Workbooks and worksheets: pencil-and-paper activities still deliver big benefits

Being tethered to e-devices for good chunks of the day is a new enough phenomenon, even for adults, that “side effects” are just beginning to emerge. For example, we’re now hearing about the repetitive stress injury termed “texting thumb.” Our opposable thumbs, useful as they are, were not designed for all the “traveling” they do while texting. We’re also hearing phrases like “tech neck,” which has been used to describe both the droopy neck skin that can be caused by long periods of looking down at devices, or more profoundly, headaches, neck stiffness, and/or shoulder pain caused by same.

For kids? While little ones are practically being born with gadgets in hand, it appears that plain ol’ paper-and-pencil activities still offer many benefits. In 2011, the HuffPost published an article titled “Why Does Writing Make Us Smarter?”, which began with this suggestion: “Don’t trade your pencils and paper for a keyboard just yet.” The article extolled the virtues of writing/handwriting and suggested that “Compared to using two hands to type out letters on a keyboard, writing with one hand uses more complex brain power,” and it went on to detail how.

In an article titled, “The Benefits of Writing with Good Old Fashioned Pen and Paper,” by Catherine Pearson, the HuffPost revisited the topic in 2014 and expanded on those ideas. It reported that Patricia Ann Wade, a learning specialist with Indiana University’s School of Medicine, has found that both keyboard “writing” and pencil and paper have their place. The HuffPost drew from an article in The Week, citing work from Virginia Berminger, a University of Wisconsin psychologist “who has tested school-age children and found they tend to generate more ideas when composing essays by hand, rather than on the computer.” In support, Wade says, “Writing entails using the hand and fingers to form letters…the sequential finger movements activate multiple regions of the brain associated with processing and remembering information.”

Wording with pencil and paper also develops fine motor skills in younger children, including the important “pincer grip.” As defined on the Therapy Street for Kids website the pincer grip “enables a child to pick up small items using the thumb and index finger,” describing it as “a developmental milestone that typically occurs at 9 to 12 months of a ge.” The site explains the importance of the pincer grip for holding pencils, crayons, and markers; holding and using feeding utensils effectively; managing closures like snaps, zippers, and buttons; making finger-to-finger signs like A-OK; and manipulating small items such as coins, within the hand.

Workbooks and worksheets that allow kids to trace letters and numbers, navigate mazes, solve math problems on paper, and much more, remain important learning tools that both get kids ready for school and also supplement classroom learning. Always a great value, through September 11, 320-page Big Workbooks packed with activities for preschool through third grade, are 35% off.

Help kids put pencil to paper to develop both fine motor skills and “more complex brain power.”