Pre-writing skills encompass all the skills that are required for handwriting. From the outside, it may seem like handwriting is a relatively simple task, however there are so many foundational skills that begin early in development and contribute to a child’s success when using a pen or pencil.
Therefore, when addressing pre-writing skills, there is so much that can be done! Occupational therapists may focus on any of the underlying skills when working to address handwriting in children.
Typically, children will develop the ability to scribble around 13-18 months of age and first imitate vertical strokes (18-24 months), then circular scribbles (20-24 months) and horizontal strokes (24-30 months.) Here are a few activities you can do with your child to support pre-writing skill development.
Helps with finger and hand strength, motor planning, and visual processing skills. Model yourself scribbling up-and-down, side-to-side, and in continuous circles. Encourage your child to do the same. Ways you can do this:
Helps with wrist stability, upper extremity strength, proximal stability, shoulder strength, and postural control. Ideas include:
Helps with visual motor and visual perceptual skill development. The smaller the knob on the puzzle piece, the more it works on fine motor skills!
Helps with bilateral skills and fine motor strength. Make it a treasure hunt- have your child find beads, jewels, figurines, etc. inside play doh or resistive putty, and place the found objects into your treasure pile!
The above pre-writing activities are general and not curated for individual needs. If you are curious to understand more about pre-writing skills or suspect your child may have challenges with any of the above skills, talk with an occupational therapist to determine the activities that may best support your child.
Katie Dahlerbruch is a pediatric occupational therapist at NAPA Center Los Angeles. As a Los Angeles native, she loves soaking up time in the sun and enjoying picnics year-round. When not having fun working with kids, she is checking out new restaurants and exploring local neighborhoods with friends and family.