Pre-Writing Activities for Preschoolers Learning to Write

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In the first part of this Preschool Writing series, I shared several fun activities to help develop fine motor skills which are an essential part of being able to write. Today I want to share several more pre-writing activities, this time focusing on helping your beginning writer learn the correct strokes when writing the letters of the alphabet. These activities also help your child internalize the shape of the letter, while continuing to develop their fine motor skills.

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Photo courtesy Crystal via Flickr

The best way to begin teaching your child to write letters is to take each letter one at a time. You can choose to do a letter a day, or every two days, or whatever works best for your child’s learning pace.  To make the lesson even more meaningful, try to incorporate the letter you are focusing on into several activities throughout the day. For example, point out when you see the letter on a box of cereal or a billboard, read a book that focuses on that letter, or serve a snack that begins with the letter. The more things you can do to help your child recognize the letter, its shape and the sound it makes, the better.

Keep in mind that it is easier for young children to recognize and write capital letters before lowercase letters, so for these activities, I recommend using only capital letters. The first few activities provide your child with outlines or tracings of letters that they can use while becoming more familiar with the shapes of each letter, while the last few activities focus on letting the child form each letter on their own. With many of these activities, it helps to have you demonstrate how to write the letter first, and then to let your child trace it before they try on their own. It also helps to have pictures of the alphabet within reach for your child to look at and copy.

1. Air Writing

Using large motions ‘draw’ a letter in the air with your finger/arm. Ask the child to mimic you. Depending on the child’s age, the first couple of times you may want to use hand-over-hand assistance (putting your hand over your child’s and moving together), before having your child copy your motions. Finish by having her air write the letter on her own.

2. Dry Beans, Cereal, or Rice Letters

This fun, artsy activity calls for giving your child a piece of paper with a ‘bubble’ letter written or traced on it.  Place several lines of glue inside the letter, and then have your child fill it in with the beans, cereal or rice.  Hang the letters on the walls once dry, and your child will have a tactile alphabet that he made!

3. Textured Letter Cutouts

Trace and cut out the alphabet on pieces of sandpaper (one letter per piece). Begin by letting your child trace the letters with her fingers to help learn the shape of each letter. Then place a piece of plain white paper on top of the letter, and let your child use a crayon to do a rubbing of the sandpaper letter.

4. Connect the Dots Letters

On a piece of paper form the shape of the letter using dots. Have your child connect the dots first using their finger.  Be sure to show your child the proper way (order of strokes) to form the letter, pointing out the beginning and ending points. Lastly, using a crayon or pencil, let your child connect the dots to form the letter.

5. Lego Letters

Using Lego’s, or any toy box favorite that has multiple, small pieces, make a game of having your child form the letter you name with the Lego’s. Start with one letter, then work your way through the alphabet.

6. Shaving Cream Writing

When I taught preschool this activity was always one of the most popular! All you need is a flat surface like a cookie sheet, a plate or even an outdoor table and a can of shaving cream. Spray the shaving cream on the surface, spread it out, then let him practice writing in the foam! Not only is this loads of good-smelling fun, but if you are using a glass or formica table, it’s a great way to get it sparkling clean!

7. Cake Pan Writing
Another popular pre-writing activity, for this you will need a cake pan, cookie sheet or even a plate and some salt, sugar or sand. Pour enough of the salt, sugar or sand on to pan and let her practice writing. If needed, you write the letter first, then let her trace it before “erasing” it and trying on her own.

9. Playdough Letters

Kids love Playdough and adults love it more when it can be used to teach. For this activity, have your child start by rolling out several ‘tubes’ that she can use to form individual letters. As she gets more proficient, let her form the letters from scratch (without rolling tubes).

10. Chalk Letters

Let your child practice writing letters outside on the driveway or sidewalk using outdoor chalk. Begin by writing the letter and letting him trace over it. Then increase the difficulty by drawing an outline of the letter using dots and having him connect the dots. Finally, have him practice forming each letter on his own.

11. More Letter Practice

Encourage your child to practice writing their letters whenever they like.  Make it more interesting by providing a variety of mediums for them to practice on/with such as a dry erase board, a small chalkboard, finger paints, crayons or markers and a variety of colored paper. The more fun you make it, the more your child will enjoy learning!

Be sure to catch the final part of this three-part series where I will share several fun activities for helping children practice writing their name!