Call us the handwriting brigade. Seriously. From day one, even with the advent of technology and the slow decline of handwriting instruction (let alone cursive, gah!) in schools, we’ve always made it our mission to encourage kids not to lose the art of handwriting. And if it’s not asking too much, we’d like it to be as legible as possible, considering we all know at least one relative, co-worker, friend or yes, doctor, whose handwriting is like some secret code requiring a decipher key.
After our first season of writing actual letters to our kids at sleepaway camp — and receiving them — it really drove home the value of personally penned notes, even if it’s just a sticky note on the fridge reading “mor cookeez” from a preschooler.
There’s a ton of research about how writing well leads to all sorts of amazing benefits from self-confidence to critical thinking skills. So we’ve put together 16 fantastic tips to help get your kids to practice handwriting, and actually enjoy it. Because one day, you’re going to get one of those letters home from some vacation or summer camp or long weekend at Grandma’s too, and trust us, it’s the best thing in the world.
Tips and tricks to get kids to practice handwriting
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Updated for 2023
1. Let them know you treasure their writing. (Even when you can barely read it)
I love this reminder from Abundant Mama, who suggests creating a love note treasure box, that we should let our kids know how much we adore getting their notes by saving the most important ones in a special spot. Of course, these notes may not always be the ones they want you to remember—the one stating we’re the “wurst mom in the werld” is definitely a keeper too–but by letting them know you love receiving them, hopefully they’ll keep writing them. If you choose to put them in a special box, you can even have your child help decorate it for you.
2. Let them write the words they like.
Workbooks don’t have to bring out the groans from kids who need a little extra practice outside of school. In fact, our kids would get a kick out of copying the ridiculous and silly sentences found in the Wacky Sentences workbooks (at our affiliate Amazon) which is filled with atypical phrases for kids to trace before writing themselves.
You can also DIY by simply allowing your kids write their own favorite words ten times, whether it’s Dora, pink, or poop. Yes, really.
3. Find handwriting worksheets themed around their interests.
Our kids would go bonkers for these free printable Minecraft handwriting worksheets from Pepperscraps (also at top). We love that they can get writing practice three ways: First by tracing the letters with their finger, next by carefully following the dotted letters, and finally by trying to write the words on their own on the bottom line. With a sheet for every letter of the alphabet, this will make a great Minecraft alphabet book when it’s completed.
4. Write letters to the Tooth Fairy or Santa.
Ask your kids to write list of toys they’d like from Santa. A note to the Tooth Fairy (like this free printable from Handmade Charlotte) wondering why she forgot to come to pick up the tooth the night before (cough.) Or a sweet letter to an imaginary friend. Any paper will do, though we love something special for these notes. Even if these letters never leave the house, they are a great incentive for our kids to sit down and think about using their very best handwriting. Because, if there is anyone they want to be sure can read their writing, it’s the big guy with the sack.
5. Write fan mail
We love this child’s handwritten fan letter from Building a Library, even though his daughter hilariously picked an author who doesn’t actually exist. We think even reluctant writers will jump at the chance to jot a note to their favorite author, singer, YouTuber or movie star, especially since they may get a response. (Hey, they don’t need to know it’s from a publicist.)
6. Get some new pens and pencils.
Even though we’re pretty sure there’s no “new pen smell,” a set of colorful new pens, pencils, or markers can make handwriting practice seem a lot more special. And hey, add a new notebook or some drawing paper too!
7. Make your own custom handwriting sheets
Learning how to write their first name properly (for starters) is an important first writing skill for kids, and Landsdowne Life’s custom handwriting sheets make it easier for kids to practice those letters on their own. With her free PDF, just type in your child’s name — or any words that fit, really — and it will automatically duplicate a series of lines with that word on the page. A second page even leaves space for your child to trace and then write freehand. Each PDF can be saved too, so you can print out additional pages and see how far your child has come throughout the school year.
8. Write to a pen pal
Whether your kids write to a beloved relative they don’t see enough, or a peer they’ve never met on another continent, having a pen pal is a great way to connect with someone through letters. Check out 6 Reasons Your Kid Should Have a Pen Pal at Our Adventure Story, which lists some compelling reasons. Plus she’s created an awesome free printable with prompts to help kids send off that first important letter. Hey, there’s still nothing quite like the excitement of opening the mailbox and finding a letter addressed to you. Especially in the age of email.
9. Become your child’s own pen pal
Even easier, encourage your kids to leave you notes by becoming their “insider pen pal” by making these two adorable free printable mailboxes from TinyMe. Perhaps you just want to leave little love notes to each other, or you can use it to ask your older kids what they’d like for dinner or what movie they’d like to see over the weekend. We love that you can even print out cute little notecards and envelopes from the site too.
10. Teach cursive (even if their school doesn’t)
Beyond learning how to sign their own name — or to read your to-do lists — we all believe that cursive is a useful skill for our kids to know how to write and to read. But since a lot of schools no longer teach it as part of their regular curriculum, we’re all for taking matter into our own hands. We love how Monica “Latina Mom” Olivera uses cursive lessons to teach her child to read and write in two languages. Don’t miss her list of resources for cursive workbooks or downloadable worksheets to use in your home.
11. Turn writing time into art time.
Kids who love drawing but maybe not so much writing may spark to the idea of discovering how fun and expressive their handwriting can be. Check out creative writing books like Klutz’s Lettering in Crazy, Cool, Quirky Style and How to be the Best Bubble Writer in the World Ever. With lots of space for creativity, these tools will help your kids make their letters pop off the pages. Plus, you may become the recipient of the coolest-looking notes in the neighborhood.
Another option is to simply find inexpensive letter stencils, hand the kids some cool pens and pencils and let them go crazy with the designs.
12. Learn calligraphy
The ancient art of calligraphy can feel very new and cool to children who have never used a calligraphy pen and it gives them another artful reason to put pen to paper. Tinkerlab has some great tips for learning calligraphy even for kids still mastering pencils. You may surprised that this old-fashioned way of writing holds a lot of appeal for modern kids.
13. Get kids their own stationery
Our kids love personalized things–especially when they have an uncommon name that you don’t see everywhere. So for all the Emmelines, Dantes, and Quinlans (as well as the Chloes, Emmas, and Jacks), don’t underestimate the power of a nice set of stationery to get them writing notes with a little less prodding. (The fun personalized stationery at Minted like the one above doesn’t feel anything like formal stationery grownups might use.)
14. Encourage kids to keep a diary or a journal
In this era of oversharing, a journal or diary for private thoughts can be a great way to get kids excited to write, whether it’s a book with prompts or a traditional blank diary with a lock and key — eeboo makes lots of fun ones just for kids like this robot diary. Even a simple marbled composition book will do. In fact, sometimes the less precious the journal, the more likely kids will be willing to jot thoughts and make necessary mistakes along the way. Plus, some day when they look back at what they scribbled down in their formative years, they may thank you. Or give you a hug for putting up with their pre-tween moods.
15. Grab some Mad Libs or crossword puzzle books
Before your next road trip, stock up on Mad Libs and good old-fashioned crossword puzzles that your kids to do when they have some downtime, whether at home or a road trip somewhere. Not only do Mad Libs help kids master the basics of parts of speech, but if they don’t write neatly in the space provided, they’ll learn quickly [adverb] that their handwriting [noun] will be very hard [adjective] to read back.
16. Encourage thank you note writing
There’s something special about the power of a handwritten thank you note that can really make someone’s day, which is why we encourage our kids to write them whenever possible. Think about birthdays, holidays, and the end of the school year when there’s a beloved teacher who’d probably love to hear how beloved he or she is in the students own words. For the youngest writers, a simple “Thank You” with their name is perfect, but older kids can practice using their very-best handwriting to say what they are thankful for. Just be sure to let them pick out their own stationery, which makes it way more fun for them. And how great is this personalized camping stationery, also from Minted?