Handwriting difficult for preschoolers - creating delays in fine motor skills

Interesting information about displacement of time spent of screens instead of using hands to write- making holding a pencil difficult.

I noticed this as well in The Netherlands. Also in school they teach a slightly different writing style, I think (not having kids myself but observing this with others), than what I used to get taught. The writing is less focussed on creating fluid handwriting it seems, but instead more on creating somewhat separate characters and holding the pencil differently. I think this lends itself less well for writing longer texts.

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Yes- in America what seems little changes in education can have a cumulative effect. That’s why adequate research based changes in education is best. Many kids learn most of their life skills at school.

(this post was in reply to @JC3 here, and also the 3 posts below where split to this topic.)

It’s nice to see your concern, thank you. I too am concerned- my daughter’s elementary school has displaced handwriting with keyboarding. Many kids cannot write a grocery list by the end of 3rd grade. This increases our kids need to use smartphones if they cannot learn and retain the ability to write.

Not to mention the dependence on technology that is cultivated for physical harm to the body- ergonomics and text neck etc…

Hi, I’m glad you brought up this issue!! Schools need to step back and redesign the curriculum in terms of how to use technology. My kids are now “20 somethings”, and my eldest had the full penmanship / writing skills curriculum in lower elementary grades, and then keyboards took over in the schools shortly after. I did my own penmanship lessons with my youngest son after school since he just missed out on that curriculum — that was the only way he was going to learn cursive. In the 3 year difference between my sons I saw the complete change of learning penmanship vs. keyboarding…

My background includes Education (MEd & teaching experience), which gives me a strong belief in the “reading-writing” connection. There are many studies that prove writing things down enhances learning and memory as compared to using a keyboard. This applies to everyone, from children to college students, etc.

It’s sad, but many professions (from teaching to doctors, etc.) now have the professional staring at a screen while the students (or patients) have less face-to-face contact with them. Eye contact and facial expressions are losing out in terms of reading a situation and responding appropriately…

So many issues to be addressed! One thing is for sure – children watch adults and want to do the same things. We have to get the teachers, parents, society – everyone- – off the phone!!


Thank you Dori! Do you have a literature review or list of sources referencing your quote? I need this for my daughter’s school to advocate. The school does not engage in dialogue so I have to make a case with strong evidence with research or law to get them to engage.

Also… how can we really expect kids to not be on their phone when educators are showing kids the next new app to fix everything. It’s like cotton candy- it seems just right till it evaporates right before your eyes.

Here’s a great study from ScienceDaily.com: Better learning through handwriting

Date:January 24, 2011
Source:The University of Stavanger

Writing by hand strengthens the learning process. When typing on a keyboard, this process may be impaired. Neurophysiologists have examined research which goes a long way in confirming the significance of these differences. When writing by hand, our brain receives feedback from our motor actions, together with the sensation of touching a pencil and paper. These kinds of feedback are significantly different from those we receive when touching and typing on a keyboard.

Here’s another one discussing studies done at Princeton & UCLA: For better learning in college lectures, lay down the laptop and pick up a pen (August 2017)

“When college students use computers or tablets during lecture, they learn less and earn worse grades. The evidence consists of a series of randomized trials, in both college classrooms and controlled laboratory settings.”

Yes, it’s a shame that you even have to make a case for this given how obvious it should be to educators! The digital “wave” is really strong!!

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I am a mom trying to educate my children’s district which is 1:1. I’ve organized a “Tech Talk” through PTA for next Fall. I’m wanting to educate school administrators, teachers, parents, etc. This past school year my kids had a lot of indoor recess and every time the 2nd graders were on iPads. We know the point of recess and we know that this is not okay when kids are in a 1:1 were they are using iPads all day. I’m here to learn how I can help CHT or how CHT can help me address public schools at the highest level.

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Three days ago I saw part of the program in a popular-scientific series related to kids on BBC 2

In the program they did a number of science-based tests on small children, and comparing between small test groups of kids not used to screens and groups that used them from young age.

It was remarkable that for very young ages (0-3 yrs, 3-6 yrs) the kids with tablet experience did much better on a number of those tests than kids without the experience.

One test was the ability to draw straight lines. The unexperienced kids made a mess of this task, but the tablet users made perfect lines and could create multiple parallel ones with ease.

Another test was about motor skills to stack square blocks into a tower. Here the tablet users also did way better, being able to stack 8-9 blocks, where the other group came no further than 5-6 blocks.

From the desription (emphasis mine):

The next experiment in the lab looks at the impact of technology on babies’ development. Dr Tim Smith devises a set of practical exercises for tech users and non-tech users to see how touchscreens might be affecting babies’ fine motor skills, such as picking up tiny objects, and gross motor skills which include walking and standing. He asks the toddlers to walk along a straight line, draw straight lines on a piece of paper and build a tower of small blocks. The demonstration and Tim’s ongoing new research supports the theory that tech users have advanced fine motor skills for their age, perhaps because tapping and swiping encourages precision and dexterity.

@aschrijver I would tend to agree about screen hand eye coordination which can help with limited skills, but this study doesn’t cover complex skills of hand grip and the use of complex motor skills to write letters and what happens later in life. There is something to be said there is nothing that proves that using screens may interfere with development and we can’t go back on that… ever try to teach an adult to play the piano? Much easier in childhood. It’s a perfect example of what happens when a parent tries to hone in to “perfect” a portion of their child’s development. Kids should have the freedom to discover (which builds creativity and critical thinking skills) and not have developmental skills “manicured”. Many parents today buy too many products to boost development but forget the organic experience and motor memory of a 3D world as a foundation.

There is a cautionary tale regarding not letting kids freely discover their world in 3D too. If kids “learn” through screens, they will gravitate towards screens because that is familiar the motor memory- it starts that slippery slope parents wish they never started.

So getting back to my original post here- it’s not really about perfecting handwriting or skills, but screens displacing the time needed for fine motor development and the experience of learning in a 3D world. I’ll add that we want to be careful not to eliminate parts of natural motor development- as a tech culture we could wind up wiping out talent development for important jobs like surgery. You definitely want someone to have a foundation of critical thinking with fine motor if someone is building a circuit for an airplane computer or operating on your body.

We have to be so careful with those precious human brain computers and how we “program” them right from the start.

I came across this article on our forum by accident after I posted concerns regarding surgical profession talent concerns…

I’m also adding here that in another article linked to this one the reaction time is noted to be better with surgeons that play video games.

It shows that moderation is so very important, and doing what you think is right for yourself or your child. Everyone is different.