By: Meghan Matusiak, MS OTR/L

Handwriting skills require many components, including fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and visual perceptual skills.  In occupational therapy, we place the focus on the causal difficulties that lead to poor handwriting in order to reach our goals.

Below you will find a list of effective multisensory strategies to use for improving handwriting skills for letter formation/letter construction and letter sizing for children with sensory processing disorders that you can try at home.

Letter Formation and Letter Construction

Proper letter formation and letter construction are extremely important when working on a child’s handwriting. Letter formation refers to how the letters look. Ask yourself: Are the letters legible? Are there any reversals? Are the letters and marks clear and easy to see? Letter construction is how a child produces each letter. Where do they start when writing a letter? Do they make strokes in an inefficient or efficient manner?

When children practice making letters in an atypical way over a period of time, they create habits that become difficult to break. As they get older, handwriting expectations in the classroom intensify. They are required to write paragraphs and stories and take notes on what the teacher is explaining. Poor writing habits related to letter formation and construction make it very difficult for children to keep up with their peers, which results in slow, inefficient writing.  

Here are some fun activities/strategies to use when practicing handwriting at home:

  1. Have your child practice writing individual letters (capitals first, lowercase second) in sand or shaving cream for a multisensory activity. Not only will they be working on their letters, but this activity will create a fun and messy experience.   
  2. Download apps that produce auditory and/or visual feedback as children practice tracing or forming the letters. This will help the child learn when a letter is incorrectly formatted or constructed, as well as give positive reinforcement when correctly made.
    • Examples of apps:  iTrace, Letter School, and iWriteWords
  3. Draw starting points (e.g., dots with crayon or marker or small stickers) for each letter to indicate where the letter should start.

Letter Size

Developing proper letter formation and construction of capital letters is the first step of handwriting development. Next, the child learns how to format and construct lowercase letters. These letters not only incorporate “tall” components of the letter, but also “short” and “tail” components.

Children’s spatial awareness is a common problem when adding these new dimensions. They may have a difficult time knowing how to make their letters fit the designated area in which they are writing.

Below is a list of strategies to help your child improve letter sizing and spatial awareness.

  1. Use different types of paper to provide sensory feedback.
    • Raised line paper: provides proprioceptive feedback when the pencil touches the line.
    • Highlight paper: provides a visual border for where letters should start and stop.
    • Handwriting Without Tears Block Paper: boxes are given for individual letters or words, providing a simple visual boundary.
  2. If these special types of paper are unavailable, create lines using a colored marker to form a top and baseline. When the child uses a different colored marker, they will be provided with visual feedback when they have reached the bottom line.

If you would like more ideas or want to hear how an occupational therapist can help your child, please contact us or leave a comment below!