Writing. How can I help my child get ready for Primary School?

During the Covid-19 restrictions, your preschooler is surely enjoying being in their own home and having one or two parents around them 24/7. I bet some of them have asked you not to go back to work! As parents, we are doing our best to meet all our commitments like children’s school work, our own work, elderly parents, household upkeep etc but if your pre-schooler is due to start primary school in September, are they ready? What are they missing out on due to non-attendance at preschool?

The role of the preschool teacher is to provide an environment and opportunities for the children to develop a love of learning. Another role is to facilitate the development of motor skills and independence so that the children are physically able for future learning. In preschool, the children also learn (through play) social skills and emotional intelligence.

When it comes to the skill of writing, you don’t necessarily place a pencil into their hand. There are lots of little muscles to prepare before it is mastered. Your child needs to have worked on hand & finger strength, grasping, hand-eye coordination and manipulating objects. Read on to find out how you can help encourage these skills at home.

Hand & Finger Strength

Play with Playdough, as well as being a sensorial experience for children, is a great way of building up those finger and hand muscles, especially if your child helps in making it. There are various playdough recipes online too that you can try. Homemade playdough will last about a week in a zip lock bag. Let your child take their time while they knead the playdough, lots of finger muscles doing their Pilates!

Encourage puppet play with lots of actions and expressions. The more expressive the puppet character, the more those little fingers will be working! If you don’t have ready-made puppets at home, try cutting out a character picture with holes in his front for the legs (i.e. index and middle finger) to go.

The use of a children’s scissors is an excellent way to strengthen those little muscles. Make it fun and inviting by offering relatively easy material to cut at first like the grass in the garden or playdough. This will encourage your child to move onto more challenging material like paper and card which needs more precision and strength. Extend this exercise by offering glue so that they can happily cut and stick for a good long time creating their masterpiece!

Playdough – a good workout for the hands and fingers
Using scissors to strengthen muscles


When a child is eventually writing, they will be using three digits, their thumb, index finger and their middle finger. They will usually master this technique at around 5 years of age. To help them develop a good grasp, there are lots of exercises they can do to practice their ‘pincer grasp’ and eventually their ‘tripod grasp’ (i.e. thumb and index finger supported by the middle finger).

Thongs (kitchen utensil or children’s plastic thongs) can be used to transfer small object from one area to another e.g. “Transfer all the red pompoms from the bowl of coloured pompoms to the other bowl”

Clothes pegs make a great practicing tool for the little hands. Ask your child to place all the pegs around the edge of a biscuit tin. Even better, hand them the laundry basket and show them the way to the clothes line. They will love it!

Any activity which involves picking up small objects e.g. beads, pebbles, marbles, will help refine those grips.

A helpful little lady practicing her pincer grip

Hand Eye Coordination

To be a proficient writer, a child needs their brain to be able to tell their hand where to make their mark. Play with playdough will help with this, especially if they are creating something in particular.

Threading and beading are a great exercise in focussing the mind to telling the hand what to do! Use pipe cleaners & pasta (a nice easy way to start, thus building up confidence) or thread/laces & beads if you have them.

A salt or sand tray is also a great way to help focus the mind when creating. In a shallow tray or plate, place a layer of salt, sand or flour. Invite your child to use their index finger to ‘draw’ a shape or a squiggle into the sand. If possible, have a contrasting colour beneath the sand so that the shape shows up clearly, giving your child some sense of achievement. Challenge them to create certain marks, maybe draw shapes for them to copy or if they are ready, they could create a letter from their name. When a mark is made, simply smooth out the sand when they want to make the next mark.

mark-making in flour on a mirror tray!
(sand tray taken from google images)

Manipulating Objects

Before your child can master the control of a pencil, they need to be proficient at manipulating a variety of objects. An encouragement of independence will allow the child to be able to confidently control objects like a hairbrush, a toothbrush, their coat zip and cutlery at dinner time. Doing less for your child will encourage their manipulation skills to grow.

Offer a choice of mark-making materials

As your child masters these skills, offer them a variety of mediums to make their mark as not all are attracted by a pencil. Encourage the love of mark-making (i.e. writing/drawing) with materials like chalk, paintbrushes, painting sponges, a clip board or a little copybook, large sheets of paper for big creations and teeny ones for teeny creations!

Have fun ❤️️

To help your child to get ready for reading CLICK HERE

To help your child become independent enough for Primary School CLICK HERE

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