There are things our kids can do in life that feel like nice little rites of passage. Maybe it's something little, like getting them into crafts, so they are able to keep themselves occupied without television or video games, but at the same time, we can feel that we're fighting the battle against the digital world. One notable example is handwriting. It might not be something you'd have considered to be a problem a few years ago, but if you are the parents of children who are just learning how to write, the fact that children are more adept at using smartphones and tablets can spark concern. And as a result, because of the increasing use of computers, it can be a skill that goes by the wayside, especially as they get older. And while there are many parents that may think we've just got to go “with the times”, there are many benefits of our children learning to write properly and not just rely on devices. So, what are these benefits, and how do they help our children develop more in a computer-dominated world?
The Cognitive Abilities
Amazingly, those that write faster can perform better in school tests. Why is this? Because they are able to take more notes than someone who has a limited typing speed. Think about this, how fast can you type? It's easier for you to take notes on pen and paper. But in addition to this, there is more of an emotional connection when you put pen to paper, in comparison to finger to keyboard. Handwriting actually increases activity in parts of the brain. By writing with your hands, you are unleashing creativity that wouldn't be accessed if you were using a keyboard. It increases neural activity in specific sections of the brain like meditation does. So encouraging your children to sit down and focus on the act of writing is, in effect, a meditation. This is something that can become a sensory experience. Forcing you to slow down and focus on your hand movements, like in handwriting, improves part of the brain responsible for working memory, as well as language and thinking, but it's also a way for us to slow down and enjoy this approach. This can spark creativity all by itself.
Getting Your Children Started
If they're old enough to write and they do a little bit in school, but it's predominantly done on computers, what you can do to encourage them more is to help them take notes by hand. Because this will engage the brain, this means by taking notes, either in class or by preparing what they're going to do with their homework before they do it, gives them the opportunity to engage the brain. In essence, this is priming them for the task they have ahead of them. And giving them an opportunity to sit down and focus on the tasks, rather than scrolling down a screen where they don't have the opportunity to focus on the words in front of them, this can help improve their concentration, but it can also inspire them to take on more academic approaches to studying. If you have a child that's not necessarily keen on reading, by encouraging them to sit down and take notes slowly, you can give them an appreciation of words.
In addition to this, it can inspire them to be creative in other ways. Even if school work is a very boring thing for them (which, to be fair, is for most people), encouraging them to be creative, either by writing a diary or short stories, can have long-term benefits on their frame of mind. And from there, you can help them build a collection of paper documents that serve as a time capsule for their thoughts and feelings of the time. You could get them fountain pens, Moleskine notepads, a satchel to contain all these things, so it becomes an experience they invest in. There is a very handy guide to fountain pens to give you some inspiration if you want to guide your children in this direction. And before you know it, you've given them a habit that will serve them well for life!
What We Can Learn From This
Of course, it's not just for the benefit of the children that we encourage them to write more, it can give us food for thought with regards to our own habits in this respect. Most of us don't have a need to hand write anymore, because we use computers for everything. But, if this skill dwindles as we age, we may very well be losing a creative outlet that can help us. Writing a diary is one of those old-fashioned examples that doesn't appear to exist anymore. Instead, it's been replaced by the blog. But if you want to be private and capture your innermost thoughts, writing a diary that is just for you can give you that outlet. And besides, if your children see you using your phone constantly, they won't have a reason to do any writing with pen and paper. So instead, lead by example; you may discover a passion that you never knew you had!
Is it important to teach our children to write properly these days? You would think that the schools are encouraging this more, but as the world moves in a digital direction, this could be one of the skills that fall by the wayside. As a result, communication can falter, but also the very simple act of engaging with the source material, such as through pen and paper, will disappear very soon. Now, this isn't to say that using computers and tablets are bad because they can encourage a different way of thinking. But if our children grow up without this important skill, just think about how many other vital skills they may miss out on in life. It doesn't have to be difficult; encourage them to make lists, and get the pens and paper out, and fingers crossed you've embedded them with a habit for life!