Teaching Handwriting to Your Children at Home

All about the D’Nealian handwriting method and how to make it work even for toddlers and young preschoolers.

Child writing on paper

Here is the latest post from Susanne, a literacy specialist! This is on her favorite handwriting method. There are lots of methods out there to choose among. This is Sue’s favorite from her experience. 


A few Babywise Moms had a handwriting discussion a little while back. We were debating over which handwriting method was the best to teach our children.

I have decided to teach my kids using the D’Nealian handwriting method. I use to teach K-8th grade and I saw great results with this handwriting program.

I know there was some discussion if it was easy for young children to print these letters since they are not all horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines. I agree that it might be difficult for an older toddler and young preschooler to make these letters at first.

That is why I have decided to break down handwriting into some manageable steps that I believe are developmentally appropriate. 

I found a pretty good webpage that shows how d’nealian handwriting (print) allows students to do one stroke for most lower case letters. 

I also feel like the transition from print to cursive is easier with d’nealian.

Here is my plan of action:

1. Age 1.5-2.5: Teach letter recognition only. At this young age, fine motor skills are still developing and it is best to have your child learn letter recogonition by sight. This will prepare them to begin writing the letters at a later age. At least your child will have familiarity with the letters and their sounds prior to writing. Instead of teaching letter formation through writing, it is best to teach how to make a horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and curved lines. 

2. Age 2.5-3: Teach how to write these letters large in sand, shaving cream, and other sensory mediums using his finger. I believe that pencil grip is a fine motor skill that is out of his developmental ability at this age. That is why I feel teaching how to form the letters with a child’s finger is more developmentally appropriate. Your child will learn the sensory movement for the letter, which will make it easier for him to write the letters with a writing utensil when he gets older. 

3. Age 3.5-4:
 Teach your child how to write these letters large using chunky writing mediums such as side walk chalk, thick crayon, thick markers, etc. I feel like at this age, your child should be able to grasp a thicker, chunkier writing utensil. It is still important to keep the letters larger than normal in order to help him solidify the correct formation and movement of the letter into his long term memory. Plus at this age, it will be easier for your child to make large gross motor movements than fine motor movements required for normal handwriting. 

4. Age 4-5:
 Teach your child how to write these letters using correct pencil grip on paper using a pencil and pencil grip (grotto grip). Start off having your child write the letters large. Then move to having your child write them normal size. Traditional handwriting skills are usually taught at this age, which is why I am plan on teaching Cooper correct pencil grip at this age. Developmentally, your child should be able to do much better with fine motor skills required in normal handwriting. 

Teach your child how to print the lower case letters first. Once your child has mastered how to print the lower case letters at age 4-5, then teach the upper case letters. The reason for this is because we use lower case letters far more often then upper case letters. Children get into a bad habit of printing in upper case letters because that is what they have been taught at first.

This method of teaching handwriting, I feel, lines up with the VAKT method of teaching. Please see my post about this method for more information.

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