Helping Your Preschooler Prepare for Writing

    toddler and preschool writing fine motor skills It’s amazing how children write a scribble one day, then a shape and then all of a sudden they’re asking you how to spell the word dinosaur.  The leaps and bounds preschoolers make are amazing!  As a parent, we want to do all we can to help our children be successful and happy in school.  Sometimes waiting too long to help with writing can come with tears and frustration for both of you. If your child is between two and five years of age, you’re at the perfect time to provide them with the tools they will need to achieve success when forming letters and numbers.

    Before your preschooler can write they must have fine motor muscle control and hand eye coordination. Most girls have lots of practice with their finger muscles as they putt on little doll shoes and make crafts with jewels. But most boys don’t get the practice they need as they usually play with larger things like balls or trucks.  So how do you help your child be successful at writing before their marker hits the paper? You can provide their finger muscles with the exercise for success.  Below is a list of activities I have used during my teaching career and others that have come from my son’s occupational therapist, which specializes in helping children, develop muscle control and coordination.  It’s never too late to try any of these suggestions. They can only help. 

Exercises and Activities to help preschoolers write:

  •  Push pop beads together. Start with bigger beads and work down to smaller ones. *Note – Pop beads are a choking hazard and must be supervised when used. 
  • Play dough Treasure Hunt – Place small toy items inside a ball of play dough. Have children dig through the play dough or clay by pinching the dough with their thumb and pointer finger. 
  • Thread large pieces of macaroni onto yarn or string. As they practice this skill you can work your way down to smaller macaroni pieces. They sell items for threading at school supply stores, but I find macaroni more cost efficient. My boys like to see me wear their creations. 
  • Hide the cotton ball – Have children hide a cotton ball in their hand by closing their pinky and ring finger down on the object.  You can have fun with this one by pretending your child is a magician. 
  • With just a few more cotton balls, you can have your child pick them up with tongs and place them in a bowl. I pretend I’m clumsy and drop them on the floor. Then I ask for assistance. Little ones are always eager to help. 
  • Tear paper into little pieces. You can extend this by gluing the pieces onto a larger paper to make a collage.  If your child uses a glue stick this will be an added benefit. 
  • Besides from being fun, small Lego blocks are great for muscle control and hand-eye coordination.

 You can help your child write by providing lots of paper, markers, crayons and tons of praise. When purchasing these items try to get short, thick crayons and markers. This will eventually force them to grasp it correctly.  Of course modeling how to write is another way to help.  They will watch how you hold the pen and start at the top to form your letters. Write slowly and make sure you think aloud. For example, “I need to add the word tea to my shopping list. Let me start at the top and pull my letter t down, then I go across.” There’s no wrong way of doing it, just say what you are doing. 

Here is a link with more specific information on the importance of fine motor skills with additional suggestions. 

Good luck on your parenting adventure! Suzie

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  1. Khushi

    These are great. Thank you for sharing these. My son is still undecided about his hand. He writes mostly with the right, but sometimes switches to the left and I have to remind him to switch back to the right. I dont know if that is the right think to do.

  2. Suzie

    HI Khushi, Children experiment with how it feels to use the less dominant hand and sometimes use both quite well for awhile, until the dominant one takes over. He will figure out which feels more comfortable when he’s ready.

  3. rajvi

    This is a great post Suzie. Thanks for all the tips. I am going to try the threading the macorni with him. It may also buy me some time to prepare dinner in peace :).

  4. Suzie

    I am with you on the dinner thing.

  5. Suzie

    The macaroni is to thread, which helps the muscles in their fingers. Building these muscles will help them with their future pencil grip. It is not for eating.

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