What are pre-writing skills? 

Just like children need to learn to walk before they can run, they need to master pre-writing skills before they achieve legible and efficient handwriting. Working on pre-writing skills supports children to develop many of the underlying skills needed for handwriting, including motor planning, body awareness, spatial awareness, and the ability to hold and manipulate a writing utensil. Pre-writing skills also help children to develop hand strength, hand-eye coordination, and hand dominance. 

What is a typical progression of pre-writing skills? 

Although every child’s development is different, most children should be able to spontaneously scribble with a marker around 18 months old. At two years old, children should be able to imitate vertical and horizontal lines, as well as a circle. Imitation occurs when a child watches you draw a line, and then performs the same action. By three years old, children should be able to copy these shapes. Copying occurs when a child is presented with a line that has already been drawn without being shown how it is made. By five years old, children should be able to draw simple geometric shapes, like circles, squares, and triangles. Around this age, children can typically begin to practice the letters of their name and progress onto handwriting. 

Why is it important to work on pre-writing skills? 

Practicing drawing lines and shapes helps to support children’s development of the skills they will use when writing. Practicing pre-writing skills can help children become more comfortable holding their pencil properly and stabilizing their paper while they write. Pre-writing skills are also the building blocks for visual motor integration skills and reading skills. We know that difficulties with handwriting can lead to difficulties keeping up in class during note taking, difficulty with attention, and decreased self-confidence, so addressing these skills early on can be a great step toward creating a strong foundation to build writing skills on. 

What activities help develop pre-writing skills? 

Pre-writing skills can be developed through play and activities that are focused on fine motor and visual perceptual skills. Some ideas include:  

  • Lacing beads
  • Making shapes out of Play-doh 
  • Free drawing and scribbling 
  • Coloring sheets 
  • Coloring on a vertical surface by taping a piece of paper to the wall 
  • Tracing lines and shapes 
  • Simple mazes