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Getting Ready to Write

Pre-schoolers can often identify their letters and attempt to form them with manipulatives such as sticks before their small hands are ready to control a pencil and paper, and they should not be expected to. Listed below are several activities for practicing how to form letters without having to place a writing tool into your child’s hands. Sequencing the formation of the letter is the key here, for example, and 'O' should be formed counter-clockwise, and 'D' should start with a straight line drawn top to bottom, followed by a large curved line drawn top to bottom.

  • Flashlight: In a dark room, “draw” a letter on the wall or ceiling using a flashlight. Demonstrate drawing a letter and have your child imitate it.

  • Wikki stix ( Use wikki stix to form a letter. Creating the letter by its components (for example, a “D” is made by making a big line and a big curve) is a great way to practice letter formation, without placing demands on immature fine motor skills.

  • Air writing: Standing in front of your child, demonstrate writing a letter in the air. Have your child stand beside you or behind you to imitate the same letter. Better yet, write the letter on each others backs or the back of your hands.

  • Rainbow writing: On a chalkboard, whiteboard, or huge piece of paper, write a letter in yellow highlighter. Have your child trace over your letter using many colors for repeated practice, and of course, to make a rainbow!

  • Funny Foam ( Spray Funny Foam on the wall of the bathtub or on a bumpy cutting board and write a letter. Have your child trace over your letters in the foam soap.

  • Pretzel stick: Use a small piece of a fat pretzel rod as a “pencil” and “write” letters on graham cracker or plate covered in pudding, applesauce, marshmallow fluff, or peanut butter. Chose the writing surface that best suits the letter, e.g. use a small plate for an O or C, but a graham cracker for a E or F.

  • Sand box: Create your own homemade sand box using a shoe box. Using a stick or finger, have your child trace letters.

  • Wet-dry-try: This is a technique from the Handwriting Without Tears program. Write a letter on a chalkboard. Have your child dip a tiny piece of a sponge into a small amount of water and use the sponge to erase the letter by tracing over it. Then trace over the wet shadow with a finger.  Next “dry” the letter using a tiny piece of crumpled up paper towel. Last, he should trace over the shadow of the letter with tiny piece of chalk.

Blog written by Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR and Chaye Lamm-Warburg, DPS OTR, Director POTS

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