Helping Struggling Handwriters with Easy O.T. Tricks

Summary:  Tips for helping your struggling handwriter, using O.T. related ways, easy-to-make guides and more.  Even a tongue depressor can work to help kids with their handwriting.  

Do your kids have trouble spacing their letters?  Or are their letters all over the page?  

Some kids try so hard and their writing is still illegible.    

Did you know that the visual system does not completely develop until age 9?  

But handwriting requires a lot of visual perception skills. 

That means that our younger ones are often struggling with where, and how to place their letters on the page, and they often can land all over, everywhere!  

Young kids need lots of time to learn to letter shapes and such....through 
  • fingerpainting, 
  • making letters in the air, 
  • playing games with letters, 
  • and writing them on big sheets of paper with no lines at all,etc.

But once your child knows his letters, and is trying to put words on the page...his visual perception may just not yet have developed.  

And practicing over and over again, in a workbook can just get really frustrating, and may not be helpful for some of our kids.

Handwriting can become tedious, and no fun, and that just makes it all the harder.   Today, I am sharing some handwriting approaches to help your struggling handwriters. 

Here are four important helps for handwriting, from my OT days, and how to help develop them:

1. Learning to Write from Left to Right:

Make a green line on the left side of the handwriting paper, and a red line on the right. They say "Start at the green light, and stop at the red one!"  Make it a game! Like red light, green light...

2.  Leaving Space between Letters and Words:

Many kids struggle with spacing, as this requires more visual perception skills than many young writers have yet. Typically kids crowd their letters together, leaving no space at all, or too much space between words.  

What's the answer?  A popsicle stick or a tongue depressor

Why?  A popsicle stick can make a great spacer for your kids. The ones that are thicker at the end work best for the widely spaced handwriting paper.

Take the stick and show your child how to space letters.  This shows them spacing, that their visual system doesn't yet tell them about.

I recommend having a family popsicle party first, and by all means, coloring it, and decorating each one, to make it their own.

3.  Placing letters where They go on the Lines:  

Letters can also be hard to place on the line, especially when dealing with different sizes of letters, ie, f takes up two lines, e only one.  

Here are some handy guides, for each type of letters.  I just made mine out of cardstock, but cardboard would probably last longer.

One guide is for the small letters, a, c, e, etc, another is for 
the tall letters like b, d, l, etc, and one more, for letters with tails, like g, j, p, q, y...

Here are the templates for each of these guides.  

Feel free to copy them, and cut them out of cardboard or cardstock for your kids. 

Just fit them to your size of handwriting paper.  I recommend the widely spaced ones, like I used above.

I would pick one type of letter to focus on first, say the little ones, a, c, etc, and help your child get used to using the guide.  

Then I would continue with the other types of letters.

4. Using a Game approach, short Sessions, with a focus on Success.  

Here's some handwriting paper that we used.

They are frugally priced writing strips available from Student available free for printing.  

Short Writing Session Ideas

Do one of these writing strips a day. Short and sweet lessons are the best.

Using these guides can help your kids with their handwriting, until their visual perception kicks on. 

And keeping on with handwriting actually helps to develop tthose important visual perceptual skills. 

Going to keyboarding right away can be a mistake.  But that depends on the child.  Kids with dysgraphia often do well keyboarding early.

Keyboarding does not help to develop the sensory motor system in the way that handwriting does.   

5.  Learning to write by hand, vs typing has so many advantages for many kids:

1.  It improves visual perception skills.

2.  It helps to learn to shape of the letters, as they feel their shape, as they write with their pencil.  This helps develop kinesthesia, and the sensory processing system.

3.  It helps with retention, as the act of  writing the words on the page helps to plant the info in the brain, in a way that does not happen with keyboarding.  

Using their sensory motor system to write the words helped to make the information stick in their memory.

Would you like to take a break and work on handwriting, without even writing? 

I have 6 more posts on games that teach handwriting skills.  

Click here for Handwriting Helps and Games.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is mom to her now college grad, whom she homeschooled through high school.  She blogs about thearly yearshigh school, and college and is the author or Homeschooling High School with College in Mind, 2nd edition.  Betsy still loves going on nature study trips whenever her daughter can fit them in.

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Copyright @ BJ's Homeschool, Revised 2022


  1. This is such a helpful post, Betsy! I love the popsicle stick idea!

    1. Thanks, Judy Hoch, and I hope it is a help to your child. Mine especially liked the popsicles, lol! Have a good Wednesday with your family, and thanks for stopping by,

  2. Great tips as my son is learning to write right now. Though he has issues holding pencils correctly. He wants to grip it with all fingers instead of the 3. Any way to correct him? He seems pretty stubborn against holding a pencil correctly.

  3. Thanks, lisacug @! How old is your son? Little ones will start out using all fingers, and with more fine motor practice, will progress to using just three fingers, for a more mature grasp. But, some kids do well with a pencil grip that guides them into using the more mature grasp. Here's my post on that, and it links to my series on Handwriting Helps, with more ideas for helping kids with writing. Thanks for stopping by! Here's the link to "Handwriting Helps - Pencil Grips/Devices"

    1. He's 4.5 years old. I'm off to read that post!

    2. Fantastic, lisacug @! I just found your comment, lol!

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Jen Altman, at Workbox Wednesday!

  5. I definitely agree that short lessons are best. This is about where my 6 year old is now - NOT a fan of writing! I love your playful ideas for making it more interesting!

  6. Hi Emma @ P is for Preschooler - I love the name of your blog, and I will stop by and check it out soon! I always liked those short and sweet lessons with my little one. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day!


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