All the boys in my house are lefties…My hubby, my teenage son, and my kindergarten son. It makes for some elbow bumping at the dinner table–but that’s nothing compared to the struggle with handwriting! Teaching my left-handed children fine-motor skills (specifically handwriting) has been one of the more challenging tasks for this right-handed momma! I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, and I’m excited to share some tips for teaching your left handed child handwriting!
1. Slightly Angle the Paper
So for us righties…we typically write with our paper angled so that the top-right corner is slightly up. For our left-handed kids, we need to do the opposite! Set them up for writing with the top-left corner of the paper slightly angled upwards.
2. Keep an Example on the Right-Side
I began to notice that most worksheets or papers have the example on the left side of the page–which makes sense, because we read and write left to right! However, this is a problem for left handed children because their arm is covering up the example when they are writing! So I began showing my son where to start–the left side, but I also put an example on the other end of the line–on the right side. Now he can easily see it while he’s writing! I also try to remember to set any copywork or separate examples he is looking at, slightly off to the right side.
3. Proper Pencil Grip
Proper pencil grip has been the biggest challenge of teaching my left handed kids handwriting. All of my girls (all right handed) came out of the womb instinctively knowing how to hold pencils, crayons, markers, etc…There was no teaching involved. But my left handed boys–totally another story!
They both became very frustrated when I tried to help them hold their pencils properly…And even if they managed to get their fingers into place, they were using their entire arm to write!
My oldest son (now 18)–has very good handwriting. But. He holds his pencils in completely wonky ways. I have no idea how he does it. He’s a straight A student with super neat writing, so obviously he’s figured out how to adapt without ever figuring out how to hold a pencil properly. But I think it always made things just a bit harder. I remember it taking him so. long. to write things out! And I blame a lot of it on never getting his pencil grip quite right. We even went to a therapist at one point–who only offered that he needed to do hand strengthening exercises.
While I’m sure squeezing little balls and smushing play-doh is helpful for gaining hand and finger strength–it really never did the trick for helping him place his fingers properly on the pencil. Kids develop habits, and there was just no fixing his bad pencil grip habit.I was afraid we were headed down that same road with my kindergarten son–but then I found an amazing pencil grip training tool called Write-It-Left! It’s shaped like a fish–so immediately my son was intrigued and ready to give it a try! I did have to help him get his fingers placed on the grip the first few times–but WOW–he began writing better almost instantly.
He practiced drawing and writing with it for at least an hour the first time he tried it! The Write-It-Left pencil grip definitely exceeded my expectations. In addition, I was happy to see he was finally getting the idea of keeping his arm in place while only moving his fingers! I am so so excited about this product!
Ideas for Curriculum and Formal Practice
I’m a big fan of Handwriting Without Tears! I think it is a great curriculum for teaching and practicing correct letter formation.
Once we move beyond letter formation, I’ve always had my kids do copywork to practice handwriting. I love copywork because it helps kids develop several skills at once. They are learning spelling, grammar, and often memorizing bible verses, facts, or great quotes–all while also practicing penmanship!
(I have several sets of seasonal copywork available in my free resource library for subscribers! You can subscribe to my newsletter on this page–or grab some ABC Handwriting Pages to subscribe!)
Final Thoughts About Teaching Handwriting
I’m a big believer in gentle handwriting practice! It should not be done to excess, completely wearing kids out and causing them to dislike writing. If you see your child becoming frustrated–don’t feel like you have to finish an entire handwriting worksheet. Assign what is appropriate for your kiddo!
I’ve also found that kids take a little more ownership when you ask them to do some self-assessment. So for handwriting practice, I always ask my son to pick the letter (or number) he thinks looks best and circle it. Then I tell him which one is my favorite. He begins looking for his best work almost right away…”Mom, I think this is going to be the best one!”
And my final encouragement is this–you are doing great! Your child is getting a lot more individualized help with handwriting than they would receive in a typical classroom. There just is not time to get laser focused on individual handwriting problems in a classroom setting. (I know because I used to teach 2nd grade!) Just be patient–they will get it!