How to Involve Children in Writing to Boost Creativity and Memory

Digital technologies have helped children to develop writing skills in multiple ways. According to the results of a survey from Pew Research Center, 96% of the surveyed teachers agreed that digital technologies allowed students to share their work with a wider audience. In addition, the majority of teachers (76%) agreed that digital tools promoted greater collaboration among students.

However, there is a problem: the use of technology has minimized the need for handwriting. Teachers require typed assignments, so the students are being encouraged to use the computer when completing projects. They are using their tablets and smartphones to take notes during class, so handwriting is brought to a minimum.

Research Proves It: Handwriting Comes with Great Benefits

Psychological scientists from Princeton and the University of California, Los Angeles, tested and analyzed the students’ learning abilities linked to typing or handwriting notes. During the first stage of the study, the participants of were relying on their usual note-taking strategy during the lectures (all of them were listening to the same lectures). Half an hour after the lectures, the students were tested on the material.

The findings were quite interesting: both laptop users and hand-writers memorized the same number of facts from the lectures. The users of laptops showed an ability to take more detailed notes. However, they were also inclined to transcribe the words they listened to, without involving their reasoning in the process. The students were tested again after one week. This time, the students who took notes by hand showed significantly better results. The results of this study are clear: taking notes with a pen and paper is a superior method to typing when it comes to boosting memory.      

Another study, performed at the University of Indiana, focussed on discovering the effects of handwriting on young children who didn’t know how to read and write. Each child was given an index card with a shape or letter. They were asked to draw it by hand, type it on a computer, or trace it on a dotted line. The results showed that the children who drew the shapes or letters by hand had greater activity in specific areas of the brain that are activated when adults write and read. These brain functions were not active in the children who used the two other methods to replicate the shape or letter.

Why Should Children Write More?

  • The quality of handwriting is related to children’s ability to learn and write.
  • Handwriting gives students enough time to think and focus while writing. The typing process, on the other hand, is more mechanical.
  • The simplicity of the pen-and-paper method keeps the student focused on the task at hand.
  • Through handwriting, students express their personality.

How to Inspire Children to Write Longhand

It’s not too hard to inspire primary-school students to write by hand. The process of writing something on paper is quite attractive to them.

From high school on, however, students start relying on technologies more and more. They bring their tablets and laptops to class, and the teachers have no other choice but to let them use technology for learning. Many students from this age group find handwriting boring and tiring. At that point, we have to find ways to engage them in the process.

Here are some ideas to help you encourage children to write:

  1. Give them reasons to write – a letter, a shopping list, a wish list. If there are a group of children, ask each one to write an anonymous letter. Then, hand out the letters in a random order, and see if they can recognize the the handwriting.
  2. Create a positive writing atmosphere. Play an educational video and compare the notes that everyone took.
  3. Ask them to describe events or landscapes through writing. Then, check their work and give them credit.
  4. Make a project, such as a journal. If they use different colors and pencils, the final result will be not only educational, but creative, too.
  5. Ask them to write poems, stories, essays, and other creative assignments by hand. The main idea is to make them focus through the process of writing.

Emily Waldman, a grammar tutor from Essays On Time explains:

‘Handwriting supports the brain’s creative functions, which are extremely important for creative writing. For a change, ask your students for a handwritten essay instead of a typed one. Turn it into a fun activity that allows them to show how creative they can get when the time is limited. Don’t set any expectations; there won’t be grades for this assignment. You just want them to practice.’

  1. If they have assignments or exams to study for, invite them to create mind maps by hand. Handwriting will encourage them to consider their ideas more deeply. They can use color pencils to make the maps more appealing.
  2. Assign writing projects. Think of a topic and ask someone to write an introductory sentence. Another person then writes the next sentence, making sure to keep a logical flow. Continue until you get an entire paper, and then read it.
  3. Encourage them to take notes during lectures or lessons. Emphasize the important parts and tell them to write them down in their own words. You can teach children the Cornell Note Taking System for that purpose.

Handwriting has an important connection with creativity and memory which is why it’s such an important part of their development. Anything that will encourage them towards handwriting will help to strengthen their creativity and memory, which will in turn nurture them towards success.


About the Author: Sophia Anderson

Sophia AndersonSophia Anderson is an associate educator, tutor and freelance writer. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, careers, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Talk to her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

 

4 Comments

Christa

This article makes me want to cry because my son struggles with dysgraphia and we have recently decided at age 9 that his handwriting skills are holding him back from other types of learning. Trying to help someone with an invisible disability is not easy. Most of the help is for kids who are obviously not neurotypical. High functioning kids with challenges are a real struggle.

Thanks for your information. I’m sure it is helpful for many people.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Christa handwriting is just one way to develop these skills – there are plenty more. I understand how difficult it is to help kids who are quietly struggling. Keep searching and fighting for him to receive the support he needs. There will be a way through this.

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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