• Success Story: Handwriting Hero

    As an occupational therapist, I often meet parents looking for a hero. They are hoping I run in and rescue […]

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  • Is Your Child Ready to Write? Part 1

    One question I wish more parents would ask themselves is whether their child is ready to write. Many parents and […]

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  • Treasure C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters



    C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters was developed to improve the handwriting of children by providing specific therapeutic techniques. One of the most common errors that occur with children’s
    handwriting is the formation and directionality of letters. This refers to the direction the child moves
    the pencil to form letters. Since all
    uppercase letters begin on the top line, it makes sense to associate letters by
    groups according to the curved or straight lines used to form them.

    The uppercase letters are separated into six groups to
    help children relate the letters to common objects. In addition, seven action word phrases are used to help a child memorize how to form individual letters. This provides a multisensory approach as the child feels the motion of the pencil, hears the words, and sees the strokes as they are being formed into letters. In addition, there is a helpful mascot cheering along as a child works his or her way through the book.  

    This workbook was created to help parents, educators, and occupational therapists.  Its concept is smart and
    effective and can be introduced as early as 4 years of age when children
    typically begin to draw simple shapes. However, it is most
    effective when started around age 5 or when a child is able to neatly and
    easily copy strokes on command and has strong foundational skills including a
    functional pencil grasp. It is meant to be completed before its companion workbook for lowercase letters. 


    The 26 uppercase letters of the alphabet are separated into six formation groups that spell out the acronym CHEST: Clocks, Hats & Hooks, Ears, Slides, & Trees.

    C is for Clocks. These 5 letters curve around like a circular clock: C G O Q S.              

    H is for Hats. These 5 letters have a line across the top like a hat: E F I T Z.

    H is also for Hooks.  These 2 letters curve up like a hook: J U.

    E is for Ears. These 4 letters have a bump on the right side like an ear: B D P R.

    S is for Slides. These 5 letters slide down to the side like a playground slide: A V W X Y.

    T is for Trees. These 5 letters zip straight down and have branches like a tree: H K L M N.


    26 uppercase letters of the alphabet can be formed using seven simple phrases called Action
    Words: Curve Around, Make an Ear, Make a Hook, Slide Down, Slide Up,
    Zip Down, and Zoom Across.



    introduce the Action Words pages. They are used to introduce the language used
    for the formation of the curved and straight lines. The Coloring Pages are then used as introductions
    to the different groups. The groups do not need to be completed in the
    order they are presented.


    Next, each letter will have a page within a group. Action words printed in bold
    should be said aloud to guide the
    child. Using a parrot voice makes it
    more fun and encourages the child to say the words as well.  


    Lastly, there are additional pages including reviews of the groups, copying words, and activity pages. The workbook also includes a visual chart and a guide with all the action words for the 26 letters on one page.


    Visit www.playapy.com to purchase the award-winning Treasure C.H.E.S.T. and its companion workbook Heads, Tummies, & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters.


    Watch this video for an example of a child using the Action Words.

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  • Keeping Cursive Current


    As the creator of
    a handwriting program, people outside of my profession often ask me if I think
    handwriting will soon be a thing of the past due to the advancement of
    technology. They usually reconsider when I remind them of all the daily
    activities we don’t think of that require handwriting like writing checks,
    filling out applications, signing contracts, etc. What fascinates them,
    however, is hearing all the benefits particularly when it comes to cursive
    handwriting. Since many schools have stopped requiring the instruction of
    cursive, it has become a lost art to many. So much so that National Handwriting
    , January 23rd, was created to promote the skill and help to keep
    it current.

    The benefits of
    handwriting extend beyond the obvious improvements in fine motor skills, hand
    strength, and hand dexterity. Research shows that handwriting verses tracing or
    typing of letters is important for the early recruitment in letter processing
    of three brain regions known to support successful reading. Therefore, handwriting
    may facilitate reading acquisition in young children.1 In fact,
    research has shown children that learn to write letters from memory
    automatically and quickly may increase the probability that they will become
    skilled writers in terms of composition.2
    This is because there is better access to thoughts and information
    when handwriting flows more naturally. Cursive has been known to be a faster and
    more efficient method for handwriting, but research also shows that it is better
    for learning as well. A 2014 study compared the notes taken by college students
    with one group writing in cursive and the other group typing. The students that
    used longhand demonstrated better understanding and retention of their notes
    despite writing less than the typing students whom recorded more words
    verbatim.3 Lastly, cursive
    handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and
    right hemispheres, something absent from printing or typing.

    The many benefits
    of cursive handwriting create a strong argument in support of its continued
    instruction in schools. Keeping it current is not only helpful to children and
    adults as readers and writers but as learners overall. Maintain a cursive
    practice and reap the rewards.

    I hope you find
    this helpful. If your child struggles with handwriting tasks, talk to your
    pediatrician about consulting with an occupational therapist. Have a playful

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.


    James, K. and Engelhardt, L. (2012). The effects of
    handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate
    children. Trends in Neuroscience and education. 1 (1), 32-42.

    2 Berninger, V.W., et al.
    (1997). Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers: Transfer from
    handwriting to composition. Journal of
    Educational Psychology
    , 89, 652-666.

    P.A., and Oppenheimer, D. M. (2104). The pen is mightier than the keyboard:
    Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science. 23
    April. DOI: 10.1177/0956797614524581.

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  • Why Writing Capital Letters 1st is Key

    Learning to write
    is a milestone in the childhood experience of almost all typically developing
    children. Still, it is achieved with great effort and struggle for many. Countless
    products sold in stores often complicate the task for parents by combining
    uppercase and lowercase letters and encouraging the printing of 112 letters in
    an alphabetical yet developmentally arbitrary fashion. This can be overwhelming
    for a small child, decrease their confidence, and create poor habits. Hence,
    specialists often teach uppercase letters prior to introducing lowercase. It
    may seem counter-intuitive to learn capitals first when mostly lowercase
    letters are used in writing. There, however, are several important reasons why
    this particular method is beneficial to a child in terms of ease and

    Here are 5 helpful reasons why learning to write capital letters first is the key to success:

    1.     All uppercase letters start at the top.
    Lowercase letters vary and have different starting points.

    2.     All uppercase letters are the same height.
    Lowercase letters vary and have different heights with some tall and some

    3.     All uppercase letters use the same space.
    Lowercase letters vary with some letters ascending to the top line and some descending
    below the base line.

    4.     Uppercase letters are easier to recognize.
    Children have more exposure to capital letters in their environments on street
    signs, billboards, buildings, etc.

    5.     Uppercase letters encourage top to bottom
    and left to right eye and hand coordination fundamental for reading in addition
    to writing.

    It is also important to note it is not necessary to learn to write letters in alphabetical order.  Many handwriting programs are available with instructions to teach letters in groups according to how they are formed or in developmental stages. This helps a child to practice similar letters together and quickly become more successful.  Remember to consider if a child has the foundational skills of copying and connecting simple lines to form basic shapes before teaching letters. If your child is struggling with handwriting, consult with your doctor about seeing an occupational therapist for an evaluation or consultation. 

    I hope you find this tip helpful. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist,
    award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information
    about Playapy’s publications, visit
    or email

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