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Pre-Writing Skills

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Pre-writing skills are the fundamental skills children need to develop before they are able to write. These skills contribute to the child’s ability to hold and use a pencil and the ability to draw, write, copy, and color.

Some of the pre-writing skills include:

  • Well-developed gross motor control

  • Good posture and core control

  • The ability to cross the midline

  • Bilateral co-ordination

  • Good pencil grip

  • Well-developed fine motor control

  • Ability to form basic patterns

Well-developed gross motor control - In order to learn to write, children must have control of their bodies and develop their gross motor skills. Fine motor control depends on having well-developed gross motor control. Children should be spending a large amount of time in free play each and every day. Some examples of gross motor activities include:

  • jumping on a trampoline

  • climbing a rock wall

  • crawling through tunnels

  • playing on the playground

Good posture and core control - Writing involves having the correct posture and core control to be able to sit at a desk for a length of time without getting tired. It is essential for children to have strong shoulders in order to facilitate arm and wrist movements and strong fingers in order to assist in grasping objects.

Postural control starts developing from the moment a child is born. Initially, babies have no postural control. Their heads even need support. Over time a baby can hold their head up and then push up on their arms and roll over. Moreover, tummy time helps to develop these skills and helps with shoulder stability.

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Montessori Cutting Strips - Shapes

The ability to cross the midline - Children need to learn to cross the imaginary line running from a person’s nose to pelvis that divides the body into left and right sides so they can perform tasks like writing on the left of the page with their right hand. Crossing midline is a skill that children can learn from infancy.

Some activities include

  • reaching for toys while crawling or during tummy time

  • playing with toys that encourage crossing midline or figure 8 patterns

  • playing with musical Instruments

  • playing with rhythm scarfs

  • playing with blocks

  • sweeping the floor

Bilateral coordination - In order to be able to write, your children need to be able to coordinate both sides of their bodies together, with one hand holding the paper, while the other manipulates the pen.

Some activities include

  • Ball and balloon games: have the child use both hands to pass the ball or balloon overhead, between legs, roll at a target, etc.

  • Stencils: make sure they hold the stencil with one hand while tracing with the other hand.

  • Hand clapping games: use songs and movement games to encourage clapping

  • Lacing activities: lacing cards, lace-up stockings (two pieces of construction paper with holes punched around the edges).

A good pencil grasp - Children must be able to hold a pencil using a mature grip, such as a tripod grasp, and with the right amount of pressure. In the dynamic tripod grasp, the pencil is held between the thumb and index finger, with the pencil resting on the middle finger. They need to control the pencil and form letters correctly.

A child’s ability to color within the lines, trace over a shape and draw simple pictures forms the building blocks for writing letters and words. Mastery of these pencil skills focuses on the content of their writing rather than the mechanics of pencil, speed, and movement.

Well-developed fine motor control - Working on lines and strokes in hands-on ways will naturally develop your child's fine motor skills and provide them with the well-rounded handwriting skills they need for letter formation, line orientation, spacing, and hand grasp. children need to develop the fine motor control required to hold and manipulate a writing tool. They need to develop strength in their wrists and hands, and also a high level of finger control.

Some of the key actions required are:

  • grip strength - make a fist to feel this action

  • pinch strength - hold an invisible pencil tight to feel this action

  • eye to hand coordination

The ability to form basic patterns - The major component of pre-writing skills are the pencil strokes that most letters, numbers and early drawings are comprised of. They are typically mastered in sequential order, and to an age specific level. These strokes include the following strokes: |, —, O, +, square, /, \, X, and Δ.

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