practice pre-writing skills at home with our pediatric occupational therapy tips

Occupational Therapy Tips to Practice Pre-Writing Skills at Home

Practicing pre-writing skills at home is highly beneficial from an occupational therapy perspective. As our Akron occupational therapists can explain, the more you practice at home, the faster your child will have a firm grasp on key developmental milestones, such as fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and, ultimately, writing ability.

Pre-writing skills consist of all the building blocks of skills a child needs in order to work their way up to actually learning to write. We tend to think of “learning to write” as a single task, but it’s actually a million little tasks that a child must learn and master over time. These include making vertical lines, horizontal lines, circles, crosses, diagonals, X-shapes, and triangles. It also includes a lot of critical thinking, beginning to recognize letters, numbers, and colors, the ability to grasp a writing utensil properly, having the core strength to sit upright and steady to do so, etc. The list goes on.

Pre-writing skills lay the foundation for successful handwriting and are essential for future academic success!

Top reasons why practicing pre-writing skills at home is important:

  1. Fine Motor Development. Pre-writing activities involve using small muscles in the hands and fingers, promoting the development of fine motor skills. These skills are necessary for tasks like holding a pencil, controlling its movement, and forming letters and shapes. Regular practice helps strengthen these muscles, improving dexterity and control.
  2. Hand-Eye Coordination. Pre-writing activities require children to coordinate their hand movements with their visual perception. By engaging in tasks such as drawing shapes, connecting dots, or tracing lines, children develop better hand-eye coordination. This skill is fundamental for smooth and controlled handwriting.
  3. Pencil Grasp. Pre-writing activities allow children to experiment with different pencil grasps and find one that is comfortable and efficient for them. Occupational therapists often work with children to develop an appropriate pencil grip, as an inefficient grip can lead to fatigue, pain, and difficulties with handwriting.
  4. Spatial Awareness. Pre-writing tasks involve understanding spatial concepts, such as direction, size, and orientation. For example, drawing lines within a given space, copying shapes, or tracing patterns require children to develop spatial awareness. This skill is important for forming letters and numbers correctly on paper.
  5. Hand Strength and Endurance. Writing for extended periods can be physically demanding. Pre-writing activities, such as using playdough, squeezing clothespins, or tearing paper, help strengthen the muscles of the hands and improve endurance. Stronger hands can sustain the pressure required for controlled writing.
  6. Visual Perception. Pre-writing skills help develop visual perception, including the ability to discriminate between different shapes, sizes, and patterns. Recognizing similarities and differences in lines, curves, and angles enhances a child’s ability to form and reproduce letters accurately.
  7. Cognitive Skills. Pre-writing activities stimulate cognitive skills like problem-solving, planning, sequencing, and attention to detail. Tasks that involve tracing patterns or completing mazes require children to plan their movements and follow specific directions, promoting cognitive development.
  8. Confidence and Independence. Regular practice of pre-writing skills at home allows children to build confidence in their abilities. As they develop better control and see improvements in their handwriting, they feel more capable and independent, which positively impacts their overall self-esteem and motivation.

Fun Pre-Writing Skills Practice

To practice pre-writing skills at home, some cool activities our Akron occupational therapists recommend:

  1. Playdough Fun. Playing with playdough helps strengthen the muscles in the hands and fingers. Encourage your child to roll, pinch, and shape the playdough into various forms like balls, snakes, or letters.
  2. Tracing and Copying. Provide your child with tracing worksheets or coloring books that have simple lines, shapes, and patterns. They can use a pencil or crayon to trace along the lines or copy the shapes to improve their hand-eye coordination and pencil control.
  3. Dot-to-Dot. Dot-to-dot activities are great for practicing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Give your child dot-to-dot worksheets or create your own by drawing dots on a piece of paper. They can connect the dots in numerical order to reveal a picture or shape.
  4. Drawing and Coloring. Encourage your child to draw and color using crayons or washable markers. Provide them with blank paper or coloring books and let their imagination run wild. Drawing shapes, objects, and pictures helps develop their fine motor skills and creativity.
  5. Water Painting. Fill a container with water and give your child a paintbrush. They can “paint” on the sidewalk, patio, or any surface that allows for easy cleanup. This activity allows them to practice their hand movements and control while also providing a sensory experience.
  6. Cutting Practice. Provide child-safe scissors and give your child old magazines or scrap paper to cut. Start with straight lines and progress to simple shapes like squares and circles. Cutting helps develop hand strength and coordination.
  7. Sticker Fun. Peel-and-stick activities are engaging and help enhance fine motor skills. Provide your child with stickers and encourage them to stick them on paper, create scenes, or even make sticker collages.
  8. Sensory Bins. Create sensory bins filled with materials like rice, beans, sand, or shaving cream. Hide small objects or letters within the bin and have your child dig and search for them using their fingers or a small shovel. This activity improves tactile perception and finger control.
  9. Play with Building Blocks. Building with blocks or construction toys requires grasping, stacking, and balancing skills. These activities help refine fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and hand-eye coordination.
  10. Play with Puzzles. Solving puzzles helps develop problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and finger dexterity. Provide age-appropriate puzzles and encourage your child to put the pieces together.

Remember to make these pre-writing skills activities fun and enjoyable for your child. Offer praise and encouragement for their efforts and provide them with the necessary materials and a comfortable workspace.

By incorporating these pre-writing activities into their daily routine, your child will develop essential skills that will benefit them as they enter preschool and beyond.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Pre-Writing Skills, American Journal of Occupational Therapy

More Blog Entries:

Handwriting Helpers From Our Cleveland Occupational Therapy Team, Oct. 27, 2022, Akron Occupational Therapy Blog