6 simple pre-writing skill activities for 4-year old’s

Team Kindship
March 23, 2021
4 min read

One of my daughters is quite the perfectionist. She also wants to know all of the things, be capable of everything and be as independent as she possibly can. This can be quite tricky at times with a dual diagnosis of Cerebral palsy and autism. Her body doesn’t cooperate and her ASD perfectionist mind means nothing is ever good enough. I remember oh too well at around 3 to 4 years of age the meltdowns that happened because she simply wasn’t impressed that she automatically didn’t know how to just write sentences. She wanted to skip the prewriting development and was ready for the real thing

 Writing development is an important early learning tool to ensure competent and successful writers in the future. So, does this mean we should be sitting our kids down and getting them to trace stencil after stencil while ensuring they have appropriate pencil grip?

Definitely not!

At this age children may start to begin to show an interest in tracing or writing their name. They begin to show an understanding that written symbols on a page have meaning, they may be able to recognise their name or say the alphabet. Regardless of what pre-writing stage they are at, it's important to build upon the skills they already have and any interests that they may possess.

Here are 6 fun, developmentally suitable and age appropriate activities to assist in engaging your child in pre-writing.

Sensory drawing

Sensory play is such an enticing and calming activity for children to engage with, especially those on the spectrum. Offering a sensory base such as sand, paint, rice or shaving foam is a motivating way to encourage pre-writing skills as the child isolates their index finger to scribble and draw throughout the base. Learning new skills can be stressful and this offers a fun and engaging approach to practicing visual perception and fine motor skills that are crucial for writing development.

Simply let the child draw random markings and symbols or have a visual representation or a letter, number or word for them to copy.

Rock Patterning

Prior to learning to write, children will begin to form intentional markings and symbols. A fun and creative way to motivate your child to copy symbols and lines is to decorate and draw on rocks. Have your child pick one up to see if they can replicate on paper what is on the rock. This might be as simple as coping a straight line, a zig zag or a shape (not necessarily letters). It doesn’t have to look identical; the benefit lies more within the actual process. The hand eye coordination, the ability to try to replicate symbols and pencil grip practice.


For your child to maintain the correct pencil grip, their fine motor skills need to be improved and encouraged. A great fine motor activity is anything that involves the use of tweezers as they are great for strengthening fine motor muscle strength. Plastic kids’ tweezers are the best as they are developmentally appropriate for little hands and abilities, mini kitchen tongs will also do the trick. There is a never-ending list of fun and motivating ideas for using tweezers, but here are a few.

  • Choosing their food and making their own morning tea
  • Sorting objects with them
  • Transferring items from one container to another
  • Picking out items from playdough
  • Picking out items from a sensory bin
  • Saving items (tape up a container/laundry basket/Tupperware dish with holes for the tweezers to fit through)

Playdough snakes

Playdough is a fantastic tool for working on fine motor skills as it strengthens hand grip and improves fine motor coordination. A great pre-writing activity is to have laminated picture cards of letters for children to make playdough snakes for. Children roll the playdough into a long thin snake to then manipulate with their hands and/or tools to form the letter.

Cotton Swab paintings

The great thing about cotton swabs is when they are used for craft activities, they almost force you to have a better grip. They are small and skinny, so your fingers need to wrap around them with a more developed grasp.

Set up a table with different paint colours and a cotton swab for each colour to entice your child into some creative painting. Painting is also a great calming sensory activity.

Dot markers

When thinking of engaging and fun ways to entice children to practice prewriting skills you can’t go past dot markers. They are such a fun and motivating tool that offers many opportunities for development and always seem to be a hit with the kiddies.

By using dot markers children can practice:

  • Bimanual skills by taking the lids on and off
  • Hand eye coordination
  • One to one correspondence
  • Creativity, colour awareness and patterns
  • Fine motor skills
  • Building up hand and muscle strength

The ideas are endless for dot markers!

Children can simply make markings and patterns across their page, dot along a line or shape or dot across their name (a great name recognition activity).  Another huge plus is they are relatively mess free, what’s not to love!

Remember there is no set age that a child needs to start prewriting skills and most children this age will be struggling to even trace their name. Some may show an interest in drawing and ‘writing’ whereas others won’t. Either way activities can be developed and encouraged to assist with the prewriting process in a fun and playful way.