Handwriting Without Tears – Handmade Alphabet Letter Pieces

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When my son was in preschool he had an 18 month fine motor skills delay, which means writing letters, or even the ability to draw a straight line was pretty non-existent for him by preschool! He spent a lot of time with an occupation therapist and used the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum

Being the mom of two EXTREMELY rambunctious boys I was VERY very impressed with the HWT method! If you have kids or boys anything like my own, handwriting is certainly not on their top priority list! But Handwriting Without Tears makes it fun!

In fact after chatting with you guys on Facebook I know many of you have used it as well and gave me some fantastic ideas on how to make my own pieces of the curriculum without purchasing everything at full price. (thanks!!!)

This is a VERY good curriculum for kids with fine motor delay, and kids (especially boys!) who do not like to practice handwriting because it is boring or simply just too hard for them to bother trying. Although we have quite a few free printables that you can use too! (Numbers 1-50 WorksheetsAlphabet Letters Mini Book, and even more here!)


Basic Handwriting Without Tears Method:

The basic idea is that all 26 letters of the alphabet are made by using a combination of just 4 shapes. Once you learn these 4 shapes you can write any letter of the alphabet!

Those 4 shapes are:

  • Large Curves

  • Small Curves

  • Large Sticks

  • Small Sticks

Simple right? They sell a wooden letters kit which have all of these pieces in it for about $30 but I wanted to make it cheaper. (Since posting this article Learning Resources has also come out with a similar plastic set of letters for around $30 here.)

So I turned to you guys on Facebook to help me out – and I got some great ideas!! I checked out Michaels and the Dollar Tree, but ultimately ended up buying an Elmer’s foam board at Walmart. It cost $2.97 and came in a variety of colors.

letter template for handwriting without tears
alphabet letter template for handwriting without tears
alphabet letter template for handwriting without tears

The small sticks picture wouldn’t load right but it looks exactly like the large sticks, just half the size. I was able to find a template for the large curves (which is why the look nice) but not for the small curves (so they’re a bit odd and crooked!). However when we go to therapy next week I am going to trace the small curves on a piece of paper for a template and re-do them!

So ALL of the letters can be made by using these four shapes. There is much more to the curriculum than just these four shapes though. Letters are grouped together to be taught a certain way but for sake of time and cost we are starting with this.

So we started with the letter “P”. We used one large stick and one small curve as you see below.

*NOTE*- many children are taught to make a P with a circle and a stick – this does NOT teach them that way.

Drawing a circle for many children, and especially children with a fine motor delay is extremely difficult. Teaching them to simply learn to draw a curve makes the writing much more legible and less frustrating.

alphabet letter template for handwriting without tears

To make the letter “R” you just take the same shapes as your “P” but add a small stick at the bottom!

alphabet letter template for handwriting without tears

OR instead of the short stick you can add another small curve to make the letter “B”. Notice again that they are not made with circles but with two small curves.

Get the idea? Pretty simple when you look at it this way isn’t it? Below you can see a lowercase “a” – with a curve instead of a circle.

alphabet letter template for handwriting without tears

And of course, the letter “D”.

letter D handwriting without tears

I had never thought of learning letters and handwriting this way but it makes complete sense! Handwriting with Tears also sells practice workbooks for different age groups as well as teacher guides throughout the elementary grades. They also sell a menagerie of tools and kits that you can use which are very very nice to have but not a necessity. You can easily replicate a similar thing at home.

 In my son’s OT he also uses a small chalkboard to practice writing these letters in this fashion, and then will take a small corner piece of a sponge and trace back over those letters to erase them which increases work on his fine motor skill. Lastly they also sell a special two lined paper that correlates with this curriculum as well.

If your kids went through the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum I’d love to hear how they did! If you haven’t heard of this way before but thought it was pretty simple and awesome like I did let me know! Below are some more FREE resources that I have created to help with fine motor skills practice!

Fine Motor Skills Activities & Resources:

Toddler Travel Activity Tubprintable preschool lacing cards
Kumon Workbooks for Kids20+ Salt Dough Art Activities for Kids

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  1. Alysia Battista says:

    Love this idea! When I went through a handwriting selection committee, we decided on Itchy Alphabet instead of Handwriting Without Tears. I taught third grade then and now, but in between I taught K-2 basic skills. I really see how HWT is friendlier for the younger kids, especially those with sensorimotor issues!

    Miss B, Busy Bee

  2. Thanks for the idea, I have the HWT book and was going to start my 1st grader with it. This will be a fun craft activity for him to do with me (I think we will use cardstock and clear contact paper though.. I'm seeing the contact paper as a bonus so we can actually write the letter once it is built.

  3. I stumbled across your blog while researching Handwriting without tears. I think I am also going to make my own shapes. Just curious did you ever find a template for the small curve? Also did you make your own supplies for any of the other supplemental tools and kits? Thanks for your help.

    1. No I didn’t – my son was in OT at the time so we didn’t use the entire curriculum – only parts of it. I decided to just freehand the small curve for our purposes and it worked out great!

    1. you can also use foam sheets to make wood pieces also.

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