Line Up: Pre-Writing Skills to Start at Home

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Help your child learn how to write with fun and easy activities

Children learn so many skills in early childhood, and like most things in life, the learning they do is incremental. Although we simplify the process when we discuss it, no one simply “learns to read” because reading is composed of understanding language, the alphabet, phonics, and other aspects that all come together to form the concept of reading.

Mastering a skill is like climbing stairs: There are many steps along the way, and the degree of difficulty is determined by where you are in your journey. Writing is no different, but it consists of early learning components not easily recognized as writing. These pre-writing skills are important to the process of learning to write, and encouraging your child to practice these skills will eventually help them master writing.

Marker milestones

You know those scribbles that appear in inconvenient places, like your freshly painted wall? Redirect your child’s artistic efforts to paper and appreciate those marks as pre-writing. Children have to learn how to make lines and strokes before they can learn to write the letters of the alphabet.

The ability to make these lines and strokes happens in a sequence. All children are different, but the typical developmental progress looks like this:

  • Age two: A child can imitate a vertical line and draw one proficiently by three.

  • Age two and a half: A child can imitate a horizontal line and circle and draw them by three.

  • Age three and a half: A child can imitate a cross shape and draw one by age four.

  • Age four: A child can draw a square.

  • Age four and a half: A child can draw a diagonal line in either direction

  • Age five: A child can draw an “X” shape and a triangle.

A helping hand

Certain physical development milestones must be met to develop pre-writing skills, as well. Writing involves the development of hand-eye coordination and a wide range of motor skills.

For example, children need solid core strength to sit up straight and strength in their neck, shoulders, and hands to watch and control the crayon.

They also need to be able to cross the midline of their body, which involves reaching across the center of the body to the opposite side. If a child has to switch hands in mid-reach or move their whole trunk towards the other side, they may be having difficulty crossing the midline.

Bilateral coordination is another necessity — kids must be able to use both arms or legs together to do something at the same time, such as holding the paper down while writing.

Practicing physical activities that help children develop strength is an unexpected but effective way to prepare them to learn how to write.

In the lines

One of the best ways to help children prepare involves something they likely enjoy anyway: coloring. Coloring seems like such a basic childhood activity, but it’s actually helpful in a wide variety of areas, including:

  • Development of hand-eye coordination

  • Practicing patience

  • Exhibiting creativity and self-expression

  • Helping with dexterity

  • Improving focus

  • Encouraging imagination

Children are avid learners and enjoy coloring, drawing, and creating. This simple act of entertaining themselves through art is an important step to the writing process.

Offer your child a range of coloring books, worksheets, and drawing implements such as crayons, pencils, and markers to encourage their scribbling. One day it will evolve into the written word.

Lumiere Children's Therapy is a full service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians can help improve your child develop writing and other essential life skills.