Handwriting is an essential life skill for kids to develop. Research shows it improves learning and memory processes by increasing brain activity, and studies prove handwriting plays an important role in developing reading skills in early learners. Writing practice for kids is more beneficial than just the value of good penmanship and knowing how to improve handwriting can help your kids find school and homework easier.

“When you struggle with handwriting, it takes up a lot of mental energy,” says primary school teacher Elizabeth Charlton. “And it steals focus away from more important tasks, like generating ideas and planning how to spell words and structure sentences.” 

To help your child better their writing skills, we’ve gathered teacher-approved hints, hacks and writing prompts to help get them happily scribbling away at any age.

oung girl sat at a table holding up a piece of paper with scribbles on after practising handwriting skills.

How to Encourage Writing in Preschool

Officially, kids learn how to write in primary school, but there are so many things you can do in the early years to prepare your preschoolers for writing success. “The best way to learn is through play, so incorporate writing skills through fun and games,” says Abby Lambert, a diploma-qualified early childhood educator. “Try role-playing activities where kids get to ‘make appointments’ or ‘take orders’ using a clipboard and a pencil.” 

Set up a kid-sized table and chair, and add a tub of tools, such as pencils, crayons, markers, whiteboard, chalk and whiteboard markers. This will encourage free drawing, writing and scribbling, which is the best way for young kids to hone their writing skills. 

Now is the time to establish good writing habits, like sitting up straight and using the correct tripod pencil grip: jumbo or triangular pencils can assist with this. “Writing is often smoother, more controlled and more comfortable when children use a tripod grip, plus it prevents hands from becoming tired or strained,” says Abby. 

Effective handwriting requires strong hand muscles and fine motor skills, which can be developed through many activities including playing with blocks, threading with beads, finger painting and collaging with scissors and glue. Playing with clay or playdough is another great way to enhance manual dexterity.

What To Try: Preschool

SEE ALSO: 7 Ways to Help Your Kids Improve Their Literacy Skills

Preschooler in a green top holding a pencil and doing a writing activity.

How to Get Better at Handwriting for Early Primary Students

Learning to write is a big focus in the early years of primary school. “This is where children develop the literacy skills they’ll use every day in every aspect of their lives, so it’s a good idea to consolidate what they learn at school with writing activities at home,” says Elizabeth. 

Invest in a handwriting book or mat for extra practice or get kids to trace the letters using laminated sheets or PVC pockets that they can write on with markers and wipe off. There are also many apps that promote handwriting skills, such as iTrace and Writing Wizard

“Correct letter formation is vital as it allows you to write quickly and neatly, while preparing for the transition to cursive writing later on,” says Elizabeth. “The way you hold a pencil is important, too – some children press too hard or grip the pencil too tightly and this can lead to hand fatigue. A teacher may recommend a plastic or silicon pencil grip in this case.” 

Students can refine these key writing skills with pencil-control activities, like tracing lines or completing mazes and dot-to-dots. Building hand strength can really help if you’re looking for how to improve handwriting – try making games out of repetitive strengthening exercises, like how many times they can squeeze a stress ball or rhythmically tapping each fingertip to their thumb in time to a favourite song or, even better, get them helping with household tasks like stirring food and hanging out the clothes with pegs.

And keep things fun and fresh with different types of writing activities. A small whiteboard and markers are ideal for writing shopping or to-do lists. Kids of this age can also make place cards for the dinner table or write simple “I love you” notes to the ones they care about.

What To Try: Early Primary

SEE ALSO: Fun Games for Kids (and They're Educational)

Overhead view of two children completing step by step handwriting practice books to help develop writing skills.

Writing Skills for Upper Primary Students

‘Practice makes perfect’ is particularly true when it comes to improving writing skills. “For upper primary students, I think it’s essential to provide regular time for writing by hand, especially as they’re increasingly using devices for BYOD programs,” says Elizabeth. “Try impromptu writing on a topic of their choice for 10 minutes every day.” 

At this stage, students are moving towards cursive writing and using pens instead of pencils. Opt for ballpoint pens over felt tip or gel ink for first pen options as they don’t smudge as easily – and pick up a journal or two to encourage lots of free and expressive writing. 

“As kids progress in school, we look for neater and more precise handwriting,” says Elizabeth. “Are they using the correct pencil grip and writing on the line? Is their writing legible with letters that are well-formed and spaced, and all the same size?” 

Look for fun ways to incorporate writing practice for kids. Ideas for writing prompts could be to outsource the writing of birthday and Christmas cards, encourage letter-writing to friends and family or create a treasure hunt where they create written clues around the house. Perfect for a literal rainy day.

What To Try: Upper Primary 

SEE ALSO: Inspire Kids’ Love of Creative Writing 

Female high school student sat at the kitchen table writing in workbooks.

Writing Skills for High School Students

“I think handwriting is really important as a basic skill,” says high school English teacher Jessica Bell. “Firstly, tech doesn’t always have the answers. And writing by hand helps us practise all the grammar, spelling and punctuation rules that help us express what we know.” 

Plus, many high schools insist on handwriting as part of their curriculum in the build up to external exams for university entrance, which still feature written components. In preparation for this, daily writing practice can help build muscles, boost confidence and make writing feel more comfortable. “There is something to be said for being able to keep up with the stamina of writing, especially when those batteries on our devices go flat!” says Jessica.

At this age, it’s a great idea to write up study notes as revision each night; not only will it help come exam time, the writing process will help reinforce concepts in memory. For more fun writing prompts for teens, suggest they keep a diary or write up favoured song lyrics, and perhaps take up colouring, calligraphy or lettering – creative hobbies that also enhance fine motor skills. 

One fun activity is hand lettering. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials that can teach simple techniques, or get them lettering pens and markers and let their imaginations do the rest. By creating decorative and stylised letters by hand, teens can improve their hand-eye coordination and finger control while also developing greater insight into letter spacing and composition.

“Handwriting is a lifelong skill that needs to be developed. We need to help young people reframe their thinking. It’s not doing it ‘the long way’. Writing is essential and goes hand in hand with thinking critically and creatively,” says Jessica.

What To Try: High School 

SEE ALSO: Easy Hand Lettering Techniques to Try at Home