How to Prepare Your Preschooler to Learn Handwriting (and Other Skills!)

December 14, 2022

The transition from daycare or pre-school into school can be a challenge, but what do teachers say is most important? The answer might surprise you.

There can be a lot of pressure to ensure that children have certain academic skills “mastered” before entering school. But according to kindergarten teachers, the most important skills for kids to enter school with are not necessarily what you’d think. 

The importance of life skills

We don’t need to pressure children to have things figured out academically before they start school - they’ll focus on reading, writing, addition, and subtraction in the classroom. 

Instead, the skills that help the most with kids entering school are life skills. Things like being able to ask for what they need, being able to follow instructions, being able to open and close snack and lunch containers, being able to identify their belongings and put on/take off jackets, hats, etc, and being able to play cooperatively with other children. 

Fortunately, these are skills that are easily taught at home as part of daily life and that you, as parents, can help your child with as you prepare for the transition to school. 

Learning through play

Another thing that probably won’t surprise you is that children learn best through play. The optimal way to prepare your child for handwriting is not endless letter-writing worksheets (although a few aren’t necessarily a bad thing!) but building the skills through play that are the foundation of handwriting:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand-eye coordination skills
  • Visual-perceptual skills
  • Visual-motor integration skills
  • Hand strength

There are lots of activities that you can do at home to help build these skills. Let’s take a look at a few: 

Fine motor skills (strength and dexterity of fingers to make small, specific movements)

Activities to do together: 

  • Clothes peg activities (using thumb, pointer, and middle finger of dominant hand to grasp clothes peg) 
  • Money boxes (pushing small coins into holes) 
  • Playing with Playdough
  • Cutting with scissors 
  • Tracing and drawing shapes

Hand-eye coordination skills (ability to do activities that require the use of our hands and our eyes at the same time; usually with our eyes guiding the movements of our hands) 

Activities to do together: 

  • Playing with a ball
  • Popping bubbles
  • Threading and lacing activities
  • Simple mazes and paths

Visual-perceptual skills (the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eyes see) 

Activities to do together: 

  • Memory match card games
  • Sorting, “which object doesn’t belong” games (ie, all buttons with 2 holes and one button with 4 holes) 
  • Matching household items, like socks or different shapes of pasta into separate containers

Visual-motor integration skills (the communication between what we see and how we move our hands to reproduce what we see) 

Activities to do together: 

  • Tracing and drawing shapes: in the sand, with shaving cream on the side of the bathtub, sidewalk chalk, markers/crayons
  • Using dots and grids to copy images
  • Using step-by-step drawing models to copy images

Hand strength (built through fine motor and gross motor movements - playing!) 

Activities to do together: 

  • Paper crumpling
  • Playing and forming Playdough 
  • Spray bottles (watering the plants!) 
  • Scissor cutting
  • Climbing on playground equipment

By integrating these activities (and others like them) into your child’s routines, you are setting the foundation to help ready your child for handwriting in school.

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