Supporting your child with pre-writing

Making marks on paper, drawing and writing gives your child the opportunity to express themselves in different ways. If you feel your child is at the stage where they are ready to pick up a crayon or paint brush and make a mark, our Occupational Therapists have put together ideas to make your activity more fun and successful. 

Child with a selection of chalk, making marks on decking

Using a fun, sensory and play-based approach can entice children to take part in pre-writing/handwriting activities. This approach feels natural to children in the early years.

Colouring pencilsOffer your child: 

  • wax crayons both fat and thin
  • chalks
  • chunky pencils
  • felt tips
  • paint brushes
  • sand and sticks.

Child pre-writing with a marker on a whiteboard bookSurfaces to try include:

  • paper (white, black, coloured)
  • blackboard
  • whiteboard
  • tracing paper
  • tin foil
  • sand paper
  • shiny card, etc.

Child writing on a wallYou could encourage:

  • lying on the tummy
  • standing
  • on all fours
  • kneeling
  • sitting and
  • using a vertical surface, e.g. an easel or a wall.

Children drawing on big paperYour child could make marks on:

  • big blackboards
  • whiteboards
  • old wallpaper
  • tiny bits of cards
  • old receipts
  • paper.

Clockwise arrowsDo this as often as possible though the day:

  • left to right direction
  • top to bottom direction
  • anti-clockwise circular direction

Dad and son drawing togetherAlso known as ‘interactive drawing’, this is a great joint activity to do with your child. It helps build confidence and skills. Feel free to draw anything that motivates your child from unicorns to trains.

  • Shows interest in others’ writing/drawing attempts
  • Holds crayon within fist and bangs it (either hand)
  • Random scribble
  • To and fro scribble
  • Circular scribble
  • Imitates vertical and horizontal lines
  • Imitates a circle
  • Copies horizontal and vertical lines, and circles
  • Traces diamond with rounded angles
  • Imitates a cross (+)
  • Copies a cross (+)
  • Copies diagonal lines (/ \)
  • Copies diagonal cross (X)
  • Thumb wars – hands with a fisted grip. On the count of 3 the thumbs compete to trap the other persons thumb following the rhyme ‘1, 2, 3, 4, I declare a thumb war’… once one child has trapped the thumb the winner declares ‘1, 2, 3, 4, I win the thumb war’
  • Cat’s cradle
  • Flick football – isolating flick between the thumb and each finger alternatively
  • Tiddlywinks 
  • Introduce a shape/ letter to the child and describe the shape by its movement ‘story’. Ask the child to follow you in drawing the shape in the air or on paper. Next ask your child to draw the shape on your back and you draw it on theirs. Then increase the number of shapes to choose from asking you child to guess what has been drawn on their back 
  • Clapping games and action songs e.g. ‘The wheels on the bus’ where both hands have to be used symmetrically.
  • Putting together and pulling apart stickle bricks, Duplo, large PopBeads.
  • Play dough – using both hands to rollout sausages. Cut out shapes with cutters, pinch off pieces using thumb and forefinger
  • Tearing up paper to use for papier mache or picture collage.
  • Sand play and water play – pouring sand or water from one container into another.
  • Hammering set – encourage using one hand to keep the toy steady and use the other with the hammer.
  • Hide some toys in a large bowl of dry rice or sand. Try to find them with fingers.
  • Push and pull tissues or silky scarves through toilet roll size cardboard tubes. 
  • Thread stiff rope through toilet roll size cardboard tubes, or cut up kitchen towel tubes to the size you want.
  • Threading skills can be further developed by threading cotton reels onto dowelling, then cotton reels on to plastic tubing or pipe cleaners and large beads.
  • Use squeezy bottles or a turkey baster to squirt water or paint, make sure they are easy to squeeze! This helps practice opening and closing the hands.
  • Use tong style plastic bread or salad servers to pick up items from one container to another. Make sure items are easy to grip and lift. This helps practice opening and closing tools like scissors.
  • Drawing in the air with crepe paper streamers attached to a piece of dowelling.
  • Stirring a pudding, tell the child to go round and round. Remember to do this in an anti-clockwise direction.
  • Ring a ring of roses.
  • Simon Says – Making a shape with parts of the body. If the child cannot do this independently get him to copy you. 
  • Drawing in the sand.
  • Cleaning the window, table or blackboard, imitating vertical and horizontal scribble – progress to round and round.

How to access Occupational Therapy for Children and Young People.

To make a Request for Assistance please contact us on 02921 836910. Please click here for more information on our Request for Assistance process.

Contact details

Occupational Therapy for Children and Young People
1st Floor, Woodland House
Maes Y Coed Road
CF14 4HH

Phone: 02921 836 910

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