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You've been writing since you were a little kid.

It started with scribbles and crayonsand now it's pens, pencils, and cursivewith all those swooping, swirling letters.Some kids love handwriting and others hate when it's time to putpencil to paper. Why?

Maybe a parent or teacher has complained about your handwriting:"Be neater!" "Too messy!" "I can't read this!" Oh, dear, that's no fun.You're trying to get it right, but you can't get your thoughts downneatly.

The good news is that just about everyone can improve theirhandwriting. But first, let's take a moment to think about just howcomplicated writing really is. It's not like sneezing or breathing, whichyour body does for you without you even thinking about it.

How Handwriting Works

With handwriting, your body and mind need to do many differentthings all together and in the right order. Your shoulder needs to staysteady while your wrist and elbow move in just the right way. Did wemention your eyes have to follow what your hand is doing? And that'snot all. You need the brainpower to know how words and letters aresupposed to look and make decisions about what you want to write -Is the answer to Question 4 "flipper" or "flapper"?

So with all that going on, you can imagine that different kids havedifferent problems when it comes to handwriting. Sometimes amedical problem is a reason that kids struggle with writing. Forexample, kids who have attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD) findit hard to sit still and focus on what they need to do. They might writetoo fast or start answering a question and forget to finish it. Kids whohave trouble with their muscles, like those with Down syndrome orcerebral palsy, also could have difficulty writing.

But lots of other kids have writing woes, too. Are you one of them? Ormaybe you would just like to make your already-OK handwriting a littlebit better.

The Five Steps

Here are five steps that really work!

1. Get a Great Grasp Try this - hold your pencil at the top nearthe eraser and try to write your name.Pretty tough, huh? But when you hold yourpencil the correct way, writing is mucheasier. The best way to hold a pen or pencilis to let it rest next to the base of yourthumb. Hold it in place with your thumb,and your index and middle fingers. See thephoto below.

2. Let the Lines Be Your Guide Lined paper is your friend! Those lines can help you create letters thatare the right size and proportion. Proportion means that one thing isthe right size compared with the other. So your lowercase "a" shouldbe half the height of a capital "A."

Be sure to fill up the lined space completely. Those capital lettersshould stretch from the bottom line to the top one. Lines also can keepyou writing straight instead of uphill or downhill. When you don't havelines, like when you're creating a poster, you can use a ruler and drawlight pencil lines so your title will be the right size and look perfectlystraight. 3. Slow Down If your writing is hard to read or you erase a lot, try slowing down alittle. For some kids, going slower solves the problem. If you rush, it'shard to control where you stop and start your letters, and you end upmaking more mistakes. Did you ever erase so hard it ripped a hole inthe paper? We hate that!

4. Lower the Pressure Some kids press down really hard when they write. That makes itharder to make the smooth lines needed for writing, especiallycursive. Try easing up, don't grip the pencil as tightly, and let yourpencil mark the paper without going all the way through. You'll breakfewer pencil points, too!

5. Play Games that Help you Practice! Say what? You heard us right. There are lots of Games that can actually improve your handwriting. Lots of games require you to write or draw pictures. So even though it's not official schoolwork, you're still practicing the skills you need to control your pencil better. To have better control of how your handsmove, try games like "Tick-Tac-Toe (X and O), Bingo or "I call on...(NAME, Animal, PLACE, FOOD OR THING) ".

And if you want to strengthen the muscles you need for writing, youcan also do that while you're playing board games. How? Use aclothespin instead of your fingers to pick up your game piece andmove it around the board.

After a long board game, how about some imaginative play? Pretendyou're a movie star or famous athlete. Now, what do you do whenyour fans rush up to meet you? Give them your autograph, of course!

You Might Need Extra Help

If you try these tips and still aren't seeing improvement, you canalways ask for help. Tell your teacher and your mom or dad that you'rehaving trouble. Some kids have occupational therapy to help themwith handwriting skills. But many kids can improve their handwriting ifthey work at it with the help of a grownup.

Adults can encourage you and give you fun ways to practice, practice,practice. Your parent or teacher can be a kind of coach, cheering youon. And when you notice your handwriting is getting better, whatshould you do? Use that wonderful writing to write your coach a thank-you note!


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