Writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development. Handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.
Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.
“It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.
Even in the digital age, people remain enthralled by handwriting for myriad reasons—the intimacy implied by a loved one’s script, or what the slant and shape of letters might reveal about personality.
So remember – the ancient art of writing is more than words – it is an artistic expression that aides expression. There are even Apple apps for children to practice their writing skills such as “WritePad” and “abc PocketPhonics.”