‘The Handwriting Game’ Tricks Kids Into Practicing Their Penmanship

Even better, it's a perfect rainy day time-killer.

by Brett Ortler

Of all of the rainy day activities for kids to choose from, a penmanship contest seems like an odd choice. But the “Handwriting Game” is a winner. It’s a competition in which kids compete to see if they can scribble better than their parents. What makes it hilarious, of course, is that mom and dad are forced to write with their non-dominant hand, eyes closed, or with any number of other designated impediments aimed at making their chicken-scratch even more comical. Not only is the game effective at killing time when everybody’s trapped indoors, but it also helps kids practice their reading, writing, and fine-motor skills. And along the way, your enigmatic, tortured scribblings are certain to crack the whole family up.

Prep Time: 5 minutes.

Entertainment Time: 15 to 20 minutes.Energy Expended by Child: Minimal physical, Moderate mental.

What You Need:

  • A stack of blank paper (lined is best)
  • A writing surface for everyone (a coffee table works)
  • Markers or pens

How to Play:

After passing out paper and a writing utensil to everyone, have your kids come up with a short, simple sentence. Give them an example, such as “I love my pet dog,” and ask them to write it on their paper. Tell them that you’ll be doing the same, but with you “wrong” hand. Once finished, compare everyone’s handwriting (while engaging in some playful debate) to decide who “wins” ⏤ that is, who has the most legible penmanship in the family. Play a few more rounds, doling out new paper as needed.

Next, increase the difficulty by announcing that all adults will now be writing with the wrong hand and their eyes closed. Your kids can continue writing as usual with their eyes open, of course, and they’ll likely be delighted at just how rune-like and hieroglyphic your writing becomes.

After that, there are several ways to keep the game going — and to continue to make a fool of yourself. Writing with toes, fingers taped together, or with a marker in your mouth are all options certain to keep them entertained. But all the while, ask them to keep writing normally, as this will keep them practicing. They have no idea they’re being tricked.

Once they tire of handwriting, the game can easily be adapted to drawing. Have them pick a subject to draw and compete in the same fashion. Unless you’re a talented artist, the end results of drawing in this manner can get funny, fast. While sketching with my left hand and eyes closed, my attempt at depicting the family dog ended up being a cross between a Facehugger from Alien and something out of a Hieronymous Bosch painting. My kid loved it.

Wrap Up:

When school is out, it can be difficult to keep your kids motivated and practing what they learned in class. ‘The Handwriting Game’ is a genuinely fun and useful way to kids working with words — and laughing — all summer long.