You may’ve heard the term ‘pre-writing skills’ and know that they are important. But what exactly are pre-writing skills, why are they valuable to my child’s learning and how can I ensure my child gains them?
What are Pre-Writing Skills?
Pre-writing encompasses skills children need before they start attempting letters and words. They include finger and hand strength, the ability to hold a writing implement and the ability to make different patterns and shapes. These skills are typically mastered between the ages of 2-6 years but may come more naturally to some or be more challenging for others.
Why are Pre-Writing Skills Important?
Without a good foundation in pre-writing skills, children will struggle when they attempt to write. For example, a child who has not had any exposure to pre-writing activities at home or pre-school will find it very challenging when they enter school and are asked to pick up a pencil and write/copy the alphabet. This is because if they cannot form a clockwise circle, for example, they will not be able to successfully write the letters o or p. Similarly, if a child has not had practise crossing a horizontal line over a vertical one, they will not be able to write the letter t. There will be a couple of consequences of this. Firstly, a child’s handwriting will appear messy or illegible (more than what is age-appropriate for an early learner). This will most likely lead to your child’s educator encouraging your child to do more practice, either at school or home. For some personality types, this can become tiresome, embarrassing, or boring and lead to resistance. Your child may refuse writing activities and develop low self-esteem. As a teacher, it was common to encounter students at Year 1 or 2 (aged between six and eight years) who hated writing sessions. They would often write very little and have very poor handwriting. The cause was nearly always a lack of fine motor and prewriting skills, making the act of writing unenjoyable. Because the children physically struggled to write, they would be less likely to express their ideas through writing. In a Catch-22, the less they wrote, the less practice they had, and progress was slow. By placing importance on pre-writing skills in a fun way while your child is young, you will avoid the need for them to ‘catch up’ later when they are more self-conscious. You will be giving them a good chance of experiencing success along their writing journey.
What exactly do Pre-Writing skills include?
- The formation (writing/drawing) of shapes and lines. These usually develop sequentially and according to age.
- Strength in the fingers and hands
- Eye-hand coordination
- Crossing the midline (the invisible line dividing the body into half)
- Visual perception (the brain’s ability to assign meaning to shapes e.g. letters)
- Motor planning (remembering steps taken to perform a task)
- Pencil grip development
- Focus, attention, and motivation
- An interest and enjoyment of writing
How can I practice pre-writing skills with my child?
- Use pre-writing cards
These cards are especially designed for children to experience the hand movements needed to form the six basic patterns of English letters. They can be used as a part
of rice or sand play or on their own (for some great ideas, head over to our
Instagram page to see them in action)
- Play finger games (for example Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple) or
- Trace shapes in a salt tray/shaving cream
- Make playdough shapes and tracing over them with a finger or pencil
- Do lots of paintings with different shapes
- Use cotton wool tips to write/draw or paint
- Do chalk drawing outside on concrete or on a chalkboard
- Make shapes on a magnadoodle (magnetic drawing board)
- Use apps such as Paint on an iPad or touch-screen computer to draw shapes and lines
- Any sort of activity that promotes fine motor skills such a Lego, threading, using tongs, opening jars, using scissors etc. (Fine motor skills will be the topic of a future blog post).
If children are exposed to engaging and fun pre-writing activities, writing will hopefully become an achievable task and one which brings many years of enjoyment.