Handwriting Readiness Activities and Letter Work

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“Back when I went to teaching school, we had an entire semester on handwriting,” my new colleague grimaced as she looked at my messy handwriting left on the chalkboard after my first day of teaching. I never did improve my handwriting, nor did I have any idea how to teach it.

Schools have too much to teach in too short of time. Handwriting practice is low on the list of priorities. It’s getting cut out of curriculums if it’s been there at all.

Recently I spoke with Jan Olsen, creator of Handwriting Without Tears. She said, “It’s unthinkable that you would teach reading with out training. . . a lot of people who have been trained to teach how to write a story but can’t tell your child how to make a letter.”


Parents, I have news for you. We need to teach handwriting at home. Because even if they get it in preschool and elementary school like mine, they might not be taught correctly. Both my kids have poor handwriting.  I didn’t do my part in helping them learn it correctly from the start. I am now making up for lost time.

And, just to remind you, handwriting is important for your child’s success.

  1. It has cognitive benefits (brain boosting).
  2. Your child will get better grades in school and on tests.

Now, let’s get to what you’ll need to do with your child.

Writing Readiness, Children 2 – 5

At age 2 – 5, work on getting ready to write. You want to focus on:

  • Fine-motor development
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Strengthening fingers, hands, arms
  • Directions (top, bottom, left, right, over, under, up, down, top, middle, bottom)
  • Names of fingers (helps when you’re learning to hold a writing tool)
  • Grip (Watch this proper pencil grip song)

Writing Readiness Activities At Home

picking up buttons (if they’re old enough not to be choking hazards)

picking up puff balls with tongs or tweezers

stringing beads on pipe cleaners

finger painting

drawing and scribbling

singing “Where is Thumbkin” (to learn the names of fingers)

following directions to move up, down, left, right

spraying with a squirt gun or spray bottle

playing Thumb War

playing Pick-Up Sticks, High-Ho CherryO, or Operation

finding objects in silly putty

playing with clothes pins

Learning to Write. Children 4 – 7

Depending on when the child is ready, he will soon be ready to start writing. You’ll start with:

  • Drawing lines: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, circles, squares, triangles
  • Drawing anything


scratch art

rolling and making letters in play dough

Roll-a-Dough building letters video from Handwriting Without Tears

making letters in a rice or sand tray

making letters with Wikki Stix

tracing letters

Wet-Dry app

Letter School app

Learn to Write Letters, Correctly

Since it’s up to us to teach our kids correct letter formation, I’m excited to start with the Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) curriculum.

HWT Creator, Jan Olsen, explained, “I’m an occupational therapist, . . . what I developed were my own skills but I came to it from a background in child development and task analysis. I know how to help kids hold a pencil. I know how to teach letters and numbers that aren’t backwards. I know how to make cursive easy.”

She also recommended that I work on her curriculum over the summer so it doesn’t become a battle along with homework.

“It doesn’t matter what grade you are in when you start the Handwriting Without Tears program. That’s one reason we don’t put any grades on our workbooks.” (However, grade level is indicated in the online shop to guide parents.)

I’m going to start with the teacher’s guide and watch the video lesson online. How about you?

Oh, if you have lefties, you’ll want to read this article by Mary Forham of Butterfly Park.

Where are you on the handwriting continuum?

Are your kids getting enough in school or do you need to do more at home?

Follow Melissa Taylor’s board Writing Activities for Kids on Pinterest.

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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