Child-Sized Paper and
Today's Snack: One full-sized,
peeled carrot and one baby carrot; ask your child to pretend to scribble with
each of them, to see which is easiest to use. Then eat!
Large, chunky pencil with heavy
eraser on the end
Small golf pencils
You know those big, heavy, chunky pencils that little kids
often are given for their early writing experiences?
And you know those adorable sheets of lined paper, where the
lines are a generous inch apart to give the little darlin's plenty of leeway in
forming their first letters?
Yeah. Well. They're both bad ideas.
Occupational therapists who study
what's best for fine-motor skills, especially handwriting, would tell you that
a child does best with child-sized paper and pencil.
That means that what's commonly
labeled as "third-grade" paper, with lines about a half-inch apart, is actually
better suited to small children just starting out writing their letters.
And golf pencils, or lightweight No.
2 pencils broken in half, are better than the double- or triple-weight and
relatively long pencils that so many children struggle to control.
Don't believe it? Well, compare the
size of your hand to the size of a 5-year-old's. Now take a hold of something
that's proportional to your hand, the way one of those long, heavy pencils is
proportional to the child's. Maybe a wooden ruler is the closest you can come.
Pretend to write with that in your hand, and you'll see how awkward it is. Feel
how the top one-third kind of waggles to and fro? Are you focusing on the line
you're making, or holding the top of the pencil steady?
Similarly, when kiddie paper has
lines an inch apart, the children's eyes can't keep up with the strokes their
hands must make to form letters that tall. Many of them resort to "drawing" the
letters - doubling back and repairing crooked lines, or filling in space. That
makes their penmanship more of an art project than the swift, firm handwriting
strokes it's supposed to be. If that keeps up for long, you're setting that
child up for dyslexia and dysgraphia - not a pretty picture, no matter how big
(or small) you slice it.
The idea is to make handwriting as
simple as possible, so that the child's own letters will resemble the letters
in text, and he or she will recognize them more quickly, and be off on the
highway to great reading sooner. Don't put up speed bumps and stop signs; give
'em the green light with the right-sized writing tools.
With short pencils and short,
lightweight crayons, give your young child as much experience with scribbling
on unlined paper just as often as you can. It not only builds the child's
confidence and excitement about creating communications on paper - it develops
the fine-muscle coordination and hand strength your child will need for
handwriting! They may LOOK like meaningless scribbles . . . but they're
actually very, very positive and good for your child.