Believe it or not, we’re now into the eighth month of this year - happy August, everyone!
For those with school aged children (or for school aged kids themselves) this means the summer holidays are now in full swing. A time away from schoolbooks and the pressures they bring, and an opportunity to visit new places, devote more time to hobbies, and generally enjoy a little more freedom than during the school year. Many of our fondest childhood memories often come from these periods of longer days, creativity and play, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
But with this time away from school, there are a few extra stresses that often fall on the shoulders of the parents. For one - how do you keep a child busy and entertained for 6 or 7 weeks straight?! Then there’s the so-called “summer slippage” - the drop in learning that some kids experience when not in school for extended periods that can cause problems come term time.
Thankfully, there are many ways to ensure that your kids have fun and destress while also keeping up their education and cognitive development. Today we’re taking a look at one key area we think it’s worth thinking about: handwriting.
As typing and word processing have grown more and more ubiquitous, in turn the practice of writing by hand has been viewed with a diminished sense of importance. While it would be wrong to deny the many positives that have come from modern technology, it would be equally wrong to overlook the countless benefits that are bestowed through handwriting - as we’ve covered in this blog before! And at a time when around a third of the UK population claim not to have handwritten a single letter or document in the past year, it’s worth revisiting these benefits, and exploring how writing by hand helps ensure that our children grow and develop to their full potential.
For starters, even in spite of our countless phones, tablets and computers, handwriting remains a key life skill. Simple things like quickly jotting down a phone message or a shopping list, or writing a loved one’s address on the back of a postcard, all require us to be able to write by hand quickly and clearly. Without regularly picking up a pen, many people report a deterioration in the quality and even legibility of their writing. It also remains an important element of a student’s education - from early primary school, right through to university exams, young people are still required to use a pen and paper, often under considerable pressure.
In early years, the act of writing by hand is a key part of the development of a child’s fine motor skill development. Later in life it becomes an important tool for decluttering thoughts, keeping organised, and has even been shown to help with fact retention and memory. Simply put - our brains love it when we write by hand!
Want to instill a love of writing in your child? Help them to appreciate the simple pleasure of putting pen to paper? Here are some suggestions:
A simple but effective way to engage the brain is through pen and paper word puzzles like wordsearches or crosswords. Got some time to kill on a journey? Bring out a notepad and pencil for a few games of Tic Tac Toe or Hangman. These activities are quick and easy and are excellent ways to stave off boredom while keeping the mind active.
Here’s a great afternoon craft activity - help your child to draw and design a plaque for their bedroom door. Use paper or card, pens, pencils, crayons, scissors and glue, and let their creativity flourish. Encourage them to write each letter as neatly and carefully as possible, then decorate with drawings or pictures of items starting with the same letter as their name - apples and ants for Angie, zebras and zigzags for Zach.
Stock up on as many different writing tools as you can - colouring pencils, felt pens, paints, whatever you like - and see what weird and wonderful things you and your child can create. Build them a bigger canvas if they need it by sellotaping a number of sheets of paper together. Let them sit in the centre and work around, filling in each of the corners with different drawings, patterns, shapes, whatever they like - all the while they will be engaging their creativity and developing their fine motor skills.
The imaginations of children and young people, unrestrained by learned self-consciousness, can be truly remarkable. Try sitting down with your kid and coming up with imaginative fictions, and writing them down. Put them in charge with a pen or pencil, and encourage them to follow their creative instincts, talking through each step of the story before committing it to the page. Explore different word choices and descriptive language and see if you can expand their vocabulary along the way.
Adults broadly fall into two categories - those who kept diaries as children, and those who wish they had! Not only do they become incredible time capsules, journals and diaries have also been shown to improve people’s memory. Encouraging your child to write a page in a diary every day also helps improve their motivation and self-discipline, all while ensuring their handwriting skills don’t get a little rusty over the holidays.
If your child’s summer schedule wasn’t already chock-a-block, these ideas can definitely help keep them busy! And to help you along the way, here are a few recommendations from our range that are perfect for kids and young people. Enjoy the holidays!