Research shows that children who are well-prepared for their first year of school have a much better chance of settling in and succeeding in school, giving them a significant head start for later years. Apart from basic skills such as listening and following simple instructions, communicating their needs, they should also be able to understand and retell simple stories.

During your child’s preschool years, an important milestone begins to emerge. This is the development of pre-writing skills. Pre-writing skills are used to encourage, develop and support opportunities for your preschool child to begin writing.

Pre Writing skills:

Pre-writing skills are the fundamental skills children need to develop before they are able to write. These skills include:

1. Ability to hold and use a pencil

2. Colour

3. Ability to do standing line – vertical line – I

4. Ability to copy sleeping line (horizontal line) ________

5. Ability to copy circle shape – O

6. Ability to do the cross shape

7. Ability to do the square shape

8. Fine motor skills (strength in your child’s hand will help him write better)

9. Ability to make the triangle shape

10. Ability to do right, left diagonal lines – /

The importance of teaching tracing lines and shapes

During your child’s preschool years, an important milestone begins to emerge. This is the development of pre-writing skills. Pre-writing skills are used to encourage, develop and support opportunities for your preschool child to begin writing.

Development of Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor refers to the development of the small muscles of the body (particularly the small muscles in the hands) which will enable actions like grasping small objects, clicking, correct writing grasp etc.

Pattern Writing

Pattern writing aims to help your pre-school child in the development of pre-writing skills. It provides your child with the ability to use cognitive development, observations, hand-eye coordination and encourages your child to draw in a specific direction. The basic lines and curves (that are traced over broken lines) which are included pattern writing are essential to the development of learning to write letters.

10 Activities for pre-writing skills:

1. Play Dough – Using playdough helps strengthen the muscles in the fingers, hands and shoulders which are essential for legible handwriting.

2. Playing in prone – By laying down on the floor on their bellies propping up on their elbows, the shoulders, arms and hands receive proprioceptive and tactile input to help children learn where their body is in space. In addition, this position helps to strengthen the head and neck muscles.

3. Animal Walks – Children can practice moving like different animals, particularly ones where their hands are on the floor such as bear walks, seal walks and donkey kicks.

4. Sensory Trays – Practice making marks in different sensory materials such as shaving cream, sand or flour.

5. Lacing Activities – Lace beads onto pipe cleaners. Try lacing shoelaces. These types of activities help to fine tune the intricate fine motor skills needed for handwriting.

6. Make shapes and letters with your body – Form the lines, shapes and letters using your body. Check out Alphabet Movement Cards for easy visuals to get started.

7. Move in different directions – Perform locomotor skills in straight lines, curved lines and zigzags. Move in a circle. This helps children develop visual-spatial skills which is necessary for spacing and sizing of letters.

8Building blocks – Using Lego blocks help children improve fine motor skills, muscle strength in the hands and fingers and visual-spatial skills.         

9. Finger-paint – Let children explore making marks with their fingers. It is easy and fun. If the child dislikes the sensation of finger painting, offer different objects to paint with instead such as toy cars or plastic toy animal feet.

10. Moving or placing objects along a path – The teacher can draw different lines or shapes on paper or put painter’s tape on the floor. If it is on paper, children can try putting stickers along the lines or rocks. If is painter’s tape on the floor, children can try driving toy cars along the lines. Draw with sidewalk chalk outdoors and children can practice riding a tricycle along the path.

Pre-Writing Milestones:


Age Pre-writing expectation
1 -2 years
  • Randomly scribbles
  • Spontaneous scribbles in vertical/horizontal and/or circular direction
  • Imitates a horizontal/vertical/circular direction
2 – 3 years
  • Imitates a horizontal line
  • Imitates a vertical line
  • Imitates a circle
3 – 4 years
  • Copies a horizontal line
  • Copies a vertical line
  • Copies a circle
  • Imitates  +
  • Imitates  / and \
  • Imitates a square
4 -5 years
  • Copies a +
  • Traces a line
  • Copies a square
  • Copies a / and \
  • Imitates  X
  • Imitates  Δ
  • Grasps pencil in writing position
5 -6 years
  • Copies  X
  • Copies  Δ
  • Recognizes between a big and small line or curve


Benefits of working on Prewriting Skills:

1. Promoting proper hand grasp/pencil grasp on objects used in hands-on activities (such as tongs, paint brushes, grasping objects etc).

2. Developing hand strength

3. Honing hand manipulation skills

4. Working on the left to right pre-writing line/shape and letter formations.

5. Pre-writing skills help in finger dexterity and strength needed for handwriting assignments.

6. Developing bilateral coordination in the hands to be able to hold the paper and write at the same time

7. Crossing midline and choosing a dominant hand for handwriting tasks.