Handwriting ~ Pre-writing Readiness

Fine motor skills are obviously related to writing, but sensory, gross motor, cognitive, perceptual, and even visual components are equally important to a child’s developmental progression.

Before you begin to teach handwriting to your child, before you even place a pencil in their hand, ask yourself the following questions.
Can they:
• imitate movement patterns such as nursery rhyme motions with their hands?
• successfully use a variety of grasp patterns?
• understand a progression on paper from left to right?
• recognize the letters of the alphabet?
• understand directions such as up and down?
• follow one step instructions consistently? Two step? Three step?

Children can begin learning to write without total mastery of everything that I listed, but if you are aware of their needs you will be better equipped to help them progress more easily.

• Let your child scribble. Provide an inexpensive coloring book, print some free color sheets, or even blank paper and crayons. Sit beside them and color with them. Coloring within the lines can come later. At first let them enjoy the experience of marking on paper and seeing that their action produces a visible result. From scribbling you can help them progress to lines and circles. 
• Try other mediums. Pudding is a fun finger-paint and is both washable and edible. If the mess bothers you too much, let them try finger painting with pudding in the bathtub. The mess will be contained.
• Explore a variety of sensory manipulatives. Play dough, rice buckets, fabric, the possibilities are limited only by your environment. Many household items can be used in different ways to provide developmental experiences. Play games that require them to move small pieces.

• Read to your child. Let them see the words on the paper as you read. This will help them recognize words and letters, see a natural left-right progression, and build their vocabulary.
• Let them get dirty. Writing with a stick in the sand, fingers in mud, and colored water in the snow are all delightful experiences that most children will interpret as play.

Do you know yet if your child is right or left handed? That fact should have an impact on how you teach writing. We have all heard stories of left handed adults who were forced by teachers to write with their right hand. But less realized is left handed children who are taught to write with a right- handed style using their left hand. Being aware from the start that your child is left handed can help you know to present tasks in such a way that they will perform them correctly instead of with their wrist abnormally bent.

Once they start writing, continue to provide opportunities other than just pencil on paper. I already mentioned window markers, but they are such a useful tool it is worth repeating. Writing on vertical surfaces helps a child’s gross motor development and the large movements help train their brain to remember what they are doing. Another useful method is air writing. Using a foam sword, a large plastic pencil, or even an empty paper towel tube, have them imitate the motions you make in the air.

If you are on Pinterest, follow any of these relevant boards that interest you: handwriting, fine motor funsensory exploration, visual cues and perception, and gross motor development.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of handwriting readiness, but should give you a starting point.  If you think visual problems could be affecting your child’s progress, please have that tested by a professional. Proper eye glasses can make an immediate difference in their functional performance.

Disclaimer: This is an informational article and is not a substitute for medical advice. If you think that your child is in need of Occupational Therapy services, discuss it with their pediatrician. 


Jennifer is an occupational therapist and a homeschooling mom of three children. She and her husband have been married for 17 years. Ten years ago they left their home in the city, to move to Jennifer’s family homestead, on her Granddad’s land.   They have three children, two girls and one boy, ages 16, 14, and 9.   You can read more about Jennifer and her family on her blog, A Glimpse of Our Life.

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