with my class to help them remember how 🙂

“First your pointer. Then your thumb.

Give a little squeeze.

Hide the other underneath and

writing is a breeze!”