Play is practice for writing

Did you know that when your baby grabs for a piece of cereal, your toddler picks up yet another pretty pebble to show you, or your three-year-old insists on zipping up their own jacket, they’re building the skills they need for writing? It’s true!

The skills they’re building up are called fine motor skills and refer specifically to the movements we make with our hands, fingers, and wrists. (Gross motor skills, by contrast, refer to movements with larger muscles or the whole body.) Writing, of course, requires well-developed fine motor skills in order to control a crayon, pen or pencil with the precision required to form letters.

Of course, you should let them scribble and draw from an early age to get them used to the feeling of holding and controlling a writing implement. Absolutely! But there are lots of other activities that they love to do which help build fine motor control. Here are a few fun activities that kids love that will also build their fine motor skills and get them ready for writing.

Encourage your child to:

  • squeeze, smush, pinch, roll, and wrap play-dough
  • pick up small objects, like pieces of food, pebbles, shells, beads, or buttons
  • pull up a zipper or fasten a button as they get dressed or undressed
  • assemble and disassemble Lego, Duplo, or wooden block creations
  • handle forks or spoons while eating
  • string beads
  • place pegs in holes or insert keys into locks

Some of these tasks might take longer for them than it would for you. Be patient! The point of these is not only to accomplish fastening a button or picking up a pebble, it’s also for your child to develop these skills that you’ve mastered so long ago you no longer think about them.

While we may not think of these as writing practice, especially when emptying their pockets of all the pretty items they picked up on their day’s adventures, kids need to build up their fine motor skills from birth to ready themselves for writing.

-Maureen, Children's Librarian, Himmel Park Library


Read, Write, Talk, Sing, Play!

When children are given a chance to explore scribbling, draw pictures, and tell stories, they are learning reading skills. Being an active participant in writing helps keep children excited about reading stories.

Read more about early literacy and how you can make a difference in your child's life.