Early Literacy,  Preschool

Pre-Writing Activities

Think writing is as simple as placing a pencil in your child’s hand? Think again! Development of fine motor skills are absolutely crucial in order to build up the hand strength and pincer grip needed to be able to hold a pencil both comfortably and accurately. Read on to find our favourite activities to try:

The key here is don’t run before you can walk! Be patient, work on these skills in a fun, playful way before trying to introduce writing. Z (now 3.8 years) has been building up her fine motor skills and hand strength since she was tiny. You can search activities on the website by typing ‘fine motor skills’ into the search bar or by checking out my Instagram and Pinterest pages.

1.Manipulating play dough

Play dough will ALWAYS be one of our favourite activities. We make the dough from scratch every time, which is a great activity in itself, as is the play afterwards.

If you’re short on time to make play dough, the store bough stuff is great too! Get your child to roll the dough into a ball or make ‘sausages.’ Z also likes to roll the dough flat – either with her hand or rolling pin in order to make a little small world.

There are plenty of fun play dough recipes and activities to try on this page, so please type in ‘play dough’ in the search bar to find one!

2. Threading beads

Threading beads is an excellent way of using the pincer grip – if you look at the photograph above, you can see just how much focus and effort is going in to squeezing the beads so that they can be threaded. The chenille sticks and pony beads combination is a good option IF your child is used to such activities, but I would suggest starting with bigger objects first (such as food pouch lids or cheerios), then gradually use smaller items as your child gets more confident.

Here are some ideas to try:

DIY Abacus

Unicorn Salon

Apple Tree


3. Using tweezers to pick up objects

Tools such as tweezers and scoops can add extra challenge to activities as they require manipulation of the hands and fingers to work. This treasure hunt game is one example of how these tweezers can be used in play – I tend to add them to a lot of the activities we do so that Z can develop strength in her hands and fingers.

4. Practising pincer grip with clothes pegs

Clothes pegs are such a great resource for early learning – we use them in so many ways, from name recognition (as shown above) , to number recognition and colour matches too. You can even recreate a mini washing line with pegs to introduce so ‘real-world’ play into the proceedings.

The giant pegs in the photo are surprisingly easy to manipulate, making them a good place to start. The large pegs require the whole hand to be squeezed which results in a really great workout for the hands whereas smaller pegs require a good pincer grip – either way, it’s an excellent workout for the hands and fingers!


5. Scissor Skills

It can seem like a terrifying prospect to allow your little learner to wield some scissors, but it’s another important skill that helps to build strength in the hands and fingers. There’s plenty of activities you can try, from TP people haircuts to following lines on a printable however our personal favourite is flower arranging! My daughter much prefers activities that appear more ‘real-world,’ so helping to cut up an old bouquet was a real practical task for her – she was learning scissor skills without it seeming like a task.

6. Trace with index finger

Salt trays are an excellent way of getting little ones to trace or copy shapes. The tray above was used with a 7 year-old student of mine when he was practising some spellings, however it can also be used with much younger children to copy pre-writing shapes.


7. Lacing / sewing

Lacing activities can come in many forms: from lacing (and tying) shoelaces to using special printable cards to practise threading. One of our personal favourites is lacing (or sewing) leaves – this is an idea straight from Mother Natured who is one of our favourite to follow for nature-based activities.

You can also check out our recent interview with Trixi from Coloured Buttons for plenty of ways to introduce sewing to little ones.


8. Create Art

Art can often get ignored at home for fear that it will cause a huge amount of mess but it needn’t be a stressful experience, especially when there are so many sensory benefits.

Holding a paintbrush, squeezing a sponge or even using fingers during art sessions are all great ways for children to explore and experiment with their hands and fingers


9. Squeezing Pipettes

Pipettes (or turkey basters) are another fabulous resources in the early years. In fact, our pipettes seem to be a feature in most of the water play we do! From colour mixing to simple science experiments, they add a fun element to proceedings whilst still having all of the benefits of boosting fine motor skills. If you look at the photo above, you’ll see that Z (2.10 at the time) needed to squeeze her hand and fingers in order to get the pipette to work.

Like it? Pin it!

If you want to save this post for future reference, why not pin it to one of your Pinterest boards? I’ve even created this handy graphic for you!

Want more?

These are just a small taste of the pre-writing activities that I have on the website, repeat them often in different formats so that your little one gets plenty of opportunities to develop strength in their hands and fingers. If you’re looking for more activities to try, check out the ‘school readiness’ and ‘preschool’ sections of the blog.

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British primary school teacher and mum of 2.

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