• ..

    Developing Pre-writing Skills


    Writing is a complex task which requires different skills as such motor skills, perceptual skills and cognitive skills.  Pre-schoolers participate in various activities to help them to be ready for formal writing instruction.  These skills essential for learning to write are called pre-writing skills.

    Pre-Writing Strokes Developmental Stages

    Approximate Age Skills
    6 – 9 Months Mouths crayons, crumples paper
    1 – 1.5 Years Bangs crayon on paper
    Scribbles randomly
    Scribbles in horizontal, vertical and circular directions
    2  – 3 Years Imitates horizontal, vertical and circular strokes
    3 – 4 Years Copies horizontal, vertical lines and circle
    Imitates cross +
    4 – 5 Years Copies cross +, right oblique line, square, left oblique line, and oblique cross
    5 – 6 Years Copies triangle and diamond


    Alphabets and numbers are made up of the various strokes listed in the table above e.g. the letter “A” is made up of 2 oblique lines and a horizontal line.  Mastering these strokes therefore set a good foundation for children to progress to formal writing.

    Suggested Activities

    Pre-writing activities can be fun!  Use a variety of materials that stimulate the child’s various senses when teaching pre-writing strokes.


    • Use different colours of drawing mediums e.g. crayons, paints, chalks, etc
    • Draw on coloured papers, aluminium foil, tracing paper, etc
    • Use special colouring books e.g. colours appear when the child paints the pages with water


    • Finger painting
    • Draw on sand, rice, beans, sandpaper, etc
    • Use shaving cream, whipped cream, lotion, soap foam, etc
    • Draw using stencils


    • Attach bells to the end of the drawing instrument


    • Use scented markers and lotions


    • Draw when frosting a cake
    • Draw with various spreads e.g. jam on a slice of bread


    • Walk/jump/crawl/skip along straight, curved and oblique lines
    • Have the children form the strokes/shapes using their bodies


    • Use weighed drawing instruments
    • Draw in the air using both hands/scarves/wands

    Biomechanical Factors

    Good gross and fine motor skills are necessary for writing.  Examples of such skills include the ability to hold the body upright whilst seated, the ability to move the fingers independent of the wrist, forearm and shoulder, the ability to grasp the pencil with an efficient pencil grip, and the ability to use both hands together.



    Suggested Activities

    Various fun gross and fine motor activities can be in-cooperated into a young child’s daily routine to help him/her develop the motor skills necessary for formal writing instruction at a later stage.

    • Wheelbarrow games
    • Climb playground equipment
    • Crab walk
    • Crawling games
    • Catch and throw ball using both hands
    • Hammer toy
    • Wring cloths/tea towels
    • Play a food serving game which allows the child to carry a tray on his/her palm on 1 hand
    • Use a vertical surface for painting/drawing activities
    • Play doh
    • Clothes pegs
    • Tweezers
    • Use short crayons


    Colouring is a great pre-writing activity.  The child learns about form, shape, size, and direction as he/he colours.  When a colour colours, he/she is also working on attention, crayon grip, control (learning to colour within the boundaries, and paper pressure), posture, strength, endurance, and finally, the use of the helper hand.

    Pre-Writing Positions

    The child can perform drawing/colouring activities in various positions other than sitting at the desk.  These positions help to strengthen key gross motor muscles.  Some examples are:

    • Prone (lying on the tummy)
    • All-fours (crawling position)
    • Kneel
    • Half kneel
    • Stand




    Klein, M. D. (1990). Pre-Writing Skills. Arizona: Communication Skills Builders.

    Olsen, J.Z. and Knapton, E.F. (2018). Readiness & Writing Pre-K Teacher’s Guide. USA: Get Set for School.


    Written by:

    Ms Eunice Hoh-New

    Senior Occupational Therapist