Practice spelling without a pencil!
Great for kids with messy writing!

Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Finder

Messy writing can affect your child's desire to practice spelling words. And it is easy to get frustrated when your child kicks up a fuss about having to practice spelling by writing lists of words.

These tips have helped other moms whose kids had messy writing, and I hope they help you, too! The tips are packed into the photo gallery below to inspire you even more!

alt textWith children in Grade 1-3, quite a bit of the pencil-and-paper work they do is repetitive drill – to practice spelling words, maths concepts etc.

Although they are expected to write the answer, the emphasis is actually on knowing how to spell the word, or how to work out the sum. If poor fine motor skills are causing messy writing, then it is tough for them to have to use a pencil just to practice spelling.

I have found that with this age group, when poor fine motor skills are causing messy writing, then it really helps to work on skills WITHOUT doing any paper-and-pencil tasks.

That means working on fine motor skills WITHOUT writing,

and giving opportunities to practice spelling WITHOUT writing.


Because, when your child has poor fine motor skills, he/she will struggle with pencil control. And that means that pencil-and-paper tasks are tiring and frustrating, which takes away from the actual ability to DO the work.

The chances are that your child is bright and understands exactly what the teacher wants; it is just that writing it down on paper is really hard.

practice spelling with sand writing!

So if your child has to practice spelling (or maths drill) for homework, or if you are homeschooling, give the opportunity to experience success by adapting tasks a bit as suggested in the photo gallery below. In this way, messy writing on paper will not detract from the ability to spell or compute sums.

At the end of the day, your child needs to be able to SPELL the word, or UNDERSTAND the sum. Your child does not have to write it on paper to do it.

Practice Spelling Without a Pencil!!

spelling on a blackboardMost kids love the chance to write on a blackboard. If you draw lines or columns on the board ahead of time, it will help them to keep their work neat. Hint: fat “sidewalk chalk” is best for kids with poor fine motor skills.
spelling on a wallGraffiti appeals to most kids! Using fat sidewalk chalk on a vibracrete wall (or a sidewalk) works well, and getting to scrub the chalk off with a scrubbing brush and water on a warm day is half the fun!
spelling on a mirrorUse a whiteboard marker on a mirror. (This usually wipes off easily with a DRY cloth, but test your mirror first) A whiteboard marker is fatter than a pencil and easier to control, and working on an vertical surface develops wrist stability
spelling in sandUsing a stick to write in the sand is appealing to most kids!
spelling with “Scrabble” tilesUse “Scrabble” tiles or make your own using thick card. Use lower case letters if that is what your child is using in school.
spelling with “Junior Scrabble”Adult “Scrabble” uses capital letters (upper case letters), but Junior Scrabble has great lower case letters to use, as well as being a fun game to enhance visual perceptual and spelling skills.
Spelling practice with magnadoodleMost kids find “Magnadoodle” type boards great fun, even though the “magnet stick” is very like a pencil. The only drawback is that it is hard to erase just one little letter, as you have to erase the whole board in one go.
Spelling practice with magnet lettersIf you have magnet letters, do some spelling on a magnetic board or on your fridge. Lower case letters are ideal, if you can find them.
Spelling with shaving cream 1Ok, this one is really messy, but loads of fun. Stick your child in the shower cubicle with a handful of shaving cream to smear and write in. A great motivation to round off a term of hard work!
Spelling with shaving cream 2The view from the outside as Jamie spells his “shape” sight words. Caution: shaving cream can irritate sensitive skins, so use the sensitive skin variants, and don’t let your kids get it all over their bodies. Jamie keeps his clothes on and we just wash his arms and hands well afterwards. Use a window cleaning sponge and warm soapy water to wash the shower glass afterwards.

And of course, verbal dictation of spelling is also an option!

You may find that you only have to do a few of these activities to get your child to love learning once again. And if you do some hand exercises and finger exercises separately, your child will soon be able to tolerate longer and longer sessions of pencil-and-paper tasks. And then writing tasks will seem less daunting.

If you have a younger child, check out these tips for practicing letter formations without using a pencil.

Also check out these Tips to Improve Handwriting for more ideas.

Return from Practice Spelling to "Fine Motor Activities" for fine motor activity ideas.

Return to Home Page of OT Mom Learning Activities

New! Comments

Share your thoughts on this page with your friends!
Please note that you cannot contact OT Mom this way - rather use the contact page on the site! Thanks!

New OT Mom
Fine Motor E-Book!

Strengthen your child's
Fine Motor Skills with the activities and information packed into this downloadable e-book.

Click on the image below to view details.

strengthening fine motor skills e-book

Hand strength toy

Variety of hand and finger strengthening toys!

Click here to view the full range of products at PFOT

Helpful Fine Motor Pages:

Fine Motor Skills Activities for Older Kids

Essential Bases for Developing Fine Motor Skills

How Pencil Grasp Develops in Toddlers and Children

Fine Motor E-Book Bundle

Purchase Fine Motor Activities
plus Scissor Cutting Skills at an effective 15% discount!

Click on the image below to view details.

fine motor skills e-book bundle deal