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Starleigh
Starleigh , Child Professional, Parent asks:
Q:

My child will not write...What can I do to help him write and understand why it is important to write?

My child is 5 soon to be 6 and still can not write his name. I have been helping throughout school and so have the teachers, but he has no desire to learn how to write and when he does he says it makes him tired. I have asked his doctor for the past three years if I should be concerned about this and all they tell me is he will learn to write soon, he is just a slow learner. He had chronic ear infection as an infant and was not able to hear good. Why can he not write? Does he have a learning disability? What can I do to help him write and understand why it is important to do write?
In Topics: School and Academics, Kindergarten readiness, Helping my child with writing
> 60 days ago

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Expert

RoxanneR
Sep 22, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

It doesn’t matter what the task, trying to get a child to do something he/she doesn’t want to do is frustrating and does nothing to help your relationship.  

I’m assuming that fine motor difficulties to the degree where they’re classified as a qualified medical concern have been ruled out.  There are some children who have muscles that haven’t developed properly or other issues which make writing difficult because they can’t grasp and guide the pencil properly.  In these cases, other recommendations may be necessary.  However, given that your child is only just venturing into school it’s early to say.  As well, it’s likely that he would have been complaining about how hard it was to hold writing implements.  He would have likely strayed away from other fun activities such as coloring or painting.  You would have noticed if he had difficulty holding not just writing tools, but utensils or any other sort of item that required more effort.

It’s very difficult at this age to convince any child of the value of writing, or any other skill for that matter.  Children simply want to play and have fun.  Some children see learning to read and write as an exciting new development in their worlds.  They love that they’re now able to read all that was so unfamiliar before and communicate in a new way.  However, many children see reading and writing as interference in all the other activities they’d rather be doing.  It sounds like your child is in this category.  Trying to convince him at such a young age that it’s important to write isn’t going to get you very far because his concept of the world is so different than yours.  

Also, consider that he’s still very young.  You’ve probably heard of the idea of “readiness”.  When a child is ready, it will happen.  Think about growing a tomato plant.  You plant the tomato seed and then proceed to take care of all the factors within your control – watering, sunlight, talking to the plant, etc.  These factors ideally guarantee a good outcome.  However, can you actually pinpoint exactly when the plant will reach maturity and start producing tomatoes?  No.  It’s the same with your child.  You’ve done all the right things and are carefully monitoring that which is in your control.  However, no one cannot predict exactly when your son will be ready to pick up the pencil and want to write.  In the meantime, trying to rush him into something he’s not ready for is causing both of you undue stress.  Eventually, he’ll be ready to do the tasks set out for him and it will happen.  Until then, continue to do activities that are encouraging and positive when it comes to writing.  Do other activities that get him using writing tools in other ways.  

Here’s an example.  Get him comfortable with using paintbrushes to draw.  No, he’s not using a pencil, but he’s getting comfortable with an instrument he has to hold similar to a pencil.  Perhaps have him do a series of paintings that tell a story.  At the bottom, you or he can write a single word to depict his story.  Perhaps initially you’ll write a word or short sentence at the bottom and he’ll paint his name on one of the paintings.  Make sure to praise him and even reward him with a special sticker or treat for doing such a great job.  Yes, it’s bribery of a sort, but right now you just want to encourage him.  As his abilities improve, you can up the ante and he’ll have to do more and more in order to get the prize each time.  Share his great work with family and friends within his earshot or let him present it to people.  Make sure people praise him for the writing that he’s done or the story he’s told.  This kind of praise will make him realize that he’s doing a good thing and encourage him to do more.

Gather as many different items you can think of where he can have fun, but still be “writing”.  Here are some ideas:

• Felt pens
• Crayons/pastels
• Crayola Color Surge and similar products
• Pencil crayons
• Finger paints
• Tracing over pictures or words
• Watercolour paints – when used with an easel and big pad of paper this is even better received
• India ink and fountain pens
• Charcoal
• Typewriter- if you can find one, kids love the sounds it makes
• Sentence strips - found at the teachers’ store – kids can write out sentences and post their story on a wall; after several months, return to it and see if other sentences can be added to expand ideas
• Coloured paper;  large pads of poster paper (3M has some great Post-it versions)
• Coloured index cards – use as recipe cards if your child likes to cook or use for jot notes, stories, journal entries, etc. plasticine/clay- shape letters/words; kids can also make the characters from a story they wrote and act it out.
• Sand - Zen rock gardens are great for a small box with contained sand, plus children love to rake things over and rearrange the rocks when they’re finished writing things with their finger in the sand
• Glue bags - fill a large Ziploc bag with white glue, add dye, squeeze out air bubbles and reseal;  children can use their fingers to write out letters or words
• Etch-a-Sketch boards
• Rolls of newsprint (spread it on the floor or tape carefully to a wall)
• Chalk on the sidewalk/patio area, the fence or on newsprint
• Buddha Board - this is a board where a child uses a paintbrush and water – they love it because everything disappears like magic when the water evaporates
• Laminated materials with dry eraser markers
• Whiteboards/blackboards
• Shaving or whipping cream - spread on a cookie sheet and use a finger to write
• Stickers - If you can find theme stickers (think Dora the Explorer or the latest superhero), your child can write a story and insert stickers where applicable instead of writing out the word.

Anything you can think of that your child would perceive as fun (and not realize you’re just trying to get him to do some writing) would be effective.  Think of it as pre-writing.  Just like a child learns to crawl before he walks, your child will do these activities in preparation for the next step.  He’ll continue to develop his fine motor skills under your tutelage.  Above all, just have fun and realize that he’ll write when he’s ready.  

It sounds like your biggest concern right now is his writing, but continue to read together and enjoy the experience.  Reading together helps him realize the importance of the written word without you having to point out.  

Lastly, his teachers appear to be looking out for him so that’s wonderful and you know that they’ll let you know of any additional concerns.  If in the future, you feel that things have not resolved themselves accordingly, then you will need to take further steps.   Obviously, speak to your son’s teachers to hear their thoughts before proceeding.  I don’t know your feelings about your doctor, but if you feel that your doctor is not listening to you or answering all of your concerns, it may be time to demand to seek a new family doctor or demand to see a specialist.  It may be good to speak to your doctor now and ask for a timeline in terms of when your doctor feels you can reasonably request testing.  This at least may help quell some of your concerns and let you just relax and enjoy some of the activities I suggested above.

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Additional Answers (9)

kptree
kptree writes:
I understand your concern. Reluctance to write, hold a pencil, use scissors, etc. at your son's age may be a indication that he needs help. Has your doctor tested your son's grip/strength? In the meantime, check out this article from this site:
http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Ready_Fine_Motor/

It has fun activities that should help your son enjoy practicing his fine motor skills. You may also want to look into pencil grips (you can find them in catalogs like Leaps and Bounds).  The trick is to make the activities fun. If you give your child just workbooks and stencils alone, practicing will become a chore.

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shaylia
shaylia writes:
it took my little girl a little longer than others but i got her in tutoring also now she does a wonderful job i made deals with her she got something knew on friday if she wrote all week i rewarded her when she got to the point to make the offer to do the writing or got the desire to do the writing
> 60 days ago

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BIG1LOST
BIG1LOST writes:
All my kids hated to write until I stumbled on to an idea.I noticed they would write song lyrics or other non-school related subjects,I had them write whatever they liked,,the oldest wrote short stories,,the 2nd wrote comments about Egyptology and the Titanic sinking,,my 3rd loved to write letters,and my 4th is writting a whole coil binder full of a story called""Kittyville"".It seems to work pretty well!!!
> 60 days ago

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lynellen
lynellen writes:
Handwriting has many components:
Cognitive:  A child must be developmentally ready to write
Language:  A child must be able to hear, organize what he wants to write, spell, punctuate.
Visual:  Eyes and hands need to work together to move the pencil as well as place the letters on the lines, remember them, and make them in the correct direction.
Gross motor:  The large muscles of the body must be strong enough and balanced to keep a child sitting in his chair and provide a base for him to reach out with his arms from. These large movements help cross the body's midline to make diagonals.  A child must also be able to sequence the steps of the letter movements (motor planning).
Fine motor:  The fingers, wrist, and arm must move freely to hold the pencil and move it in the correct direction of the page.
Tactile:  This system of touch combined with our sense of body movement help us make the letters without having to watch every move our fingers and pencil make.

Therefore, a child can have difficulties in one or more areas.  It may be time to have your child evaluated by a professional so help can be directed to specific weaknesses rather than just guessing at what is a weakness.  Talk to your school diagnostician.
Resources:
> 60 days ago

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BruceDeitrickPrice
BruceDeitri... , Teacher writes:
Suggest not so much pressure on one thing. Back off, try again later. There are so many skills; why focus on one? Music. Games. Checkers. Museums. Reading. Drawing. Hobbies. Memorize poetry. Montessori was clever using shapes and textures. A store must have the name on a keychain or in raised plastic. Get a coffee cup and pen with his name. Sign on door. That would be cool.

Link is about Palmer Method, which I just happened to mention in another answer. Treat it as an art project. Might appeal.

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beem80
beem80 writes:
Hello,

Please dont be frustrate.  If your child cant hear then do you can try to get him a hearing aid that will help him hear better.  Please give him alot of encouragement.  Dont be too hard on him.  I know it hard but you can try this website www.readingeggs.com.  It will help him alot prepare for school.  It also will develop his reading and writing.  Try it out and see how its goes for him.  Walk him through this reading program.  Hope you will see improvement in him.

Good Luck!
> 60 days ago

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Ashelisg
Ashelisg writes:
My son he is 5 goes to kindergarten he know his letter sounds,ABCs n shapes and colors but still he can not write his name or any letters what should i do with him
> 60 days ago

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zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
zzzzzzzzzzz... writes:
well my kid is he can not write or write his name and can not read he goes to kindergarten so help me?
> 60 days ago

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sharonbasdeo
sharonbasdeo writes:
just may be you are overwheling him by the constant pressure to write some children especially boys has a mind that once made up. they would not do what you want them to do. take a time out and try your best to see what he likes to do and let him do it and then graually in a fun way, may be with crayons introduce a writing piece not his name some thing or some one he likes. my son never wanted to draw and i would try and try to get him to color and draw and then one day after i give up. he just started do it and never stopped till now. hope all goes well he will write don't worry.
> 60 days ago

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