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Posted by Maxine Cleminson - - 0 comments

The Chubby Cheeks One is four, and a reluctant writer. In fact, he's a reluctant artist too and is just the sort of kid that would rather be playing active games than sitting practising early learning skills like holding a pencil, using scissors or learning to write his name. It's not that he doesn't enjoy school (he loves it) - he knows his 'wetters' [sic], loves books, singing and many of the other activities at pre-school. He just does not particularly enjoy trying to write. Apparently, it's not just with me either. His pre-school teacher has made a few comments about his refusal to participate in these types of activities (he often politely tells her "I just can't do it") and it's something she would like us to work on with him.

I'm sure that some of it is just that innate competitive boy thing... if it's something I'm not instantly good at, I don't want to know!!! I am very familiar with this attitude from dealing with the Big One (soon to be 8... eeek!) who is very motivated by instant success and is not good at persevering with activities that take practise to master. He will never be a musician for this reason!

But we have been trying to encourage our youngest to be more interested in learning penmanship, and I thought I would share some of the better resources we have come across.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/www.freedigitalphotos.net 

I purchased some of the Kumon series of workbooks aimed at preschoolers on the recommendation of a friend. I was a little skeptical as to whether my boys would be interested at all in something so 'school-like' and traditional, but was actually pleasantly surprised. The "My First Book of Tracing" workbook (click on the picture below for more information) was higher quality than I was expecting. In fact, the first thing the Chubby Cheeks One said was: "I'm not supposed to draw on books, just paper". The workbook pages are thick with colorful illustrations and very different to the worksheets he is familiar with from school. The activities themselves start out very easy and I was initially concerned that the level was not going to be challenging enough. However, the instant successes from the 'easy' early pages really gave my little one a confidence boost so that he was keen to continue. In fact, I had to rein him in a little or he would have raced through the whole book in one go! The activities become harder and more complex as the book goes on and do require greater concentration and dexterity. Overall, I was very pleased with this activity book and have ordered others since. They are particularly useful as a short 5-10 minute quiet activity.

To assist with his pen holding, I bought some pencils with a triangular shaped body to help him develop the correct grip.

Him Indoors loves his technology & gadgets and this is something that all three of my boys have inherited along with their Y-chromosome! Getting to use Daddy's iPad is a rare treat in our house and one that we have not encouraged. I worry that the kids have too much screen time as it is, without adding another source! However, now that the twins are 4, I wondered whether they might find the prospect of being able to use Daddy's iPad a motivation to practise their writing skills! First things, first. An iPad is an expensive 'toy' and like all kids, ours are known for their occasional clumsiness! So we invested in a protective case for the device. There are many cases designed with kids in mind, but we chose the M-Edge Supershell Case. We chose this one over the rest because of several reasons. Firstly, the design of this case allows access to all the ports without removing it, so you can use headphones with it on (something I was keen to have for when travelling)! You can also easily adjust the volume buttons through the foam. The foam itself is dense and protective, fitting very snugly. However, it isn't so bulky or cumbersome that an adult wouldn't want to use it too. Click on the image below for more information.

We also invested in chunky stylus with a triangular shape like the pencils above. While not cheap, I felt it was worth the investment as practising using a 'pen' was the point of the activity rather than just a fingertip. Again, click on the image to find out more.

With the hardware sorted, we were able to download a couple of 'games' for the boys to try. I used the very useful website, Commonsense Media, to lookup apps with good reviews. You can search for games by device (iPad, Kindle, iPhone etc...), by age, and by skill or topic. You can then read reviews and decide which one you like before downloading. Very handy! Click here for their app search!

My kids' favourite app for tracing has got to be the Little Writer app by Alligator Apps (Innovative Mobile Apps Ltd). The music is appealing but not grating. The game encourages the kids to trace the letters by following a trail of themed dots (so if the background is the ocean, they follow fish)! The activities include writing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and shapes. But the game the boys enjoy the most is the one where they get to write basic words. If they trace the letters C-A-T carefully and correctly, they are rewarded with a picture of a cat! The only thing I wish it would do in this activity is sound out the letters phonically (rather than by name) as they are writing them so that the kids can start to make the connection between the sound a letter makes and the word being written. However, for the purpose of practising using a pen and writing letters this app is great and my little ones love it!

One of the things we have been asked to work on with our twins is getting them to write their names independently. The Shouty One has pretty much mastered this and can independently write his name correctly. We are still working on it with the Chubby Cheeks One and I was delighted to find a free resource online that allowed you to create and print your own traceable worksheets. At www.kidzone.ws you can select whether you want block, script or cursive font and input the text you want the child to practise writing... once submitted a custom printable is created! So easy!

How do you encourage your reluctant writer?!

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