Similarly to how children must learn to walk before they can run, they also need to get the hang of pre-writing before they can work towards building their own handwriting skills. The age of the iPad and smart technology has meant that children are becoming more accustomed to tapping on screens rather than gripping pencils and pens, meaning that it may be vital to present more opportunities for children to hone their skills.
Pre-writing skills are vital in a child’s early years development. It involves practising drawing different shapes and steadily developing fine motor skills. This helps children to slowly improve their literacy from the foundations of learning how to make marks on paper. When developing their pre-writing skills, children will first learn to scribble on paper before discovering how to make specific patterns and shapes. Typically from around 2 years old, children can begin to draw recognisable lines and shapes.
Although the act of scribbling and drawing shapes may seem like a straightforward part of a child’s early development, the ability to draw squares, circles and lines demonstrate that children possess a sufficient level of pencil control, good muscle strength in their fingers and hands, stronger visual-motor integration skills, a healthy attention span, cognitive awareness and enough coordination skills to hold a piece of paper still with one hand while drawing with another.
At Little Hands we promote lots of early writing opportunities, as we value children being able to express themselves through writing and drawing and understand the importance of preparing for early writing skills before children start school. Some ways in which we do this are through ‘write dance’ sessions and activities such as dough disco.
Write Dance is a form of creative play in which children can use music, songs and suggested movements to improve their gross motor skills and coordination which in turn will support them to write the shapes they will need to form letters. We use lots of messy play activities based around stories or songs which helps the children make big and small movements in a range of ways. Dough Disco is where a group of children come together for an exciting engaging play dough session where we listen to music whilst children develop fine motor muscles by manipulating the dough in a variety of ways, which in turn helps to improve their mark making and writing.
We also try to improve the writing readiness of children by implementing activities that encourage hand dominance. This can be aided by poking or pointing games and activities that involve building hand and finger strength like using play dough, scrunching paper and using tweezers. Upper limb strength exercises such as climbing ladders and wheelbarrow walking can also be highly useful in helping children to generate enough strength and control to comfortably hold pens and pencils to practice pre-writing. Hand-eye coordination is another key skill that you can help children to develop. Throwing and catching soft objects can be a fun way to help improve the accuracy of a child’s coordination as well as reaching to pick up items.