Mastering handwriting makes your child smarter

child handwriting on paper using a pen

Results from previous studies indicate both children and adults absorb more and remember better when they’ve written by hand.

Another  recent study has indicated the same thing: by choosing to hand write, rather than use a keyboard, you obtain the best learning and recall.

Professor Audrey van der Meer at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) argues that national guidelines should be instituted to make sure children need to be on the receiving end of some handwriting training.

In 2017, Van der Meer and colleagues monitored brain activity in 20 students. In the most recent study this year, brain activity was measured in 12 young adults and 12 children. It is the first time in which children have participated in a study of this kind.

Both studies involved the use of an electroencephalogram (EEG). This picks up electrical activity in the brain using electrodes attached to your scalp. Brain cells communicate through electrical impulses all the time. This activity registers as wavelike lines on an EEG recording.

READ: Learning should be looked at holistically, not just one specific area

It was found that handwriting gives the brain more ‘hooks’ to hang memories onto. The examination showed the brain in both groups is far more active when participants are writing by hand than it is when they’re composing via keyboard.

“Writing by hand creates much more activity in the sensorimotor parts of the brain. A lot of senses are activated by pressing the pen on paper, seeing the letters you write and hearing the sound you make while writing. These sensory experiences create contact between different parts of the brain and open the brain up for learning,” explains Van der Meer.

She is a firm believer in the significance of children being engaged in drawing and writing at a young age, particularly at school, given the results of her and others’ studies.

In many countries, typing, screen time and tapping consume hours of the lives of children and adolescents. This has been magnified by the increased use of digital learning as a platform. Van der Meer acknowledges digital training has positive factors, but emphasises that time still needs to be spent on handwriting training.

In Norway and Finland, schools have digitised to the extent that few, if any, schools still teach handwriting.

Teachers who advocate for the use of keyboards argue that children can compose longer texts sooner and feel more motivation to write because they are more familiar with a keyboard.

READ: Creating an effective balancing act

“Learning to write by hand is a slower process, but it’s important for children to go through the tiring phase of learning to write by hand,” she explains. ” The intricate hand movements and the shaping of letters are beneficial in several ways.” She elaborates by saying that when using a keyboard, you make the same movement for each letter. Whereas handwriting demands control of your fine motor skills and senses. She says it’s valuable to engage your brain in a learning state as much as possible.

“In order for the brain to develop in the best possible way, we need to use it for what it’s best at,” she points out. “We have to use all our senses, be outside, experience all kinds of weather and meet other people. If we don’t challenge our brain, it can’t reach its full potential. And that can impact school performance,” she maintains. 

Reference: The Importance of Cursive Handwriting Over Typewriting for Learning in the Classroom: A High-Density EEG Study of 12-Year-Old Children and Young Adults.

Eva Ose Askvik, F. R. (Ruud) van der Weel and Audrey L. H. van der Meer. Front. Psychol., 28 July 2020 |