Here’s a round up of some of my top tips on how to fix messy handwriting. These handwriting tips go beyond the usual handwriting practice exercises and get to the real issues underlying illegible handwriting.
Help your children go from sloppy, unreadable handwriting to clear, legible handwriting that they can use for school, at home and in the real world.
Prefer to watch this content? Click the play button on my video below!
Tip #1: The Secret of How to Fix Messy Handwriting
I’m going to share a secret with you, so come close.
The secret to legible handwriting is letter size and don’t forget it!
Letters can be grouped into 3 sizes.
But our kids don’t automatically learn letter size or with magic wands and flying unicorns. We have to teach letter size to them.
Just like we have to teach them spacing.
Just like we have to teach them how to properly hold a pencil.
Just like we have to teach them that one block plus two blocks are three blocks.
These are all foundational skills.
- Make sure we are very specific when teaching letter size. Let’s not assume that they will just notice the difference in letter size. Y’all, if their visual perceptual skills are off just even by a little bit. They might not get that “e” has to be smaller than the letter “f.” So make sure we teach it and go over it again and again.
- Let’s give them plenty of opportunities to experience letter size. Right? Let’s not have them learn it at the same time as we’re having them write it. There are a million different activities you can do to teach it, but just know that the more they experience it the more it’s going to stick with them.
- I’m the OT so you know I am all about multi-sensory experiences. Give them everything you got- shaving cream, outside, chalk, rocks, whatever you got let them experience it. Let them have multi-sensory experiences and be specific and implicit when you are talking to them about letter size.
So I know when we get tips like these we’re all like, “Oh, these are so great! I’m going to do them.” But I also know our brains are programmed to forget.
I’ve got you covered. I have a cheat sheet all about letter size that’s included with my FREE Handwriting Resource Guide, over 30+ pages of strategies and tips on how to fix messy handwriting!
Tip #2: Is Your Child Really “Just Being Lazy?”
Have you ever thought your child was just being super lazy because of all their handwriting problems? You know that they can write better, neater and legibly because they’ve done it in the past, right?
“They’ve done it before so clearly, they’re just being lazy.”
Just for the record, I usually don’t think the kids are being lazy.
It’s an important message to get across because we cannot help or fix “lazy.”
Click here to watch the full video and read the blogpost on Your Lazy Writer and My Turkey Dinner.
Whenever I talk with parents about the handwriting problems their child is having, and they say he or she must just be “LAZY,” I start thinking about Thanksgiving Dinner.
What does a turkey dinner have to do with handwriting problems, you might ask. I promise you, there is a connection! 🦃
Some of you might be, you know, your own little Barefoot Contessa or Martha Stewart and you LOVE Thanksgiving and cooking up turkey dinners.
Me? I would rather rip off a toenail than have to cook an entire Thanksgiving Dinner.
I do not cook 🚫 Thanksgiving dinner. I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner and we do eat turkey, mashed potatoes and all the good stuff.
We just get to it in a different way.
Could I cook a Thanksgiving Dinner? Of course, I could do it.
Would it be super hard? Um, yeah, it would be super hard. I would probably have to practice, more than a week. I’d have to practice making the turkey, making sure it comes out right so that you don’t ruin Thanksgiving dinner with a raw bird or a burned one.
So could I do it? Yes. But I won’t. It’s so much effort for me that I won’t.
Am I being lazy? I don’t think I’m being lazy. I’m being efficient. I’d rather spend my time doing other things. And lucky for me I have the choice to ask guests to contribute or to order from Fresh Market.
Now here’s the connection with our “lazy” kids and their handwriting problems.
Unfortunately, our kiddos don’t have the CHOICE when it comes to doing things that are really difficult: Thanksgiving Dinner difficult.
I want you to think of this “Thanksgiving Dinner” analogy whenever you think your kids are being LAZY:
- The kids aren’t being lazy. It’s just probably really hard for them to write neatly, copy from the board, think and get their ideas on paper, make their letters legible, ___________ (fill in the blank with whatever the thing is that your child is struggling with)
- Just like I have to work at 200% effort to get that turkey dinner on the table, your kids, whether it’s handwriting or anything else, have to work at 200% to do something that’s hard for them.
- Our brain is programmed to be efficient. Hence why I skip the cooking of the entire Thanksgiving Dinner and why your child will rush through writing tasks, avoid writing, write very little or write illegibly.
Tip #3: How to Fix Messy Handwriting for the Child Who Refuses to Write
Kids that struggle, whether it be with messy handwriting or any other area, tend to fall in three categories.
The first category of kids are those that just refuse to write; they are “on strike.” And it’s really heartbreaking because this attitude has developed out of feelings of defeat. These kids know they are struggling. They feel hopeless to make any progress because they’ve tried before and nothing has changed. So they just stop trying and refuse to do anything.
For these kids, it has become a confidence issue. The best way to approach these kids is first to back off and then to create opportunities for small wins. Remember, what’s behind this wall of refusal is actually a lack of confidence.
Start with some modifications like dictation. If they’re an older child, you can write the beginning of the sentence and have them write the last words. Whatever you do, you want to be super intentional and super specific that they’re going to come out winning.
Once their confidence has been built up, you can start slowly introducing strategies to improve their handwriting.
Tip #4: How to Fix Messy Handwriting: DO NOT SAY THIS
One of the things that we always say is, “Hey, that’s super messy.” The reason it doesn’t work is that “messy” is relative, right?
What’s messy for me might be really neat for you. What’s nice and neat for me might be a disaster for you, right? Vice versa. It’s relative.
What we can do is change our feedback to be specific. Try saying “Hey, when we’re doing our homework today or when we’re writing the note to grandma, make sure you leave spaces on each side so you have a margin.” or “Make sure you skip a line. So it’s easier to read. “
Find out what else you should STOP saying to your kids in this blogpost, plus get access to my FREE cheat sheet on What Not to Say!
More Resources on How to Fix Messy Handwriting
My Legible Handwriting for Kids (LHK) Program is opening very soon! This step-by-step course is specifically designed for your writer that has a hard time being fluent and has a hard time keeping up with writing. Get on the waitlist for the LHK Program by signing up here!
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