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Pre-School Handwriting Development

Handwriting is a complex activity that involves lots of underlying skills before we can expect a child to be successful at it!

Expectations and demands on our little ones are growing, and handwriting skills are no exception! Expecting a 4 year old to pick up a pencil currently and write their letters is just not an age-appropriate skill!

Building Blocks that need to be in place before handwriting can take place:

  • Pre-writing skills

  • Hand grasp/pencil grasp development

  • Postural control

  • Fine motor control - this includes pincer grasp and in-hand manipulation skills

  • Bilateral coordination

  • Visual-motor integration and visual perception

  • Motor planning

  • Proprioception - awareness of where the fingers are in space in particular

  • Sustained attention

The best way to set your child up for future handwriting success is play! Basic play items such as blocks, crayons, paper, painting supplies and play dough will all work on the development of the building blocks required for handwriting success! Have your child help out in the kitchen with you and make crafts together!

When reading the developmental milestones for each group below, please remember that children all develop differently - some will be able to do the activities mentioned before, some after. Please don't feel the pressure to tick of each milestone!

Development of Handwriting 2-3 years old

  • Can string 4 large beads onto a piece of string - 29 months

  • Imitates horizontal line on paper - 29 months

  • Can Copy a vertical line - 36 months

  • Digital Pronate Grasp develops (fingers and thumb grasping a writing utensil with fingers and thumbs facing the writing tip of the utensil) - 24-36 months.

Development of Handwriting 3-4 years old

  • Cuts a piece of paper in half - 36 months

  • Copies prewriting lines of vertical, horizontal and circle shapes - 36 months

  • Can unbutton large buttons - 36 months

  • Imitates bilateral movements of the limbs (e.g. arms up together) - 36 months

  • Begins to imitate a cross shape - 41 months

  • Static Quadrupod Grasp begins to develop - 36-48 months

  • Static Tripod Grasp begins to develop - 36-48 months

  • Can touch the top of each finger to their thumb - 48 months.

Development of Handwriting 4-5 years old

  • Can draw a person with at least 3 different body parts - 48 months

  • Can copy colour and shape patterns with blocks or beads - 53 months

  • Can copy a cross shape - 54 months

  • Begins to imitate a square shape and left/right diagonal lines - 54 months

  • Can join a series of dots together to make a simple drawing - 59 months

  • Can cut a large circle and square with scissors - 59 months

  • Static tripod and quadrupod grasp continues to develop - 59 months.

Development of Handwriting 5-6 years old

  • Can copy a square and diagonal line - 5 years

  • Begins to imitate an X and Triangle shape - 5 years

  • Can draw a person with 6 or more body parts - 5-5.5 years

  • Can begin to write numerals 1 through to 5 - 5-5.5 years

  • Copies X and Triangle shape - 5.5 - 6 years

  • Can print their name with uppercase and lower case letters - 5.5 - 6 years

Remember, the best way to develop these skills and provide your child with a strong foundation for handwriting success is to PLAY!

Think your child may benefit from an Occupational Therapy Assessment to better understand their handwriting and fine motor skills?

Contact Ashlee on 0477 190 111 or at


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