Handwriting has been taught for centuries as a means of communication, but technology is changing the way we share information. You see the transition from paper to digital everywhere. Teachers give students the option to write or type their papers. Doctor offices ask you to fill out patient forms online in advance of your appointment.
And, your electronic signature can now be used on almost any legal document.

As a result, students and their parents often wonder why handwriting is still relevant. It’s a valid question. So, let’s examine the top 3 reasons why your child should study handwriting.

Handwriting Helps Develop Memory, Idea Expression & Fine Motor Skills

Handwriting – drawing sequential strokes to form letters – engages the brain in a different way than keyboarding.

Writing by hand requires a child to process information from multiple sources at one time. When they write, a child has to touch the paper; hold and move a pencil, pen or stylus; and translate their thoughts into letters, words and sentences.

On the other hand, keyboarding is muscle memory skill learned through repetition. It doesn’t require the same brain power as handwriting and a child doesn’t receive the same benefit from doing it.

According to studies conducted by the University of Indiana Cognition & Action Neuroimaging Lab, “Young children show adult-like brain responses to letters only after they learned to print letters, but not after learning letters through typing, visual study, or even tracing.”

Therefore, children have to write the letters to get the cognitive development benefits.

Handwriting of an 8-year-old student before handwriting instruction.

Computers Can Negatively Impact A Child’s Ability to Learn

When Carrie Fried, a researcher at Winona State University Psychology Department, examined the impact of using computers during class, she found that students using laptops didn’t do as well in school. “Results showed that students who used laptops in class spent considerable time multitasking and that the laptop use posed a significant distraction to both users and fellow students. Most importantly, the level of laptop use was negatively related to several measures of student learning, including a self-reported understanding of course material and overall course performance.”

Studies conducted by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer at Princeton came to a similar conclusion. The researchers found that “participants who took longhand notes and were able to study them performed significantly better than participants in any of the other conditions.”

The students who wrote their notes did better on academic tests than students who used a computer because the method of recording the information changes the way the student handles it.

After 3 sessions
of handwriting remediation!

Computers allow students to document what their teacher says with more speed and accuracy than writing. However, since they’re more likely to type the words verbatim, they may not process the information in a way that helps them learn it. Typing restricts a student’s ability to evaluate the information and put it into their own words. Processing and reframing the content leads to a better understanding of the material.

In addition, handwriting allows a student the freedom to take notes in a way – outlining, mind mapping, charting, etc. – that works best for the subject matter. Writing notes also allows a student to use shapes, pictures, and cues to highlight specific information. They can draw lines to link ideas, circle important points and add side notes when needed.

Children Who Can Write Legibly & Study Their Notes Perform Better in School

As stated in a study published by Frontiers in Psychology, children who can write legibly perform better in math and reading, get higher grades, and excel at standardized tests.

A child’s success doesn’t just hinge on their ability to write, it hinges on their ability to write legibly.

Legible handwriting is easier to read and understand. If a teacher or standardized test examiner can’t read what a student has written, the answer becomes meaningless. And if the child can’t read their notes, the notes become useless.

The ability to write legibly also creates less stress for the student. A child with strong handwriting skills doesn’t have to struggle with thinking about forming the letters. Instead, they can focus on answering the question and communicating their ideas.

Children who struggle with handwriting or writing legibly often experience frustration and embarrassment. They’re self-conscious about their inability to write and don’t want other children to make fun of them. And, because they can’t express themselves, they often become irritated and act out. They avoid writing and doing homework, and may not want to go to school.

Poor penmanship negatively impacts a child’s self-esteem and academic success, the ramifications of which reach well into their adulthood.

Conclusion: Handwriting is Critical to Your Child’s Success

Handwriting is more than putting letters on a piece of paper. It’s a fundamental skill that’s critical for your child’s cognitive development. Learning to handwrite affects your child’s memory as well as their ability to solve problems and make decisions.

Be supportive and encourage your child to write. Handwriting is a skill like reading or counting, in which you can participate actively.

If your child or teen is struggling with writing legibly, it’s never too late to learn! Poor handwriting skills can be easily fixed using evidence-based strategies.

Talk to a certified Handwriting Without Tears® specialist, like the pediatric occupational therapists at Skills 4 Life. They can walk you through what options are available to get your child back on track. The results could be life-changing.


About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com, or you can contact our office by email at karina@skills4lifeot.com or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.