Handwriting is an essential part of learning, but it is becoming overshadowed by the use of tech in classrooms. As kids learn more and more on tablets and laptops, it appears that learning how to write with a good ole pencil and paper is becoming more difficult.
According to paediatricians in the UK, the overuse of technology—especially in children’s early years—may be hindering kids’ development of fine motor skills. In other words, many kids in the process of learning to write may be neurologically ready yet lack the strength to properly hold a pencil.
Yep, your kid may be nimble enough to keep beating your high score on Piano Tiles, but all that pointing and tapping leaves important muscles in their hands hung out to dry. Not only are many kids lacking the hand strength to grasp a pencil correctly, they aren’t developing the fine movement skills that would give them enough control to move the pencil accurately enough to create legible letters.
Sally Payne, who is the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust, told the Guardian that kids entering school nowadays don’t have the hand strength and dexterity that kids had a decade ago. “To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers,” said Payne. “Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills.”
According to Payne, those skills are learned through types of play that are being increasingly sidelined by technology. “It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes,” Payne said. “Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation skills they need.”
Now you may be thinking that handwriting is a dying form of communication anyways, but a lack of fine motor skills affects more than just hand writing. Tying shoelaces, buttoning up a shirt, or using scissors all require dexterity.
This doesn’t mean you should do away with technology altogether, but just make sure you’re still prioritizing play activities like building blocks, doing crafts and colouring books.