Signs & Symptoms


Is your child using sloppy handwriting?

Does your child have poor or illegible handwriting? She may become frustrated and have crinkled papers all over her desk. Alternately, he may not realize his handwriting is so sloppy and may be surprised when no one can read it. Children with poor penmanship may write ill formed letters that are hard to read. Some of the issues may  be:

  • The letters may be all different sizes
  • Capital letters may be strewn about with lowercase letters
  • The words may be slanted on the page, failing to touch the lines
  • The child’s ‘g’ may not dip below the line
  • The child’s ‘H’ may fail to touch the top of the line
  • The pressure on the page may be too light or too hard
  • Too much or little space may be present between letters and words

Your child with handwriting problems may also have trouble copying from the board or transferring information from one place to another. Your child may hate to write and seem to get much less down on paper then he or she wants to say. He or she may seem inattentive, rushed, or very slow in working style. Your child may seem to exert extraordinary effort to do writing tasks. Sometimes, they may refuse or avoid writing tasks; other times, it may take them a very long time to write short sentences.

What do challenges with Handwriting look like?

  • Using illegible handwriting?
  • Getting frustrated while writing?
  • Hearing from the teacher that she can’t read his work?
  • Rushing through writing tasks?
  • Getting work turned back to re-do because it’s too messy?
  • Feeling very frustrated when she has to write a lot?
  • Refusing writing tasks?
  • Handwriting slow and laborious?
  • Holding the pencil in an ‘awkward’ way?
  • Writing really big or really small?

Why is Handwriting happening?

Fine Motor delays: Fine motor is the coordination skills required to complete smaller, complex movements with the hands and fingers. With younger children in preschool and kindergarten, fine motor skills may be a bit behind due to lack of exposure and practice. This delay is not cause for concern. Preference for gross motor activities: Some children who are more drawn to gross motor activities, such as running and riding a bike, rather than coloring and drawing, may simply not have enough practice with grasping a pencil or crayon. These concerns can be remedied with proper time and attention. However, if the child is becoming so frustrated and slow with his or her writing that these challenges are truly getting in the way, it may be worthwhile to consult with an occupational therapist.

How can I manage Handwriting at home?

In the younger grades, at least from kindergarten through third grade, it is important to put interventions in place to make sure your child knows how to write. Poor or illegible handwriting could have life-long effects.

Try different types of pencils and paper. Giving your child a variety of options can help make handwriting less laborious. Writing on a vertical surface helps work on many skills contributing to handwriting, including:

  • Wrist extension
  • Pencil grasp
  • Shoulder and elbow stability
  • Posture

Try writing on a whiteboard or drawing letters in the sand. Handwriting without tears [1] is an excellent program for working on letter formation and general writing skills. Generally, with practice and repetition, a child’s handwriting will improve.

Suggestions to help with your child’s handwriting


Too much pressure

  • Practice writing on tissue paper
  • Try writing on paper placed on top of a piece of Styrofoam or carpet while trying to not tear or poke any holes
  • Try learning to color the same picture light, medium, and dark to increase awareness of pressure
  • Try writing with a mechanical pencil as it will break easily if too much pressure if applied.
  • Try writing words lightly and erase them with the goal being to not leave any marks

Too little pressure

  • Practice writing on a carbon copy or color scratch paper
  • Practice fine motor activities to strengthen the hands, such as hole-punching, clothespins or tongs
  • Practice using a weighted pencil
  • Practice writing with a golf tee in putty

Body Awareness (warm up exercises)

  • Squeeze stress balls
  • Try wall push-ups
  • Roll playdoh into snakes
  • Push finger tips together
  • Try crabwalks, wheelbarrow walks, or bear walks

Handwriting grasp (promoting the mature dynamic tripod grasp with thumb, index and middle finger with open web space)

  • Utilize toys with tongs
  • Color with short/broken crayons
  • Pop packing bubbles with tripod grasp
  • Write on a vertical surface
  • Use a variety of pencil grips


  • Practice keeping feet flat on the ground, knees, and hips at 90 degrees, paper tilted (25 to 30 degrees to the left of midline for right-handed students and 30 to 35 degrees for left-handed students) [2]
  • Keep table surface 2 inches above flexed elbows when seated, and stabilize paper with non-dominant hand [2]

Visual Motor Integration

  • Try using stencils
  • Try grid drawings
  • Try mazes

In the older grades, handwriting is much less important than content. Once your child is in middle school or beyond, focus those resources on typing and dictation. Google or Dragon Dictation offers a chance for your child to speak what he wishes to write and then to edit this text on the computer. Typing and speaking more lengthy text can save lots of time and will be more practical as your child gets older.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Handwriting?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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Our Free Discovery Session is a 20-minute consultation where we can talk one-on-one about the concerns and questions you have about your child.

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Once we understand your child’s needs, we will help families get connected to the right specialists. No more guesswork, no more wasted time and resources.

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