Fine motor skills enhanced by pre-writing practice

fine motor skills

The manipulation of malleable materials like Play-Doh, plasticine, clay and dough are a wonderful way to develop fine motor skills.  Before a child even thinks about holding a pen or pencil, there are lots of activities to do beforehand.  There is a local business to me who creates play doh for children.  I’ve seen her at various events and love her play dough.  It’s perfect for getting fingers and hands working.

How to get those fine motor skills working?

You can make dinosaurs walk through the playdough, you can use plastic knives and rollers to cut and roll the playdough out.  My daughter’s favourite is making sausages, peas and potatoes with them in a playdough bowl.  Other activities are featured in this wonderful website

Other materials to enhance writing

Cornflower and water, commonly known on the mummy circuit, as gloop.  It goes solid under pressure and liquid when released.  Put some in a large tray and let your little one trace shapes with their fingers or a spoon.  You might have to duck quickly when its thrown it’s not easy getting it out of hair.

What else can we do before learning to write?

Megablocks and making large towers are brilliant for developing fine motor skils and perfect for hand eye co-ordination tasks.  Jigsaw puzzles are a firm favourite in my house, start with a large floor piece and then work your way down to smaller puzzles.  We have Pop-Up Pirate which requires a small motor movement to get the swords in the holes.  All easily accessible.  You’re probably already doing these without realising how much they contribute.

Other learning for fine motor skills

Have your child trace over dots begin with simple lines and curves and then after which move to basic shapes, such as circles or ovals, and then to more difficult shapes such as triangles, squares, and other multi-sided shapes. When cutting out a circle, your child can cut continuously while slightly turning the page in his or her non-dominant hand. When cutting a triangle or square his dominant hand wants to cut, then stop, wait for his non-dominant hand to pivot the paper 90 or 60 degrees, and then resume cutting. When cutting a multi-sided shape, the start-then-stop- then-start-then-stop process repeats even more frequently and requires even more coordination between the dominant and non-dominant hand.

We have a variety of printable cutting worksheets you and your child might enjoy.  In our free handwriting practice kit (available once you subscribe to the newsletter ) you will get a number of different generic worksheets such as lines, shapes, the alphabet and numbers.  Use the lines and the shapes worksheets and have your child cut them out along the lines trying to stay as close to the drawn lines as possible.  This is a fantastic learning method and really works on the fine motor skills.


One piece of advice: As your child is learning the correct pencil grip, do not be tempted to give him or her an oversized (or jumbo”) pencil or crayon. While often marketed as preschool materials,” the oversized pencils and crayons are, in reality, more difficult for little fingers to grip. Asking children to hold these jumbo crayons and pencils is similar to asking an adult to write with a broom handle. Just as we could not easily write a letter using a broom handle  as a pen, it is difficult for a child’s small hand to control a jumbo-sized pencil or crayon.


For older children who are already comfortable with the correct pincer grip, focus on helping your child gain a strong pencil and scissors grip. As a starting point, print some printable tracing worksheets and direct your child to trace over the lines, curves and shapes. Or, if you don’t have a printer, to make homemade worksheets, use a yellow marker to draw the shape and then have your child trace your lines with a blue or red marker to see the shape magically turn a different colour. Tracing not only requires a strong pencil grip to hold the pencil or marker, but it also requires strong coordination of the muscles in the hand to stay on the narrow line while tracing.

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