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writing readiness

Many parents and teachers are eager for young children to write, but do they have the writing readiness skills needed?

Writing, which used to be introduced in first grade, and then in kindergarten, now is often part of the preschool curriculum. As a result, many children miss out on this important time to develop the needed foundation skills.  At the same time, starting writing too early  reinforces inefficient motor patterns and habits that are hard to modify when the child is truly ready for writing.

During the preschool period, children are developing the motor control needed to provide a secure foundation for the development of writing skills, as well as, self-help and complex play skills. Children:

  • develop mature grip patterns (including pencil),
  • establish a hand dominance,
  • coordinate the use of both hands together,
  • develop eye-hand coordination.

Foster Writing Readiness

You can help your child develop writing readiness skills through a variety of fun activities. Set up a regular, dedicated practice time of 15-30 minutes daily. Sometimes the period of time just before or after dinner works well and can become the foundation for homework time later on. Preschool teachers can add these activities to their curriculum for children to work on 15-30 minutes each day.

Go Vertical

Encourage your child to work at a vertical surface. This helps develop wrist extension and a mature pencil grip.

Tape coloring paper to wall or easel.

Use water and large paint brushes to ‘paint’ an exterior wall, fence or playground equipment.

Play with felt boards or colorforms propped on an easel.

Play with Grabbers

Use tongs, tweezers, Zoo Sticks, strawberry huller, or clothespins to pick up small items.

Encourage your child to hold them appropriately between thumb and first one or two fingers. If your child tends to use the whole hand, try placing a small pompom or button between the last two fingers and the palm, helping to separate the two sides of the hand.

Encourage your child to eat with Zoo Sticks.

Play games like Hi Ho Cherrio, Squiggly Worms or Thin Ice using tongs to pick up playing pieces.

Put up a clothesline for your child to hang cards or other items on using clothespins, or clip them around the edge of a heavy paper plate.

Squeeze Putty

Theraputty, play dough or clay are great tools for developing hand strength and finger dexterity.

Hide 10 small objects in putty for your child to find.

Roll putty into balls or snakes.

Decorate with pennies or pegs.

Try having your child hold three pennies in the palm of one hand and then stand them up in the putty one at a time without the other hand helping. Repeat. Then use a clothespin to remove them and drop into a bank.

Play with Water

Use a squeeze bulb or eyedropper to transfer water from one container to another.

Or transfer the water using a sponge.

Paint a ‘monster’ or dinosaur and then hang up picture, using the clothespins, of course!

Use a fun animal shaped water squirter to ‘melt’ the picture.

Water play activities tends to be met with enthusiasm, even from the most fine-motor reluctant child.


Hammering is great for reinforcing hand dominance.

Pound golf tees into Styrofoam.  Expand on this idea by drawing dots of different colors on the Styrofoam and have your child match golf tee colors to the dots.

Make a rain stick by hammering nails into a cardboard mailing tube and then adding beans.

Start a number of large nails in tree stump for your child to hammer in.

Have Fun!

Activities work best when they are enjoyable for both you and your child. Capitalize on your child’s interests to make the activities more intrinsically motivating.