● Pencil grip: Children who are developing strange pencil grips do so because they are desperately looking for a way to control their movements. The grip used by young children will usually improve as their hand movements become more controlled, so long as they are not put under pressure to gain control by doing a lot of tracing or being expected to produce small writing. It is quite hard to change pencil grip in older children and, so long as the grip works for the child, it is often best to leave it.
● Back to front letters: Children have to rely on their memory to write letters until they become good readers. This means that nearly all children will reverse their letters early on, or miss letters out of words.
● Left-handed children: Children are born being either right-handed or left-handed and this normally shows by about three years. Left-handed children find it easier if they are writing on a slope and benefit from having opportunities to do large scale mark-making. If a child has not developed a hand preference by three years, look out for regular activities around the home where one hand is used to stabilise the child and the other is doing something active, such as drying a plate or chopping a peeled banana.
● Spelling usually becomes more accurate as children learn to read. It is worth taking a relaxed approach because, if children become anxious about how to write down a word, they may develop a habit of only writing what they know they can spell. This leads to children writing less and, in the end, they become less imaginative writers. Even so, once children begin to read it is worth pointing out words that ‘play tricks’ on us in the way they are spelt – words like ‘phantom’, ‘knight’ or ‘would’. Doing this can help children remember the words later on.
● Children who are not interested: Mark-making must be fun for children. Try putting out ‘real’ pens and paper or taking out a bucket of water and a paintbrush for children to enjoy playing with them. Try hard not to pass comments about how young children’s writing looks, as this can put some children off. And remember that children need to see the adults around them writing.
Remember to have fun with them.