January 23rd is National Handwriting Day. The birthday of John Hancock was chosen to mark the celebration of handwriting because he was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, and has one of the most famous signatures in American history. Today, our signatures are the one place that most of our handwriting is still visible. With all of our digital communications, a day to celebrate paper and pen provides a special opportunity to share something meaningful with someone we care for.
For adults, this can mean sending a hand-written letter to a friend. How many of your friends would recognize your handwriting if they saw it? A nice note can be a warm and welcome surprise in a week filled with texts and emails. For children, National Handwriting Day provides the perfect opportunity to practice and develop an appreciation for the skills they’ll use throughout their education.
If your children are just learning to write, they will not have developed their own sense of handwriting yet. And they are probably spending most of their writing practice trying to repeat the letters they see on their worksheets. This is important practice. But handwriting is also personal and creative. Show your children some examples of creative and unique handwriting. You can even show them your own. Lots of children practice copying their parents’ handwriting while they’re learning.
Take the opportunity to practice the everyday acts of handwriting that your children will perform in their daily lives. They can fill out a calendar by hand, write a Thank You note to a neighbor, make a card for a grandparent, or simply write their names freeform in whatever style they’d like. Show them your signature and let them imagine what their own might look like.
Allow them to experiment and break the rules they normally have to follow. You can show young children examples of cursive writing and calligraphy to pique their interest. If they normally practice in pencil, let children write with pens and colorful markers. Encourage them to personalize their handwriting with flourishes and special embellishments. Let them dot their I’s with smiley faces or draw illustrations as part of their letters.
All of these things are a healthy and productive way to show children the creative possibilities in practicing their own handwriting. Once they’ve mastered the formal rules, their writing can be anything they want it to be. And no matter how far technology advances, there will always be a place for a thoughtfully written letter. Building an appreciation for old-fashioned pen and paper is something you can do with your children now that will pay dividends for the rest of their lives.