Pre-writing activities for preschool are crucial for developing writing readiness and can make the transition to writing less frustrating and more successful. This skill development is a complex process that requires fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Occupational therapists break down the components of writing into smaller steps, which is crucial for the child's ability to write effectively.
Writing abilities are based on the fine motor abilities to hold the writing instrument and visual motor abilities to form the proper lines and pencil strokes of letters. Fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and prewriting line formation are essential skills for the prewriting abilities for preschool, which are necessary for writing readiness. Hands-on activities are the best way to teach these skills to the preschool child.
In this blog post, we will explore fun and easy prewriting activities for preschoolers that can help them develop their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and prewriting line formation.
Fine Motor Abilities
To develop hand strength and dexterity, preschoolers need to practice their gross and fine motor skills. Rushing to use writing instruments such as pencils and markers can hinder the child's development. It is best to use fine motor activities for preschoolers that involve small objects to develop fine motor abilities., such as play dough, beads, and coins, to improve their pincer grip, hand strength, and hand-eye coordination. Preschool children need to develop the proper fine motor skills before moving on to writing tools.
Developing the pincer grip is important for developing the proper pencil grip and pencil control. The pincer grip is the ability to pick up small objects using the index finger and thumb. Preschoolers can practice this grip by picking up small objects such as beads, buttons, or small toys. Pencil control involves holding a pencil correctly and being able to move it with control. This requires the use of a tripod pencil grasp which does not develop until age 3 and is dependent on first being able to use a proper pincer grasp on small objects.
Prewriting Line Formation Developmental Progression
It is important to understand the developmental continuum of prewriting strokes necessary to form letters. This involves the ability to imitate an adult making the stroke and then copying that stroke. Vertical lines, horizontal lines, and diagonal lines follow a strict pattern of development, and the formation of diagonal lines can be a complex process for some children.
Practicing vertical, horizontal, and other lines and shapes in shaving cream and using objects such as pipe cleaners is developmentally appropriate.
If a child struggles with forming diagonal lines beyond age 5, it may indicate midline crossing difficulties, and a referral to a pediatric occupational therapist is warranted. Overall, developing prewriting abilities in preschoolers is a gradual process that requires patience and a proper understanding of the child's developmental needs.
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Use of Experimental and Kinesthetic Learning in Pre-writing Activities for Preschool
Using sensory mediums and other activities to promote pre-writing skills in preschoolers is an effective and engaging approach that stimulates multiple senses, improves fine motor skills, and promotes pre-writing skills.
Sensory play engages multiple senses, including touch, sight, and smell, which can make the activity more enjoyable and memorable for the child. This can encourage the child to participate in the fun activity for longer periods of time, leading to more practice and skill development.
This approach is a form of experiential learning, which is a hands-on and immersive approach that encourages direct and active experiences. Experiential learning is particularly beneficial for young children, as it allows them to engage with the material in a developmentally appropriate and enjoyable way.
Using sensory mediums to practice writing is considered a type of kinesthetic learning, which involves physical movement and touch to learn and understand new concepts. This approach is particularly effective for young children who benefit from active engagement with the material. It is much more developmentally appropriate than having young children sit and practice writing on a piece of paper.
Fun and Easy Ways to Practice Prewriting Skills for Preschool
Here are some prewriting activities that can help preschoolers develop these skills:
1 – Playdough “Cookies”
Making playdough cookies is a fun and exciting way to get your preschooler engaged in a pre-writing activity. Here's how you can make your own playdough “cookies”:
First, take about half a can of play-doh, and ten pennies. Form the play dough into a ball and have your child push the pennies into the playdough to hide them. As they push the pennies into the play dough, they are improving their hand strength, which is a crucial aspect of developing fine motor control.
Once the pennies are hidden inside the playdough ball, it's time to turn them into “chocolate chip cookies.” Have your child use their fingers to search for and pull out the pennies, as if they were chocolate chips in a cookie. This activity helps to develop their finger dexterity, and improve their hand-eye coordination, as they try to pull the pennies out without squishing the playdough.
Encourage your child to make as many cookies as they like and use their creativity to come up with different shapes and sizes. You can also add other small objects to the playdough such as beads, buttons, or pasta to make the game more challenging. There are many other developmental benefits of using playdough in preschool activities along with using it for pre-writing practice.
By engaging in playdough “cookie” making, your preschooler will have fun while improving their hand strength and fine motor control, skills that are important in their early writing and drawing stages.
2 – Golf tees in styrofoam with a play hammer
This is activity is of my favorites! It promotes bilateral coordination and eye-hand coordination which are essential for preschoolers to develop their pre-writing (and cutting!) skills. Using golf tees and a play hammer to hammer them into a square of styrofoam is a fun and easy activity to encourage these skills.
First, gather a square piece of styrofoam, a play hammer, and several golf tees. Show your child how to hold the golf tee in one hand and use the play hammer in the other hand to hammer the tee into the styrofoam.
You can make the game more challenging by having your child hammer the tees into the styrofoam in a specific pattern or shape. You can also have them remove the tees using their fingers to further develop their fine motor skills.
By engaging in this activity, your child will have fun while developing their fine motor skills and improving their eye-hand coordination. They'll also learn how to use both hands together effectively, which will help them in other activities, such as writing and drawing.
3 – Writing in the air
Writing in the air is a fun and easy activity that helps to promote gross motor skills, imitation skills, and pre-stroke development.
Start by gathering your preschoolers together in a circle during circle time. Explain to them that they are going to practice writing in the air. Show them how to make large arm movements to imitate lines such as vertical lines (up and down), horizontal lines (side to side), and circles. Encourage them to follow along and try to imitate the lines you make.
This activity promotes gross motor abilities as preschoolers use their whole arm to make large movements in the air. It also improves their imitation skills as they watch and try to copy the lines that you make.
Once your preschoolers have mastered writing in the air while seated, try doing it standing up to add an additional challenge. You can also incorporate music into the activity by playing a song and having them move to the beat while making the lines in the air.
4 – Writing in Different Sensory Mediums
Writing in different sensory mediums is a fun and engaging way to promote pre-writing skills in preschoolers. By using a variety of materials such as sand or salt trays, shaving cream, whipped cream, or pudding, preschoolers can develop the visual motor skills necessary for writing success through the use of experimental and kinesthetic learning.
First, choose a sensory medium such as sand or salt, shaving cream, whipped cream, or pudding. Show your preschooler how to imitate different types of lines such as vertical lines from top to bottom, horizontal lines from left to right, and circular lines. Encourage them to use their fingers, or whole hand, to make the lines and shapes in the sensory medium.
Using a sand or salt tray, shaving cream, whipped cream or pudding are different ways to have the children practice the following pre-writing lines:
- Vertical lines: Imitating straight prewriting lines from top to bottom
- Horizontal lines: Imitating straight lines from left to right
- Circular lines: imitating circular lines
To add variation to the activity, you can also add colors and scents to the medium. You can use food coloring to dye the shaving cream or whipped cream or add different scents to the medium to make it more engaging for the preschoolers. Additionally, you can use sound effects to make the activity even more fun. For example, you can say “zip” for vertical lines, “zoom” for horizontal lines, and “round and round” for circles.
5 – Water with a Paintbrush on a Chalkboard
Another one of my favorite activities! Water with a paintbrush on a chalkboard is a great activity for preschoolers to practice prewriting strokes. It's a non-messy and easy activity that can be done on an easel or by placing the chalkboard on the floor. By imitating the same lines and strokes as in the previous activities, children can develop their imitation skills and pre-stroke development.
The activity involves using plain water and a paintbrush to create lines and shapes on the chalkboard. As the water dries, the lines disappear, making it a fun and interactive activity. The use of a paintbrush can also help to improve fine motor skills, as children must use their fingers and hands to hold and manipulate the brush to create the desired shapes and lines. They can also trace letters on the chalkboard as their skills improve.
Using a paintbrush on a large surface such as an easel encourages the use of large body movements versus the small movements needed to manipulate a pence. Most preschool age children are not ready for the in-hand manipulations skills required for pencils and have much more success with gross motor movements at this age.
This activity is also a great way to introduce children to writing tools such as paintbrushes and chalkboards, which can help to prepare them for writing in a more formal setting. By providing a fun and interactive way to practice prewriting skills, children can develop the skills necessary for writing success while enjoying the activity.
6 – Use Different Writing Instruments
Once a child is closer to being ready to use writing utensils to practice writing, encouraging children to use varied writing instruments is a helpful way to promote proper pencil grasp and pre-writing skills. Starting with smaller writing implements such as broken crayons or pip squeak markers can help children to develop a proper tripod grasp, as they are unable to use a fisted grasp with these smaller tools.
As children progress, introducing larger writing instruments such as golf pencils can further support the development of fine motor abilities. Laying on the floor can also be a helpful position for children to practice writing, as it allows for the stabilization of the child's forearm and wrist.
Using a variety of writing instruments and positions can help children to develop a proper pencil grasp and pre-writing skills, setting them up for success in future writing endeavors.
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7 – Connect the Dots
Connect the dots activities are a classic prewriting exercise for preschoolers. By connecting dots in a sequence, children learn how to make basic shapes and lines that will form the foundation for letter and number formation. This activity helps children improve their hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and visual perception.
Connect the dots activities can also be customized to focus on specific prewriting skills. For example, connecting dots in a specific pattern or shape can help children practice drawing lines and shapes.
Simple connect the dot activities such as matching the person from one side of a worksheets to another versus traditional connect the dots (look for my worksheets coming soon!) are great prewriting activities for preschoolers.
8 – Large Maze type Activities
Large maze type activities can be an enjoyable way for preschoolers to practice their prewriting skills. Completing simple mazes with either their finger or a writing utensil can help develop their hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and visual perception.
To get started, choose a simple maze with vertical or horizontal lines that are easy to follow. You can create your own maze or find free printable mazes online. Encourage your child to use their finger or a writing utensil to trace the path through the maze. The key here is SIMPLE! Large “mazes” which are more like roads of 2-3 inches wide.
As your child becomes more comfortable with the activity, you can increase the complexity of the mazes. This will challenge their prewriting skills and help them develop new strategies for problem-solving and decision-making. Overall, completing large maze type activities is a fun way to promote prewriting skills in preschoolers.
9 – Form Letters with Playdough
Forming letters with playdough is a fun and experimental way for preschoolers to practice prewriting skills. Using different colors of play dough, have the child roll out long snakes of dough and then form them into the shapes of letters. This activity can be made more challenging by having the child use their finger or a writing utensil to trace over the letters once they have been formed.
Not only does this activity promote fine motor skills and prewriting skills, but it can also help with letter recognition and visual-spatial awareness. The different colors of playdough can also be used to make the activity more engaging and visually appealing for the child.
You can practice this activity by having the child imitate your formations as the first level, then copy letters already formed in playdough, then use playdough mats to copy the letters, lines, or shapes.
10 – Pipe Cleaner Letter Formation
Pipe cleaners can be utilized similarly to playdough to create letter formations. They provide a tactile sensory experience but can be more challenging for some children to handle. To make it easier, pipe cleaners can be pre-cut into smaller pieces to encourage pre-cutting skills.
To practice this activity, it is recommended to start by having the child imitate your formations at a beginner level. Then, the child can copy letters that have already been made with the pipe cleaners. Finally, printed worksheets can be used to practice copying letters, lines, or shapes.
Prewriting activities are crucial for developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and prewriting line formation in preschoolers, which are essential for writing readiness. Hands-on activities, such as sensory play and other kinesthetic learning activities, are an effective and engaging way to promote these skills.
By engaging in fun and easy prewriting activities, such as making playdough cookies or using golf tees and a play hammer to hammer them into styrofoam, preschoolers can improve their hand strength, finger dexterity, and hand-eye coordination.
Prewriting abilities in preschoolers are a gradual process that requires patience and a proper understanding of the child’s developmental needs, and these activities can help preschoolers develop the necessary skills for writing readiness.