Messy handwriting in kids: What you need to know

Messy handwriting in kids: What you need to know
Messy handwriting in kids: What you need to know

Messy handwriting in kids: What you need to know Most people expect young children’s handwriting to be messy. It is difficult to learn to write letters and put them in the right place to form words and sentences. It takes time and practice for the kids to do it right.

As children get older, people may see their messy handwriting as a sign of laziness. This is not usually the case.

Irregular handwriting is often the result of movement problems. In fact, some kids’ handwriting can make it more than cluttered — and unreadable.

Messy handwriting in kids: What you need to know
Messy handwriting in kids: What you need to know

Learn more about handwriting challenges and ways to help your child improve.
You may experience handwriting difficulties

Handwriting depends on a lot of small skills. When kids have trouble with them, the result can be messy and difficult to read by hand. These skills are:

Sample letters

  • Put letters and words on the page
    Make the letters the correct size
  • Letter and word spacing
  • Grab a pencil and control it
  • Hold the paper with one hand while writing with the other
  • Apply the appropriate amount of pressure to the paper with the writing tool
  • Use the right arm posture and posture to write

If you look closely, you may see the kinds of errors that these difficulties cause, such as:

  • Lettering written from bottom to top, rather than top to bottom
  • Letters written with too many strokes, or strokes made in the wrong order
  • Words and phrases that float above or below the line
  • Written words or sentences are too italic or too few
  • Clustered or conflicting letters and words
    Some letters are darker and some are lighter

Handwriting problems can appear as early as preschool, when children learn to understand pencil to draw. For some people, the difficulty persists into adulthood.

In most cases, adults can avoid writing by hand. We can use technology instead. But for kids in school, handwriting issues can get in the way of learning.

What they write may be too complex to read and they may write too slowly. They may get bad grades or not complete their homework or tests because of it. Also, outright wrestling in front of classmates can damage their confidence.
What can cause a mess in handwriting

When children have trouble with handwriting, it does not mean that they are lazy or careless. They may try as hard as they can and need support to improve.

The first good place to look is your child’s age. Not all children develop these skills at the same rate. Some take longer than others. The differences can be even greater for young children in their scores.

In some cases, children face challenges that cause chaos in their handwriting. Handwriting includes many aspects of movement – from letter formation to body position and correct stress.

This is why messy handwriting is often the result of poor motor (movement) skills, such as fine motor skills. (It’s the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists.)

You may hear difficulties with motor skills called developmental coordination disorders, or DCD. You may also hear people use the term dysgraphia to refer to difficulties with writing.

There are also challenges that don’t seem to be related to motor skills but can make writing difficult. For example, if children are impulsive, they may be quick to do their homework. This can lead to sloppy work and a lot of errors.

Regardless of what’s behind your child’s handwriting issues, there are things you and the school can do to help.

What can help with messy handwriting

An important step is to take notes about what you see and talk to your child’s teacher or pediatrician. They can be excellent sources of information and advice.

Even if you’re not sure what’s going on, you can still develop your skills at home. You can try things like:

  • Tracing exercises
  • Drawing exercise
  • Pencil grips

You can also find help for your child at school. Discuss with the teacher useful strategies in the classroom and how you can use them at home. Learn about technology that can also help you, such as speech-to-text conversion.

Don’t forget to celebrate progress as your child works on handwriting. Remind your child that everyone has a problem with something – and everyone has strengths too.

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