Handwriting milestones 5-6
By Michelle Barrington |

Handwriting is a complex skill that adults can take for granted. Most children are not ready for the complexity of the task until approximately 6 years of age while some children will be able to write prior to beginning school. Nationally there is no expectation that children can write in a formal sense on entry to school.

Children of this age are moving from a palmer grasp, if not already, to an incomplete tripod grasp.

Fine motor skills at age 5 are that children can:

  • Fold paper diagonally
  • Write their first and last name
  • Write the entire alphabet with varied neatness
  • Draw objects and thread beads onto string

By age 6 fine motor skills also include:

  • Tying a knot and bow
  • Copying letters and numbers and printing their name

As fine motor skills become stronger, children gain better control in writing letter forms. At this age children have adequate hand strength for sustained pencil work.
Children usually identify hand dominance around age 3 and so hand dominance should be well established. Children who use both hands should be encouraged to choose one hand.

Children at this age will learn that when writing one hand is used to stabilise and the other hand is to be the helping hand. 

Play that helps handwriting

  • Children should be able to use intrinsic muscles of the hand such as forming a pyramid with fingers flexed, spreading fingers apart and back together to make a bill of a duck. Shadow puppet finger play is excellent for improving dexterity.
  • Children may enjoy drawing and labelling objects.
  • Children are learning the difference between upper and lower case letters. Children should begin appropriate words with capital letters as there is reduced variety of starting points.
  • Children develop fine motor skills at their own pace and there is no point rushing a complex activity such as handwriting.

To help encourage your child to develop their handwriting skills, this year BIC are running a promotion to give your child the opportunity to become a BIC PRO Handwriter! All you have to do is upload a picture of your child’s handwriting to the website and you will go in the running to win $20,000 in BIC Scholarships and stationery packs*.

Plus your child could get a free PRO Handwriter patch for each entry submitted – there’s 5 to collect.^

Activities to develop handwriting skills

  • Bubble Wrap – children love to play with bubble wrap. The action of popping the bubbles between the thumb and index finger helps to strengthen fingers for a more controlled tripod grasp.
  • Clothes pegs – helping to hang washing on the line and hang up clothes improves finger movements and strength.
  • Water pistols – children love water pistols and squirt guns. The pulling of the trigger is an action which develops a strong index finger which again supports the tripod grip.

Important – The key is to keep writing fun

Handwriting is a complex skill made up of many discrete components. Children this age require a lot of encouragement to build their confidence as writers. 

Find more about  handwriting:

Discover more School Zone

This article was written by Michelle Barrington for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading education resource for parents. 

*Prize pack includes $1800 cash towards tuition and $200 RRP worth of stationery.

^Terms and conditions apply.

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