6 simple pre-writing skill activities for 5-year-olds

Team Kindship
March 30, 2022
3 minutes

Pre-writing skills form the foundation for successful writers and academic success in the future. They are necessary fundamental skills children need to develop before they are able to write.

My daughter has a dual diagnosis of autism and cerebral palsy so the beginning of the writing process did present some challenges around this age. She lacked the fine motor control to successfully write a lot of letters and her emotional skills were not equipped to handle this, she is quite the perfectionist and wanted every single letter to look exactly how it should. Little did she know that so many other skills needed to be mastered before popper writing development could take place.

Think about how a child needs to learn to walk before they can run. It is the same, other skills to first be mastered first.

My other daughter is about to turn 5 and unlike her sisters hasn't shown much interest in writing. I guess with child number one your super invested in making sure you do 'all the things'  and making sure they are well and truly into their writing development by school. By child number 3 your winning at life just getting through the day haha but it only occurred to me the other day how I better up my mum game and start encouraging her to further develop her fine motor skills to ensure she is confident for kindergarten next year. So, I'm right there with you!

Some important pre-writing skills include;

-Bilateral coordination, having the ability to hold the paper down with one hand and writing with the other.

-Pencil grip (determining hand dominance)

-Hand eye coordination

-Well developed fine gross motor skills, assists in postural control

-Visual motor skills, helps to determine size and shape

-Crossing midline

-Good posture and core control

-Fine motor control and coordination

-Ability to form basic lines, shapes and patterns

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

Competency with fine motor skills is a crucial element in ensuring your child is able to appropriately grasp their pencil correctly for future writing success, so a lot of these activities have that in mind as a focus.

Magazine basketball

This is a great way to work on bimanual skills and fine motor control in a super playful way. Use old newspapers or magazines and encourage children to rip a page out, they then scrunch their page into a ball (basketball) to aim at a target/hoop. This can be played with siblings to add to the fun.

The ripping, the scrunching and throwing all work on the different fine motor muscles and skills required for writing. Its also a great activity to work on hand eye coordination.

Patterned rocks

Children need to master drawing basic lines and shapes before they move on to writing letters. By practicing these skills children are working on their visual perception skills and bilateral coordination (holding the rock while drawing and using two hands to take lids on and off textas).

Draw some lines, symbols and patterns on large rocks, children choose one at a time to try to copy and replicate.


Competently being able to use scissors is a skill that is beneficial to be developed around school age. It’s a more complex skill that involves a lot of fine motor control and coordination.

A great way to practice scissor skills is to use plastic ones with playdough, this is a fun and non-stressful way to get used to coordinating correct scissor movements. It's easier than cutting paper as there are no expectations to cut on a line and cutting is simpler in general. Cutting straws or cooked spaghetti is another great activity to assist in developing early cutting skills as it doesn’t require too much control but still works on those fine motor skills.

Cutting is also beneficial to further develop bilateral skills and progress the ability to cross midline.


Threading is an amazing activity to help develop fine motor skills for pre writing development, it works on hand eye coordination, bilateral coordination and concentration. The benefits of developing fine motor skills through threading beads is that it uses similar hand movements to gripping a large pencil. What is great about lacing and threading is that the opportunities to incorporate it into play are endless. Think pasta and string, beads and feathers, buttons and pipe cleaners, there are an array of craft materials and everyday items that can be used.

Counting practice, colour sorting and making patterns are all ideas that can also be incorporated into lacing and threading.

Window painting

There is something so appealing about painting on a window and it’s a great sensory experience. Simply put paint on a window and let your child use their fingers to make markings throughout it, encouraging them to cross midline. You could also have an assortment of shapes and lines drawn on paper and stick them to the other side of the window for the child to trace over. Using paintbrushes and paint is also an appealing and motivating activity, it also works on shoulder strength as the surface is vertical.

If paints just that little bit too extreme, simply whip out some paint brushes and soapy water.

Sticker line up

Stickers are a great tool to encourage a pinching motion which is a useful skill to have for a strong pencil grip.

Simply draw an assortment of lines or some large  letters on butchers’ paper for your child to place each sticker along, a great way to work on hand-eye coordination. Or write their name and they can stick the stickers on their letters. A great way to practice name and lettuce recognition.

At age 5 you may find your child more eager to competently write and it’s a skill that will now strongly be focused on at school. Perhaps it's something that still doesn’t interest them? It is important to give playful and motivating opportunities to develop pre-writing skills. Taking away the handwriting focus is still ok, focus on the fun stuff. Fine motor activities of any sort are all great contributors for writing success in the future.