So much research is going into the neurophysiological importance of handwriting, and how it improves learning and cognition. Citing current research in her New York Times article, Maria Konnikova discusses how the art of gesture through writing not only facilitates memory but also helps drive cognition. This is really a great article to begin discussion on the importance of handwriting. There are some discrepancies with findings contributed to some of the research cited in the original article, and here is the link from Drs. Beringer and Richards clarifying their findings. The apps included in Making Your Mark, Best Handwriting Apps were not necessarily apps developed in 2014.
Educators and therapists have long based treatment strategies that synch vision with a motor act to help anchor or give gravity to what students are doing. Making mistakes and getting feedback are all a part of the process. A lot of times, when we hit bumps in the road….we remember. Using a stylus engages the small muscles of the hand, similar to a pen or pencil, but lacks the feedback and graded control for pressure. Using a variety of mediums helps kids recognize that just right touch and broadens their perspectives. I have found that starting on the iPad, allows kids with difficulties in motor planning or being able to grade their control to get the sequence and the feel of prewriting/writing down and will sometimes help decrease anxiety and break through non-compliance. So here are our picks for the Best Apps for Handwriting . Don’t be surprised by some golden oldies, as they continue to make the mark!
Writing Wizard and actually anything by L’Escapadou, are pure joy for both teacher’s OT’s and their students. As an introduction to writing, kids learn there is a form to shaping letters, numbers, and words. Once practiced, prompts can be faded, and there is an incredible amount of customization within the app. L’Escapadou also has a cursive version of this app, which may help kids prone to letter reversals or have difficulty with motor planning. I also just love the prewriting features of Draw with Stars and Draw with Hearts. For older kids, the wonderful Word Wizard just had an incredible update.
StartDOT Handwriting by TrishCo LLC is an exceptional app (and a personal favorite) as it incorporates the senses, and naturally fades prompts so that kids thoroughly learn how to write. By scaffolding the letter formation, and using a kinesthetic storybook approach, kids become more independent naturally. By attempting to independently write letters, the variances are what help form lasting memory. Within the StartDot Handwriting system are supports of both free downloads for worksheets and companion resources for purchase for off screen practice. Read full review here.
School Writing –Learn to Write and More by demografix pty ltd is a very comprehensive and well thought out writing curriculum. With both pre-writing and writing features, teachers and therapists cannot only set specific lessons for students, but also grade the difficulty and keep data. Lessons are progressive, and are presented in “chunks” to help insure learning. I have found the customer service at demografix pty ltd, incredibly responsive and helpful. They fully stand behind their product and want you to get the most out it. Check out demografix’s pty ltd’s other apps, for keyboarding and literacy.
iTrace – Handwritng for Kids by iTrace, is simple to use, supports different writing styles, as well as tracks progress. You are able to customize spelling lists, practice writing your name, and be able to print worksheets for off screen use. Presented in a workbook style format, kids can see a definite beginning middle and end to lessons. It has a nice easy going comfortable feel, and includes rewards for a job well done. iTrace maintains a history of every attempt made by each player, so parents or teachers can easily review kids’ progress.
Ready to Print by Essare LLC is one of the most comprehensive handwriting apps for early learners as it progressively provides activities that emphasize visual motor skills to teach kids the sub skills needed for handwriting. Targeting, matching, and drawing in pathways are all activities that can help you to identify kids that are organized or disorganized in their approach so that you can come up with strategies to avoid bad habits that will be hard to break later. I love the fact that they have dot-dot exercises; it teaches kids how to start and stop – which is essential for correct letter formation. Read full review here.
Teacher Says Handwriting- tracing and writing letters for preschool, kindergarten and elementary by Teacher Says Inc. is a handwriting app that is a refresher for the basics of stroke formation, but really shines as an app for putting it all together by writing words and sentences. Having the choice to either isolate letters and work on formation, or choose between 1 – 3 lines for word or sentence construction makes this app versatile. The interface is very easy to use and can be enhanced if used in a group setting. I love the open lines where kids that already have a sense of letter formation can then evaluate and adjust their handwriting on their own, bringing them one step closer to being independent writers.
Mention any app from Binary Labs Inc. to an O.T. and chances are they have it. Their suite of apps from Dexteria Junior – Fine Motor Skill Development for Toddlers & Preschoolers to LetterReflex – Overcoming Letter Reversals & Backwards Writing in Early Childhood Development & Dyslexic Children will surely address any issue related to writing and fine motor control that you may be concerned with in a child’s ability to perform. The focus is on readying the hand for writing, and improving visual motor control. I would recommend any or all of their apps, they are phenomenal. Read full review here.
The Touch and Write Series by Fizzbrain LLC, is fun, fun, fun. Picking your medium…be it ketchup to whipped cream, then writing it on anything from leopard skin papers to waffles, this app is always a hit with early learners. Letters, numbers, sight words and word families are in the classic Touch and Write, shapes and cursive writing are introduced in some of their other apps. Fizzbrain LLC supports many different languages, and writing styles. It is clear that they value and support kids on a global level. One of their newest apps, not a handwriting app per say, Touch and Write Storybook: 3 Bears showcases the flow of language, listening comprehension, and writing. It has such a big WOW factor; every teacher, therapist and child has loved it! It would be cool to have bundles, in order to pick up a sequence in one of their series. Read full review here.
Callirobics by Lucida Partners LLC (CALLIgraphy and aeROBICS) is a sensory driven prewriting app that helps kids find the rhythm of the movements required by writing.The music relaxes the participants and adds rhythm to their exercises. Music also benefits participants who learn better through auditory, instead of visual means.The educational version contains both books in the series, and is fun for kids. Having the workbook format, gives kids a sense of accomplishment when finished. By consistent practice of simple patterns (straight and curved lines), you can train your hand to perform basic elements of writing movements, and train your eye to focus on details.
Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure by OCG Studios and illustrated by Roxie Munro, is not your straight forward prewriting app. But this app is a treasure as they have kids following a pathway and help improve visual motor skills. Roxie’s A-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure takes things a step further by not only improving a child’s visual motor system, but has prompts to visually scan and find objects. Both are pure fun, but pack a powerful dose of preparing a child for future reading and writing skills. Read full review here.
Toca Cars by Toca Boca AB is another unconventional app to look at for building prewriting skills. With this app, I use a stylus as kids need to follow a pathway in getting their car to go. They need to plan and organize where they are and where they are going or CRASH! The fun is in learning to control your car, and keep that pesky little dog from chasing your car. Read full review here.
These are my favorites for writing and prewriting skills, How about yours?
About the Author
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years, and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play everyday; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.