As an advocate for learning to print and mastering letter formation before progressing to joined-up handwriting, we often get asked, “why is printed handwriting important?”
We wanted to highlight the key pieces of advice and information we share with parents and teachers on this topic.
Learning printed handwriting supports cognitive development such as memory, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. These cognitive aspects contribute to overall brain development, laying the foundation for mastering the skill of handwriting and ensuring children have a solid grasp of the key components before progressing to joined-up handwriting.
The pre-requisites required for handwriting include bilateral arm and hand movements; midline crossing and binocular vision. These are not fully developed until a child is 7-8 years old. Pre-writing skills help develop the fine motor skills and improve visual motor development which helps children to read and write.
Printed handwriting involves separate, distinct letter formations, making it easier for beginners to learn the shapes of each letter. This helps in developing muscle memory and fine motor skills necessary for writing.
Allowing children ample time to practise letter formation during the early years of their development, helps with pencil grip before progressing to using a pen. Investing time in learning to form letters also allows children to learn where letters sit in relation to the line on paper.
Building the Foundation for Cursive
Printed handwriting is a foundation for progressing to join-up / cursive writing. Once children have mastered printed letters, they can learn how to connect them to form cursive words. Understanding printed letters helps with the transition to cursive writing, allowing children to develop the key building blocks which will make it easier to join legibly and at speed.
Cursive writing is far more complex than printing letters. If children aren’t afforded the time to develop the basics of handwriting, yet expected to join immediately, they are essentially being set up to fail.
In conclusion, printed handwriting and developing letter formation is the first stage of learning to write and shouldn’t be rushed, all children develop at different paces. Young children aren’t expected to walk immediately; they will shuffle and crawl before progressing to standing and then walking. Learning to write is no different.