Improve Handwriting:
Tips To Help Older Kids

Viewing this page on your device?
Please adjust your settings to enable images!
I use small photos to illustrate the information and activities that I share, and you will have a much better experience on this website if you can view the images.

tips to help your older child with handwriting

Many parents have asked how to improve handwriting skills in their older child or teenager. The answer is not always straightforward, but I try to give some suggestions in this page.

If you feel your child's poor handwriting is affecting academic performance, please do seek an occupational therapy evaluation to help get to the bottom of the issues.

Strengthen Fine Motor Skills

Increasing hand strength and finger dexterity can help your older child get more control over the pencil (and hopefully improve handwriting as a result). Strengthening fine motor skills should also help improve endurance of writing tasks.

Encourage your older child to get involved with general household tasks that will use hand and finger muscles may help strengthen the hands - tasks like cutting with scissors, using a screwdriver, helping dad sort nails and screws in the garage, sewing and knitting...

You will find some fine motor exercise ideas that may appeal to your older child on this page of my site.

Older kids and teens can still benefit from strengthening their hand muscles and getting better control over their fingers with focused activities. But instead of doing the playful activities that younger kids do, call it a "hand exercise program".

Keep the suggested items at hand and encourage your child to get into the habit of using them regularly before and during long writing exercises, for just 2-3 minutes at a time.

Back to Top

Try a Pencil Grip

I am not usually in favour of recommending the use of pencil grips without first addressing any underlying motor issues. However, for older kids, using a good grip could help reduce fatigue and prevent muscle cramps, which may help to improve handwriting. Read my page about using pencil grips to find out more.

Let your child try different writing implements and/or pencil grips (pencil grippers) to see if any of those help reduce fatigue.

This is my affiliate link to a supplier of good pencil grips - you can order the sampler pack to try out different grips till your child finds one that works.

Back to Top

Strengthen the Upper Body

Encourage your child to build upper body strength through sports, climbing, swimming and targeted exercises. These will help strengthen and stabilize the shoulder muscles to free up the hand muscles for handwriting.

I have some ideas for shoulder exercises on my site and in my e-book (aimed at younger kids, but older kids may still benefit) - have a look and see if there are any you can encourage your child to do.

If your child gets tense and tired easily during handwriting, then try these exercises as a break. Developing upper body strength may be just what your child needs to help improve handwriting!

Back to Top

shoulder exercises for kids

Italic Cursive Can Help Improve Handwriting

Some children really struggle to write (and to read) the loops of regular cursive handwriting. My own kids benefitted from the Getty-Dubay handwriting books, which are italic. The cursive handwriting books helped all of my own children to develop flowing handwriting, which was neater than their printed handwriting.

Italic Handwriting Book F is designed for use in Grade 5 for those who have used the earlier books. But both Book F and Book G would be suitable for older kids (Grade 6 up) who want to work on their handwriting skills. If your child requires slightly easier work to start with, then try Book E.

These are my affiliate links to the books on Amazon, for your convenience.

Back to Top


Frequent Breaks

If your child tires easily or becomes distracted, then let them have a quick break instead of plowing through and risking deteriorating handwriting. 

A good use of a break time would be to do some gross motor exercises (especially shoulder exercises), fine motor exercises, or getting some water to drink.

You could also try Fitness Circuit (this is an affiliate link to a product I have used) - these fun brain breaks, designed by a fellow therapist, could help spark your child!

Pick Your Battles

Sit down with your child and decide together which subjects/occasions can get away with poor handwriting and which ones absolutely have to be good.

On tasks where creative input is being rated, your child may be able to write more freely and easily if freed from the effort of writing neatly. A neat final draft may be required, but being allowed to type or scrawl at first may get the creative juices flowing. Accept that legible can be good enough for these times!

It is tiring to write neatly, but if it is not required at every lesson and on every occasion, then it is easier to write neatly when it really does matter.

Back to Top


Figure A Work-Around

You can also consider being a scribe for your child if you are homeschooling, or consider asking for a facilitator in the school system.

When your child is brainstorming a topic, or planning answers and structure for a project, it can really help to have someone else jot down those thoughts and answers as they flow out. Once the scribe has the rough draft on paper, your child can then refine it and write it out neatly, without being tired from the initial handwriting effort.

Learning keyboarding skills has helped many children who struggle with poor handwriting - see what your child's school will allow in terms of typed essays and assignments.

Back to Top


Some more food for thought...

When an older child is referred for handwriting issues, my first recommendation is that we first think about WHY the handwriting is so lousy.

  • Has your child always had a poor pencil grip and weak fine motor skills?
  • Or is handwriting poor because your child rushes through it?

If your child always rushes, then motivation may be more of an issue than fine motor delays. If your child is always rushing writing tasks, what is the reason behind it?

  • distractibility and poor concentration?
  • A general dislike of schoolwork, boredom with that particular topic or a need to finish quickly to move on to the next activity?

If your child can write neatly on occasion, what is it that motivates them?

One motivator is to use your child’s dream vocation to inspire and encourage – I tell my son that if he wants to be an airplane pilot, he has to make sure his figures (numbers) are legible, otherwise he will end up at the wrong coordinate on the map!

Answering these questions honestly could help you unlock some keys to help your older child improve handwriting skills.

Back to Top


I hope you found this page helpful!

› Help Your Older Child With Handwriting



Back To School Sale!
20% Off My Mega Motor Bundle!

Get 20% off my Mega Motor Bundle when you use this discount code at checkout!    Code:    backtoschool2018

Don't forget to click "apply" after adding the discount code!
Offer ends on 31 August 2018.

If this page was helpful, please share it with your friends!


Didn't find what you were looking for? Try a search of my site!