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Why Calligraphy is a Lifesaver

Give kids a couple of weeks off school and they can hardly wait to sprint upstairs to their bedrooms to play Fortnite for the duration. Maybe this is how the makers came up with its name.

Give kids six weeks holiday, then killing people and performing various victory dances in a post-apocalyptic virtual world loses its appeal. Unless you happen to be a teenage boy.

So, it’s about this time of year that parents often need a little inspiration.

Calligraphy to the rescue

This is where calligraphy can come in handy. And when I say handy, I mean it can save your children from boring themselves to death (sorry, one of mine is a teenager and his melodramatic exaggerations are beginning to rub off on me).

Of course, it won’t be an easy sell. Calligraphy is everything Fortnite isn’t. It isn’t loud. It isn’t online. It doesn’t involve bloody violence (unless you sculpt the words ‘bloody violence’ in your best handwriting), it doesn’t contain in-game purchases of outfits and weapons and it doesn’t involve building any forts.

Rather, calligraphy is as quiet as a church mouse padding around in slippers. It’s also brain-healingly calming. Calligraphy is lexical mindfulness for millennials. Or haptic heaven, if you prefer. As soon as you start moving one of those gorgeous little italic pens across the page and start forming curvaceous Cs, exquisite Es and sweeping Ss, it’s almost impossible not to get sucked deep into the page and swim around in its inky elegance.

This would have been no bad thing even in a pre-digital age, when neat handwriting was little more than an expectation, even at primary school. Today, when online games kidnap our children, and often won’t even release them at bedtime, mindfulness is as soothing as summer rain.

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Calligraphy puts the ink in think

In an article for Psychology Today, memory medic, William R Klemm, points out that:

“Scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn functional specialisation – that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency.”

In other words, cursive writing (joined up writing to me and you), with a pen and paper, helps us to think.

“Cursive writing,” the article goes on, “helps train the brain to integrate visual, tactile information and fine motor dexterity.” Who knew?

 

"Calligraphy is lexical mindfulness for millennials. Or haptic heaven, if you prefer"

Tune into writing

Kids can get similar benefits from learning to play a musical instrument. The main difference is that you may pay a couple of hundred pounds for a trombone, whereas you can pick up a half-decent calligraphy pen for less than the price of a cheap kazoo. Another benefit for parents like me is, with calligraphy, you don’t have to hear your child rasping their way towards virtuosity.

I mention all of this not just to save a few kids’ lives; though I admit this is a pretty good side effect. I mention it because I recently experienced this soothing phenomenon during one of DRPG’s lunch and learn sessions, in which calligraphy was taught by my colleague, Ellis Metcalf.

Ellis provided a few calligraphy brushes, templates, tracing paper and a PowerPoint presentation oozing with examples of her own delicious inky squiggles. Within minutes, the room of around 30 digitally-frazzled grown-ups, some of whom still had half a plate of food in front of them, fell into a serene hush. Tables of deeply focused workers delicately swept their tiny brushes up and down lineless A4 paper, forming letters with newly-learnt thick and thin strokes.

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As I discovered, calligraphy can be as enjoyable for adults as it is for kids. And, as most parents know, finding something you and your child or teen can enjoy as much as each other is a pretty rare thing. Indeed, during the summer holidays this, in my gorgeously legible book, makes calligraphy a bit of a lifesaver.

 

How about you? Let us know your best tips for prising teenagers away from screens this summer.