Little girl writing with pencil

Cursive Handwriting Help (a website tip)

Handwriting can be a real struggle for children to learn.  Schools promote the skill of keyboarding, while downplaying handwriting in general – and cursive handwriting in particular.

Yet scientific studies have shown that handwriting is extremely important for learning:

We [the researchers] conclude that because of the benefits of sensory-motor integration due to the larger involvement of the senses as well as fine and precisely controlled hand movements when writing by hand and when drawing, it is vital to maintain both activities in a learning environment to facilitate and optimize learning.

Askvik, van der Weel, Van der Meer, The Importance of Cursive Handwriting Over Typewriting for Learning in the Classroom: A High-Density EEG Study of 12-Year-Old Children and Young Adults

They highlight the importance of cursive writing in particular:

Cursive writing is a complex and central cultural skill (Kersey and James, 2013Kiefer et al., 2015), involving many brain systems and the integration of both motor and perceptual skills (Vinci-Booher et al., 2016Thibon et al., 2018).
Thus, cursive writing has been considered an essential precursor for further academic success (Fears and Lockman, 2018) . . .


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Cursive first

In authentic Montessori schools, the children learn cursive handwriting before print.  There are specific materials that formally help with this, including the Sandpaper Letters.  The children learn to individually trace with their fingers the form of each letter before putting pencil to paper.  But there is even a lot of preparatory work before this point.

Children work on developing their fine motor strength and skills with Practical Life Activities: learning how to hold a spoon, to manipulate tweezers, to pour.  Sensorial materials, such as the Knobbed Cylinders, also encourage practicing the pincer grasp that will translate over to the proper 3-finger pencil grip, and the much-loved Metal Insets offer opportunities for tracing of straight lines and curves.

At home

At home, you can offer similar opportunities.  When your child starts eating o-type cereal, you can show your child how to pick up each o carefully with the thumb, second, and third fingers, with the fourth and fifth fingers bent in toward the palm, rather than allowing your child to grab them by the handful.  (Maybe this level of detail and precision in eating sounds crazy to you, but at this stage of development, your child is very eager to learn from you by imitation.  If you take the time to teach your child this, you may be surprised at how quickly your child will catch on.)

But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of putting pencil to paper, how you can provide your child with cursive handwriting practice?

Whether you homeschool or your child attends a school, your child can likely benefit from practicing handwriting.

A handwriting website tip

Years ago, I found this excellent handwriting practice generator with a lot of options to customize the page, including:

  • font type
  • letter style
  • letter size

My two most favorite features are being able to choose a Hollow/Outline style for the letters and being able to repeat the same text per line or having different text on the page.

To save on paper, we insert the handwriting practice pages into dry erase pockets and use fine tip dry erase markers. Some of my children struggled with tracing letters when in the form of dotted lines, but they had no trouble when I switched to the hollow outlines. Try starting with the Large or Medium size letters, and see what size your child prefers. As handwriting improves, move to a smaller letter size.

Cursive handwriting is rare . . .

Our children once overheard the older volunteer ladies at our local thrift shop say, “These young people don’t even know how to read cursive anymore! They act like they’re seeing a foreign language.” If your young adult children want to make a good impression on a job interviewer, encourage them to send a cursive handwritten thank-you note.

And it even pays!

Good cursive handwriting stands out.  One of our daughters won a scholarship for college, and the comment we heard repeatedly was, “The cursive handwriting on her application was so beautiful!  We just don’t see handwriting like that anymore.”

Practically speaking, cursive handwriting seems to be easier for children to learn than print, because it’s more difficult to “get letters backwards”, the way it commonly happens when learning print letters. Also, because the letters in a single word flow together, children don’t struggle with letter spacing issues.

If your child hasn’t started handwriting yet, give cursive a try first. And if your child is only printing, introduce cursive as a fun next step. Add in fine tip markets, and your child may begin to actually enjoy handwriting practice.