The first approach for preschool writing is preparing the hand and the mind. Pre-writing activities prepare the hand by developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Good phonetic knowledge along with the ability to concentrate helps prepare the mind. Most of the Montessori Practical Life activities help develop pre-writing skills. Introduce phonics using Montessori Sandpaper Letters or any type of sensory letters.
How to Prepare Your Preschooler for Writing?
Pre-writing activities – Prepare the Hand – age: 2 ½
Pre-writing activities help prepare the child’s hand and finger muscles for writing. They help develop fine motor skills, hand-eye-coordination, and concentration. Montessori Practical Life activities are the best pre-writing activities. Start these activities as early as possible. Usually, by the age of 2 ½ years, most children are ready for these activities.
Encourage using the three fingers that we use to hold a pencil. (thumb, index, and middle finger) Start from left to right and top to bottom wherever applicable. These activities are fun and engaging and give the child the motive to achieve a certain goal. And as a result, they will develop their concentration level as well.
- Transferring beans/beads/pom poms with tweezers, or tongsEyedropper transferring activities
- Prick a shape
- Free drawing
- Tracing Shapes
- Any activity that makes the child use his/her small muscles in the hands and fingers
Phonemic awareness – Prepare the Mind – age: 2 ½
Phonics are sounds produced by letters. They sound a lot different than the name of the letter. Phonetic knowledge is the basic foundation for meaningful writing, building words, and reading.
In the Montessori method, Sandpaper Letters to introduce sounds. They help the child to associate the shape of the letter to the sound and learn through muscle memory. (you can use DIY sensory letters instead).
When tracing the letters show the child how to trace with two fingers. (index and middle) and not with only the index finger. This will give the child a good pre-writing experience.
10 Fun DIY sensory/bumpy letter ideas
- Tiny Pom Poms
- Velcro Dots
- Glitter Sheets
- Pipe Cleaners
- Glitter Glue
- Foam Sheets
- Gem Stickers
- Play Dough
Sign up to get the Printable Letter templates for Bumpy Letters/Sandpaper letters
Preschool Writing Activities
Before the Worksheets
- Sand tray: After tracing the Sandpaper letters the child can write on a sand tray. Give the child ample time to practice on the sand tray before they move on. Both Sandpaper letters and sand tray can be practiced at the same time simultaneously.
- Metal Insets: Metal insets are a set of metal shapes and their frames. Children can trace the shapes and colours inside them to practice their pencil skills.
- Blackboard/whiteboard: Children love writing on the blackboard. This is a great opportunity for the child to explore and experience the process of writing. Small paper-size boards are ideal for this. Because it is almost like writing on paper, but with a chance to erase and repeat over and over again.
- Colouring sheet and free drawing: These are great ways to further develop a firm pencil grip. Always keep a tray of blank paper or colouring sheets available on the shelf.
- GOOS papers (Good On One Side): A great way to make the most use out of used paper. Let the children scribble, paint, or cut them.
Every child develops at his/her own pace. We should observe the child and use our judgment to know when the child is ready for worksheets. Most children are ready by 3-4 years. Worksheets can be tracing or writing depending on the child’s ability.
Always keep the work simple, with little to no unnecessary distraction. Alphabet worksheets should only have a few pictures of the corresponding initial sound. I like to keep a dot as prompts to let them know where to start each letter. Be consistent. 1-3 worksheets per week are ideal. Never expect the writing to be perfect. Give lots of time and space to practice.
Preschool Worksheets in 3 Difficulty Levels
Journaling is an excellent way to encourage your preschooler to write. There are endless possibilities to be creative when it comes to preschool journaling. Keep in mind that the child’s writing skills do not have to be perfect to start this.
You can have a three-hole folder and file the child’s free drawing and free writing. A sketchbook is also a great alternative. Let the child explain what each picture is about and write them down in a few simple sentences.
Have your child decorate the cover of the folder and let him/her know that you will be adding the work to the file. This will encourage the child to keep adding new content.
Going through the journal with your child and talking about them is a great way of bonding with your child. They might come up with a different story about each time. This is a wonderful alternative for bedtime stories. Discussing the pictures with your child will increase vocabulary and develop verbal language.
Preschool Writing Activities: Sequence Chart
Some common writing challenges for preschoolers
These are common challenges that many preschool-age children will face when writing. While we shouldn’t worry about these issues we shouldn’t ignore them as well. Let’s go through each point and find out how to address them.
It is normal for every child to start holding the pencil with a closed fist. With several trials and attempts, we can show the child how to hold with the three fingers. But what we do have to work on is developing their fine motor skills. Let the child practice more fine motor skill activities. Emphasize on the three fingers. The more practice in these activities, the better the child’s pencil grip will be. If the child has good fine motor skills, showing how to hold the pencil is not a challenge at all.
It is very common for preschool children to reverse letters like b and d or p and q. You shouldn’t worry about this when it happens at a young age because most of the time they outgrow this habit. But, I don’t ignore it as well. I try to find a good balance of bringing their attention to it in a positive manner. Fun verbal cues have always been effective for letter reversals. For example, for b I say “First bring the bat down and place the ball next to it.” Another effective strategy is Sandpaper. Right before I give a worksheet, I make them trace the Sandpaper Letter several times.
Letter formation is something I try to fix from the beginning. The best way to do this is by introducing letters with Sandpaper letters. Pay attention to where the letter starts and where does it end. I spend a lot of time and give my children enough time and space to practice proper letter formation. Because it is very important to fix these issues at the very beginning before they become habits.
At a very early age, switching hands can happen when the children are not sure about their dominant hand. I would work more on fine motor skill activities at this stage and give lots of free coloring sheets. Keep the pencil in front of the child and ask him to pick it up. The first hand that reaches out is usually their dominant hand. After you find that out, encourage them to use the same hand always.
Disclaimer: These challenges are very common for preschool children who have just been introduced to writing. In many cases, most children outgrow them. The strategies I have discussed above are not meant for special circumstances where you might have to get professional help.