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Developing Your Child’s Pre-Writing Skills

Learning to write can be a very difficult task for young children who do not have a strong foundation with pre-writing skills.

In fact, preschool curriculums are often centered around the development of these pre-writing skills rather than teaching pencil control and letter formation.

What Are Pre-Writing Skills?

Pre-writing skills are essentially the foundational skills children need to master before they learn to formally write.

Many of these skills are not actually related to writing at all. They do, however, create a strong foundation to help your child become confident and proficient in writing when they are developmentally ready to learn.

Here are 6 important pre-writing skills your child should master before learning to write letters and numbers:

  1. Bilateral Control
  2. Crossing Midline
  3. Gross Motor Control
  4. Core Strength and Posture
  5. Fine Motor Control
  6. Pre-writing lines

Let’s take a close look at each one of these early writing skills so you can truly understand the foundational needs of your child.

1) Bilateral Control

Bilateral control and coordination is when you can seamlessly use both arms and/or legs for a task. For writing purposes, children should have good control of both their hands as their dominant hand will be writing and their non-dominant hand will be holding the paper in place.

While this may seem like a natural skill to most adults, it can actually be quite difficult for young children to master.

Pre-writing skills

2) Crossing Midline

Crossing the midline is a skill that allows children to move either their arm/hand or their leg/foot across the center or midline of their body. An example of this would be a child grabbing an object on the left side of the table with their right arm.

When children don’t develop this skill properly, their writing technique tends to be awkward and they will frequently move the pencil between their two hands.

3) Gross Motor Control

Gross motor skills are some of the first movements that babies start developing after they are born. In order for children to have good fine motor control, which is critical for proper handwriting, they need to have well-developed gross motor movements.

Writing requires good strength and stability within the shoulder and arm. Encouraging your child to do gross motor activities is a great way to develop the strength needed for stable pencil control.

4) Core Strength and Posture

Core strength is a major factor when it comes to proper writing technique. When children sit upright with their feet flat on the floor and their knees bent at a 90-degree angle, their writing tends to be more refined. When children slouch, their writing tends to be sloppy.

Since fixing posture and core strength tends to be more difficult as children get older, it is important to have your kids do fun core activities from a young age.

5) Fine Motor Control

Having well-developed fine motor movements is incredibly important for a proper pencil grip. Encouraging your child to engage in fine motor activities will help them greatly in their writing journey.

Children with good fine motor control tend to write without tiring, have more controlled movements over the pencil, and have better isolated finger movements to write correctly and neatly.

Pre-writing skills

6) Pre-Writing Lines

This is the only skill on the list that actually relates to writing itself. These pre-writing lines are the strokes and scribbles that children will make prior to learning how to formally write letters and numbers.

There is actually a developmentally appropriate sequence that children should follow for these pre-writing lines. Follow the chart to see if your child is on track.

* Imitates = child watched an adult draw the line or shape and then tries to replicate it

* Copies = child is shown a picture of the line or shape and then tries to produce it on their own

Years 2-3– Imitates horizontal line
– Imitates vertical line
– Imitates circle
Years 3-4 – Copies horizontal line
– Copies vertical line
– Copies circle
– Imitates cross (+)
– Imitates square
Years 4-5– Copies cross (+)
– Copies square
– Imitates X
– Imitates triangle
– Traces a line
Years 5-6– Copies X
– Copies triangle

Importance of Pre-Writing Skills

Helping your child master these pre-writing skills is incredibly important for the development of proper handwriting technique.

Children who have not developed these early skills also tend to have trouble in school. These kids sometimes experience lower self-esteem if they feel they are behind, they may have avoidance behaviors out of fear of failure, and they may fall behind academically as it may take them more time to complete assignments.

While this may seem scary to some parents, adding some extra play time activities into your child’s day is a great way to improve your child’s pre-writing skills!

4 Activities to Improve Your Child’s Pre-Writing Skills

Try implementing some of these easy activities into your everyday life to prepare your child for a bright and successful future!

Pre-writing skills

1) Playdough

Playdough is one of the best activities for improving fine motor movements. As children play and maneuver the playdough they are developing arm and hand strength, bilateral coordination, finger dexterity, and much more. Since kids tend to sit at a table while playing, this also helps to develop a strong posture.

Playdough is such an amazing tool for developing pre-math skills. Whether you want to buy it or make it at home, implementing this activity into your daily routine is super easy as kids love this activity!

2) Simon Says

Games, like Simon Says, are great gross motor activities that help to develop the strength and core control necessary for handwriting.

This is a great activity for crossing the midline and bilateral control. You can say things like “Touch one knee with both hands”, and “now touch the other knee with both hands”.

Through this game, you can also help children understand the different shapes and lines that are involved in writing. Saying commands like “walk in a circle” or “walk in a straight line” will provide amazing benefits for early math skills

3) Arts and crafts

The importance of arts and crafts shouldn’t be underestimated. Just giving your child simple supplies to be creative is an amazing way to help with pre-writing skills.

When children do crafts they are developing fine motor skills, bilateral control, midline crossing, and core strength if sitting at a table. This activity is also a great opportunity to practice those pre-writing lines.

4) Outdoor free play

While this may seem like it wouldn’t prepare your child for learning how to write, allowing your children to play outside is a great way to develop gross motor skills.

Mastering gross motor movements is key to developing and perfecting fine motor skills necessary for proper handwriting!


Children learn and develop best through play! Giving your children the opportunities to do playful activities will help prepare them for learning how to formally write.

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