Best Activities to Playfully Encourage Pre-Writing Skills 

Pre-writing skills are fundamental in developing the ability to write.

Handwriting is a skill that is developed over time. To master handwriting children need to combine fine motor skills, language, memory and concentration.

Acquiring these skills will contribute to your child’s ability to hold and use a pencil, write, draw and colour.

One of the best ways to encourage these skills is, of course, through PLAY!

When a child uses their hands while playing it is actually helping to develop strength and control of their hand muscles (fingers and wrists), fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination – skills which are needed for more complex tasks like writing with a pencil or using a keyboard.

So what are the best play activities we can do with our little ones?

We’ve listed some fun activities below that will encourage the development of pre-writing skills:

  • Manipulation activitiesplaydough and slime are some of the best activities to do with little ones. Practice rolling playdough into “sausages” or little balls or patting into flat pancakes. Add items such as sticks, popsticks or macaroni to be pushed into the dough.
  • Sensory play: playing with rice, painting or getting stuck into messy play is great for developing tactile awareness
  • Mark Making: provide lots of opportunities using a variety of drawing and writing implements such as pencils, crayons, chalk, paint brushes, scribbling and drawing etc. Also simple things like encouraging children to make their mark on birthday cards is great.
  • Playfully practice drawing different lines and shapes together. Model where to start e.g. vertical lines start at the top, go down, and stop; horizontal lines – start at the left and go to the right. Circles – start at the top and go around until it meets back at the top. Practice playing with these shapes makes it easier for children to transition into writing the letters of the alphabet.
  • Threading: pasta onto pipe cleaners, beads onto shoe laces etc.
  • Cutting: provide child-safe scissors and lots of old magazines, when the cutting skill is more developed, play games such as cutting pictures in half, cutting along lines or cutting something into smaller pieces.

Don’t forget to supervise your little ones with scissors as you might have a few things cut that you didn’t want to!

  • Gluing: use brushes (bigger ones for smaller children and smaller ones for older children) to glue shapes such as pasta, pictures or beads
  • Rice play:  is a great way for children to playfully develop the fine-motor skills required for writing i.e. picking up tiny grains, passing handfuls from hand to hand, or scooping and pouring.
  • Puzzlescompleting visual puzzles and matching games helps develop essential visual perceptual skills that are required for reading, handwriting and other important daily activities later on.
  • Musical instruments: grasping things to shake or bang encourages your child’s fine motor skills and coordination. 

Remember, the more your child regularly plays the more they are learning!

 If you enjoyed this, then you may want to read our tips on Encouraging Oral Language Development and Encouraging Early Literacy.  

Zero To Three
Raising Children Network