Need a fun and educational activity to do on a cold winter day? Why not use Jan. 23 — the 39th anniversary of National Handwriting Day — as an excuse to have your kids send notes to their grandparents or write their birthday or Christmas present thank you notes?

Celebrated on the birthday of John Hancock­ — known for his bold signature on the Declaration of Independence — National Handwriting Day was established in 1977 to acknowledge the history and importance of penmanship.

Handwriting Makes Us Smarter!

Research has shown that writing by hand benefits cognitive development and motor skills, and can lead to improved writing skills and comprehension. (link to study at end) University of Washington Psychologist Virginia Berninger concluded in a study of school-aged children that handwriting, printing and cursive, and typing on a keyboard activated different brain patterns. Children who wrote by hand generated more ideas faster than those typing and also exhibited better working memory, which increased overall reading and writing abilities.

Handwriting also adds intimacy to anything written, whether it’s a letter, a card or a simple note, and reveals details about the writer’s personality. "As technology grows and certainly plays an important role in our lives, nothing will ever replace the sincerity and individualism expressed through the handwritten word," says David H. Baker, the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA)'s Executive Director. As a result, many of us choose to save handwritten cards and letters as reminders of loved ones.

Related story: Fighting to save cursive...

Tips to Get the Kids Writing
1. Learn about important written documents in history. Throughout history, handwritten documents have sparked love affairs, started wars, established peace and declared independence.

2. Read a book; it shows appreciation of writing. Some of the most noted authors prefer pen and paper to create their novels, including J.K. Rowling, who drafted her famous Harry Potter series on napkins.

3. Practice 15 minutes of handwriting each day. Experts recommend a minimum of 15 minutes of handwriting each day for students to experience the benefits of the skill.

4. Start a diary or journal. Keeping a diary or journal is a great way for children to write daily – sharing their innermost thoughts, dreams, and fears on paper.

5. Write a story or make a card. Encourage children to get their creative juices flowing by writing a story or creating a card for someone.

To learn more about handwriting, visit the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association on Facebook.