Does your child's school work come home with all of their letters smashed together forming one big run on word? Or, are their words and letters stretched out so far it's difficult to read? If you've answered yes to either of these questions, it's likely your child is having difficulty with proper spacing and needs some handwriting help.
Word spacing problems could be due to numerous skill set deficits, but there are actually two common reasons for spacing issues — deficits in visual motor skills and visual perceptual skills.
When younger, children are often taught finger spacing between words. For kids in kindergarten, they use two spaces between their words since their writing is bigger at this age and requires more space. As children progress, they begin using only one finger between their words. Finger spacing is ideal since children's fingers tend to go where they do.
Some children, however, have difficulty remembering to finger space and once they reach higher grades, their teachers no longer need to remind them to do so. So, your child may require a more physical reminder of spacing between their words.
Here are a few fun ways to "remind" them to word space.
Set up a dozen domino pieces in a row, while your child watches. Once you have them set up, flick your finger so the dominos tumble and fall one by one. Do it a second and then a third time.
On the third time, as you're setting up the dominos again, explain to your child the similarities between sentence writing and dominos. Tell them each domino is like a word and a few words in a row form a sentence. Explain as you read words in a sentence, ideas simply flow while you flick the row of dominos once again.
Now, set up the dominos one more time. This time, be sure there are no spaces between each of them and that each is butted up against another. Trying flicking the dominos again and act surprised when they don't start flowing smoothly.
Ask your child why they think it didn't work this time. If they're not sure, explain to them that it's because you didn't leave any space between each domino. When there are no spaces, the dominos won't flow — just like when there are no spaces between words, sentences won't flow.
2. Stamp Pad
Have your child take a stamp pad and stamp a fingerprint between every word of a sentence.
3. Garbage Truck
Draw a garbage truck above each word of a sentence where there's too much space between each letter. Now draw "garbage" falling out of the truck into the big spaces. Tell your child, "don't leave too much space where junk can fall inside the words."
A pediatric occupational therapist is a great resource for other strategies and ideas to help your child develop strong writing habits early in their lives.