HANDWRITING AND PREWRITING – HOW DO CHILDREN LEARN TO WRITE?

HANDWRITING AND PREWRITING – HOW DO CHILDREN LEARN TO WRITE?

Handwriting and Prewriting

I am sure some of us can relate, as parents, to the difficult task of trying to teach our child how to write, when the child has trouble holding the pencil in the right position, applies too much or too little pressure, can’t draw or copy a simple line, doesn’t know the starting point of writing the letter, writes it back to front, and so on.

This article sets out to discuss the development of handwriting, where does it all begin and what are the steps we need to consider before we launch into teaching how to actually write.

The mastering of handwrtiting actually starts with prewriting and even goes back to the time of the “big scribble”.

Let’s take a closer look.

Developmentally, prewriting starts with the baby holding their crayon and scribbling on a piece of paper (or anywhere else for that matter – Oh, I remember this stage so well!).  Out of this scribbling emerge the first recognisable shapes like the circles, lines (horizontal and vertical), making a cross, diagonal and oblique lines, squares, triangles and so on.  Personally, I believe this stage of development goes hand in hand with the development of the child’s pencil grasp (which we will discuss at length in a future article) and they are both major contributors to successful handwriting.

The timeline of prewriting and handwriting in young children looks something like this (keep in mind that children develop at their own individual pace so this is just a guideline).

TaskAge
Scribbles on paper10-12 months
Imitates horizontal, vertical and circular marks on paper2 years
Copies a vertical, horizontal line and circle3 years
Copies a cross, oblique line, square, diagonal line, some letter and numbers, might be able to write their name4-5 years
Copies a triangle, prints own name, copies most letters5-6 years

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If we take a look at what makes up a letter, it is pretty much lines and curves.  So, if the child has mastered lines and curves (prewriting shapes and patterns) then forming letters comes as next step.

How can we help a child develop their pre-writing skills?

Firstly by giving them the opportunity to practice and have a go.  There is a huge volume of activities that can assist children develop their prewriting and drawing skills.  Learning to make lines, shapes, and patterns should be part of everyday play and it is a task that can take place in a multitude of environments. To name a few, take a trip to beach and let them draw in the sand, or go to the park and show them how to arrange sticks to make different shapes.  Play-doh is a great tool to make shapes and lines. Also, letting them draw and make lines and shapes on a plate filled with things like table salt, sand. And of course, lets not forget the good old colouring books, painting, drawing with crayons, chalk, etc.

If you would like more information about handwriting, occupational therapy, or would like to enquire about our handwriting tutoring groups, please contact us at EquipKids.  We would love to hear from you and are always happy to have a chat.

Next article will focus on pencil grasps so stay tuned!

References

Amundson, S. (2005). Prewriting and handwriting skills. In J. Case-Smith (Ed.), Occupational therapy for children (5th ed.). St Louis: Elsevier, Inc.

 

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