Preschool Writing: Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills

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Children first begin to experiment with writing in their preschool years. Their vocabulary expands dramatically during these years, and they begin to understand that letters and numbers have meaning.

You will probably notice your preschooler practicing writing, although at this point their letters will look more like slanted lines, curves, zigzags and shapes that may resemble letters albeit upside down and backwards. Although he has plenty of time before writing will come naturally, this is the perfect time to help him practice and develop the skills of penmanship.

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Before you begin teaching your child to write, I want to point out that if your child is physically not ready to write, you should not even bother with it. Certain muscles must develop, as well as visual motor perception, cognitive capacity and the ability to attend to the task. Most of this does not occur until a child is around 3 to 4.5 years of age.

If your child does not have the ability to correctly grasp a writing instrument, then teaching them to write is pointless. When your child is physically and cognitively ready, and begins to show an interest, then the activities throughout the next few posts will do much to help your child become a confident and capable writer.

Teaching your preschooler to begin writing letters of the alphabet and his name doesn’t start with a pencil and worksheets. In fact, that should not come until much later. At this point, you want to involve your child in fun activities that help him to strengthen his fine motor skills, recognize the letters by shape, name and sound, learn the correct strokes when writing letters, and practice writing their name.  

Fun Activities to Help Develop Pre-Writing Skills

In this three-part series, I will share some fun activities that will help your preschooler develop and practice their writing skills. The first part of the series focuses on activities to help your child develop their fine motor skills which are an essential part of being able to write.

Cutting Strips of Paper

This activity is an ideal way to help strengthen those small muscles and fine motor skills. Begin by showing your child the correct way to hold a pair of scissors. Once she gets the hang of it, give her short strips of paper that she can completely cut with just one snip. From there advance to longer pieces that take two snips, then three snips and so on. Once she masters this, start drawing zigzags, curves and circles for her to practice with.

Stringing

Another activity that helps develop those fine motor skills is stringing. Children love this activity and all you need are some long pieces of string and either beads, Cheerios, pasta or some other small item with a hole in the center that he can string. The first thing you want to do is tie a knot in one end of the string so the beads don’t fall off. Then demonstrate to your child how to thread the string through the hole. Once he understands what to do, hand it over and let the fun begin!

Sorting with Tweezers

For this activity you will need a pair of tweezers, some small items that can be picked up with tweezers such as dried beans, pasta, Cheerios, etc., and a couple of bowls. Give your child the tweezers and let her practice picking up the items wand placing them into a bowl. This is a great activity to further develop those small motor skills used in writing.

Connect the Dots

Children love this fun activity that not only improves fine motor skills, but also helps them draw the straight lines needed for letter writing! Using lined handwriting paper, draw two dots that your child will then connect to make a straight line. Be sure to make many of these that will help her practice making vertical, horizontal and slanting lines. You can also use those connect the dot workbooks!

Spooning

For this activity you will need a spoon, two bowls and several small objects such as Froot Loops, rice, or dried beans. The object is to have your child move the objects from one bowl to another using the spoon. Make sure he uses his thumb, forefinger and middle finger to grasp the spoon and transfer the items. Not only will this activity strengthen those small muscles, but it will come in handy when teaching the proper way to hold a pencil.

Playing with Play Dough

Kids love play dough, and playing with it is a great way to strengthen those tiny muscles in the hands. Have your child knead it, roll it, pound it, cut it, and shape it. Create big things and small things. Break it apart and smash it back together.

Lacing

Lacing is a great way to strengthen small muscles and build fine motor skills. One of the best lacing activities are lacing cards, but if you don’t have any, consider making your own out of cardboard.

Find some small pieces of cardboard (the lid flaps off boxes work great) and using a hole punch or nail, punch a series of holes in it – preferably so it makes a shape, letter or design. Hand it over to your child with a long piece of string, and have her thread the lace through the holes. You can also get the same practice using a shoe and shoe string. Pull the laces out of the shoe, and show your child how to re-lace them.

Be sure to catch the second part of this three-part series where I will share activities for practicing writing the letters of the alphabet!