Writing drills are one of the best ways to master letter formation. It’s why we had to write letters (and words) over and over again in exercise books as students, and why our children are still doing the same now.
However, if you, like me, have a child too young to hold a pencil properly or/and another who has handwriting difficulties, then you need to find ways to teach them letter shapes without doing writing exercises.
Multi-sensory activities are best, with the most entertaining being sand-writing. Those of you fortunate enough to live near a beach or a playground with sand can get your child to draw shapes and letters in the sand as part of play time. He can trace in the sand with his forefinger, or “write” big letters with a stick. For those who don’t have easy access to sand in public places, you can make a mini sand-box by filling a shallow, wide container (ideally one with an airtight lid) with sand. Art Friend sells sand in different colours, so you can pick your child’s favourite!
Sand-boxes are also really good for hiding things in for your child to find. Create treasure hunts for hidden foam or plastic letters or little objects starting with different letter sounds. But remember to have a vacuum cleaner ready for clean-up after use!
Some teachers also empty a tube of coloured hair gel into a ziplock bag to make a quick, tactile writing pad. Make sure the ziplock bag is sealed tightly though!
All children love peeling and pasting stickers, so pasting stickers around a letter shape is an easy and hard-to-resist activity for them. This is a fun exercise that also trains their fine motor skills. After the child has finished pasting the stickers, get them to trace over the shape of the letter with their finger for some tactile feedback.
Another of my kids’ favourite is to stamp (or “chop”) randomly all over my clean white paper. If your children are the same, you can direct their stamping-mania by getting them to stamp out letter shapes.
One other activity that trains your little one’s pincer grip and hand-eye coordination is … single hole punching! Single hole punches are a little harder to find than two hole punches, but they are perfect for exercising those finger muscles. Again, you can get your little one to punch out outlines on paper.
We have created a set of activities that incorporates all the above modalities – stickers, stamping and hole punching, as well as colouring and cut-&-paste. Three different types of exercises per letter! We have designed these to be visual discrimination exercises – “can you find the hidden letter?” – and made the book photocopiable so you can repeat the exercises with other children in the family or classroom, or repeat the same activity with your child weekly as a refresher.
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