Pre-Writing Skills

Activities, baby

Written by Vicky Lloyd

As parents, we hear this term ‘pre-writing skills’ all the time, and how important it is to ‘work on them’… but what even are pre-writing skills? What should we be doing? When should we be doing it?!

As an Occupational Therapist, I work with children and families every day who ask me these questions. They often feel pressure from their child being very young, to be working on all these skills, without anyone really giving them any concrete ideas of what to actually do! So, more often than not, parents come to me confused and frustrated that they can’t get their child to sit at a table and practice their drawing and writing. Please trust me…this is completely normal!

Firstly, what even are pre-writing skills? Pre-writing skills are lots of little skills that a child needs to develop before they are ready to write. This includes being able to hold a pencil, to scribble, to draw shapes and to colour. It also includes fine motor skills such as hand eye coordination, hand and finger strength, manipulating the pencil, being able to coordinate both sides of the body together, crossing the middle of your body to reach across the paper, developing a hand dominance… the list is endless!

So as a parent, where on earth do you start then?! My answer is always this… PLAY! Children love to play! It’s how they learn about themselves and their world, and it’s amazing how many skills they can develop when they are ‘just’ playing. Here are few activity ideas, which seem super simple, but are excellent for developing your child’s pre-writing skills…


 Play-doh – rolling, squashing, chopping, hiding objects in a play-doh ball
 Threading – different sized beads/pasta on to pipe cleaners/thread
 Tongs and tweezers – practice picking up different size objects, sorting by colours or shapes
 Mark making – provide novelty pens & pencils, paints, crayons, scented pens etc and let
them scribble with no agenda. Mix it up by using different objects, such as a cardboard box or an egg carton to paint!
 Building with lego, construction toys or playing with nuts and bolts
 Opening bottles and jars – fill them with pom poms, beads, raisins, cherrios, glitter, water etc to make sensory bottles
 Water and sensory play – pouring, scooping, mixing, stirring, sieving into lots of different bowls or containers
 Hide the table and chair and explore different positions for play! For example, lying on their tummy on the floor, drawing on a piece of paper on the wall in the garden, drawing on the pavement with large chalks. So much more exciting!

By working on these simple skills through play, you and your child will have so much more fun! And you can also be smug in the fact that they are developing lots of their pre-writing skills along the way too.

So I guess my message to you as a parent, is to ditch the pressure and keep it super simple… as long as your child is PLAYING, they are LEARNING! I recently started Play For Today to capture and share all of our play ideas at home. Come and join me over at @play_4_today for lots more play ideas, tips and resources for fine and gross motor, mark making and early handwriting activities!

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