Every Parent Pushes This Skill And It’s Not Helping 

Every parent wants to see their child succeed in life, beginning when they make their first coo.

Don’t get me wrong, it does feel good to have your child place first in the spelling bee or be the only toddler in playgroup to be able to spell their name – but what is the cost?

Maybe your child is the next Einstein and doesn’t need a whole lot of urging to excel, but sometimes we push a little too hard for our children to meet a checklist of early achievements and it doesn’t give them the edge you had hoped for. 

Parents scare easily. We grasp our chest when our son goes for the monkey bars for the first time, we let out a worrisome cry when they go too fast on their bike, and we are terrified when they hop on the bus for the first day of school. 

This worry that always sits in a mother’s chest hovering somewhere between “I think I can do this” to “the whole world is crashing down” is what drives us to urge the developmental process along.

The developmental process exists for a reason. Toddlers in diapers should have to worry about how much sand they consume, not whether or not they can sign themselves into daycare. 

A Facebook post by neurochild community highlighted the differences between the hand of a EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) child, which represents kids under 5, and a seven-year-old child, and it showed something remarkable. 

Scary Mommy shared the significance of the image in the post:

Notice the differences? Those distinctions make a difference in a child’s ability to practice fine motor skills such as writing, using scissors, zipping, and picking up small objects. Younger children’s hands simply aren’t ready for mad fine motor skills.”

Kids only get to be young once. They shouldn’t have to think about how they will do on their SAT’s in elementary school. 

Does this mean we should throw education to the wind, and let the play yard be our guide?

Yes! Or at least until they are a bit older. 

What is the right age? Should I let my 14-year-old ditch his English essay for a Mario Kart marathon. 

No way! Timing is crucial. 

We want to encourage proper handwriting for all the benefits it provides, but we need to see where our child is developmentally.

Melissa McKaig, a school occupational therapist spoke with Scary Mommy about why handwriting is necessary at the right time, and for more reasons than academic achievement:

Research shows that handwriting fully engages the brain, improves memory, enhances focus, unleashes creativity, and calms the body and nerves.” 

McKaig does warn ,however, that parents need to “consider their child’s developmental age, keeping in mind that all children develop physical, cognitive, and social/emotional skills at different rates.”

If your child isn’t in school yet, and isn’t interested in practicing writing ABC a thousand times (which is understandable), then don’t force it. 

Try going outside instead. McKaig stated, “Fine motor skills develop as gross motor skills allow stability to explore their environment.”

Playing in the sandbox uses all the senses, while at the same time teaching your child about the environment, gravity, and cause and effect. 

And that’s not all playing outside offers, as Mommy Underground has previously reported, it increases their attention span for when you want to introduce the famous pencil grip.

When you do begin handwriting 101, get creative with your approach rather than relying on strict repetition.

McKaig suggests using play-doh to sculpt letters, or other sensory play games to use more senses to grasp what is being learned. 

Age 5 is when a child should begin learning to print letters and numbers appropriately, McKaig informs us, and by seven they should be able to write words within the lines. 

So enjoy jumping into leaf piles this fall with your little ones, and worry about one of the thousand other things on your mind until their developmental time comes. 

Please let us know in the comments section if you have waited to teach handwriting until school age, or if you like to practice the academics while you potty train. 

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