Preschool is about setting the foundation for the rest of a child’s education. Although children are typically not learning to write at the preschool age, learning to write is a fundamental building block for education. Instead of teaching preschoolers how to write, preschool teachers usually create ways for children to mentally, academically, and physically prepare for writing. This focus on pre-writing helps get them ready in a fun, engaging way.
What are pre-writing activities?
There is a lot preschoolers must learn before they even pick up a pencil. Since preschoolers typically are not quite ready to learn how to read or write, pre-writing activities prepare them for writing. Writing requires not only an understanding of the alphabet and the concept of words and sentences, but it also requires the use of motor skills and advanced comprehension. Pre-writing activities can equip children to excel in writing (and reading) throughout their school years.
The importance of pre-writing activities
The ability to write well is an invaluable skill in education that opens the door for all future learning. The best time for children to learn how to read is between the ages of four and seven, so starting pre-writing activities before then is important. These activities help build the foundation for learning to form letters and words in kindergarten.
What pre-writing activities teach children
Pre-writing is a gentle introduction to the concept and practice of writing. It’s so important because it teaches children a lot of what they will need to master to become a great writer. Those skills take time to hone, so it’s great to start practicing early. Pre-writing helps children develop the following:
- Attention span: Writing takes time and cognitive stamina, so children need to learn how to focus for an extended period of time.
- Fine motor skills: Holding a pencil and maneuvering it with precision requires well-developed motor skills.
- Forming patterns: Letters are patterns of shapes and lines, so it’s helpful to learn how to form simpler patterns beforehand.
- Crossing the midline: The midline is the imaginary vertical line that splits the body down the middle, so crossing it allows children to do things like use their right hand to write on the left side of a page.
- Hand-eye coordination: How well a child can guide their hands based on what their eyes see will influence how accurately they can write letters.
How to teach pre-writing skills
One strategy for successfully teaching pre-writing skills to preschoolers is to understand how and where to start. Making the process fun and engaging is also essential.
Touching on all of the children’s developmental needs is another pre-writing strategy to consider. So, a great strategy is to rotate between a variety of activities. Some are for hand-eye coordination, some are for understanding letters, and some may be for cognitive growth. Each of these need to be included in whichever variation of pre-writing activities you choose.
Pre-writing activities should encourage muscle development and coordination, letter recognition, phonological awareness, and general communication with words. When teaching them to your class, take your time and focus on which specific skills the activity is meant to concentrate on.
For instance, certain activities are meant to replicate holding a pencil. So, prioritize their skill-building for how they hold their tool and find their grip, as opposed to just what they should be accomplishing with that tool.
Some pre-writing activities include:
- Salt tray drawing: Gather a few household items (a baking sheet, salt, markers, colored paper, and index cards) to create a space for children to make shapes or letters with their fingers.
- Scribble drawing: Teach children the art of scribbling with purpose and precision.
- Pipe cleaner bracelets: Help children learn more complex coordination with just pipe cleaners and beads.
- Playdough shapes: Working with playdough is a super fun way for children to use their hands and start making shapes.
- Playdough shapes with sticks: Take it a step further and create letters by adding sticks or toothpicks.
- Q-tip painting: Children can create cool artwork and learn how to grip a tool in one activity.
- Chalk drawing: Get outside and let children practice shapes or letters with sidewalk chalk.
- Alphabet stamps: Familiarize children with letters and the order of the alphabet with these great stamps.
For more activity ideas and tips on how to meaningfully engage families, download our calendar template for early education programs.
Create your own pre-writing activities
Introducing pre-writing activities and encouraging your preschoolers to write greatly increases their ability to become strong writers in the future. There are countless ways to hone the cognitive and motor skills children need for writing. Create or find activities that work best for your classroom and incorporate them into your lesson plans.
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