Handwriting ABCs

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Learning to write can be either a great adventure or a terrible bore. The quickest way to frustrate a young child is to set him down to handwriting pages and expect him to fill lines of paper with the same letter.

Before you begin the handwriting workbook, check make sure your child has the fine motor strength and hand-eye coordination to begin the endeavor.

Exploring craft supplies and tools is not only fun, it is an important step in a child’s development.

What kind of experience does you you child have with:

  • Play dough (any variation)
    • Rolling snakes
    • Rolling balls
    • Cut with scissors
  • Craft tools: Tweezers (large seeds, colored paper clips, buttons, small pompoms, beans, jewels); Clothespin games; Stringing beads; Lacing cards; Stickers; Finger paint (any variation); Sidewalk chalk; Crayon rubbings; Stencils
  • Finger puppets
  • Hole punching
  • Scissor cutting
    • Straight lines (short paper)
    • Fringe
    • Straight lines with corners
    • Thick lines, large shapes with curves
  • Clay (repeat play dough ideas)

If your child is adept in the above areas and he shows an interest, it may be time to introduce pre-writing skills.

Any of the following pre-writing strokes and letter formations may be practiced by:

  • Sky writing (first finger of dominant hand)
  • Sand tray (or cornmeal, rice, salt, glitter, coffee, sugar, seeds, small beads, oatmeal)
  • Finger paint (any variation or whipped cream, yogurt, shaving cream, pudding)
  • Wide markers
  • Crayons/crayon twistables
  • Thin markers
  • Short pencils
  • Colored pencil twistables
  • Chalk
  • Pens
  • Full-size pencils
  • Mechanical pencils 

Start by introducing pencil control:

  • Introduce proper pencil hold
    • Opt. use a pencil grip
    • Opt. use “primary” (fat) pencils cut in half
  • Opt. Tracing shape stencils

On unlined paper, practice drawing:

  • Tall straight lines: “Start at the top”; “Pull-down straight” – draw a straight line between two points (dots or stickers)
  • Long straight lines: “Slide to the right”
  • Up and down slanted lines: “Start at the top” – Draw a diagonal line between two points  (dots or stickers)
  • Circles: “Start at the top”; “Circle back”; draw:
    • Bubbles
    • Clusters of grapes
    • Wheels
  • Smiling curves
  • Frowning curves: “Hump forward”
  • Tracing over a dotted line
    • Shapes
    • Pictures
  • Connect the dots (numbers or letters)

When your child shows mastery of these basics, introduce the print alphabet by “stroke families” in the following order:

Pull-down straight: l, i

Pull-down straight, slide to the right: L, T, t, F, E, H, I

Up and down slanted lines: V, N, W, M, Z, X, A, Y, K, v, w, z, x, y, k

Circle back: O, Q, o, C, c, G, a, d, e, g, q

Circle forward: D, P, B, R, b, p, S, s

Smiling curves: U, u, J, j

Hump forward (Frowning curves): n, m, h, r, f


My Secret Weapon

My favorite book of fine motor ideas and early handwriting introduction is Fine Motor FunThis book is chock full of activity suggestions and reproducible pages to help teach all fine motor skills from tracing and lacing, scissor skills, coloring, and print letter practice. I have read most of the ideas in this book in various places, but this books brings all the good suggestions into one easy-to-use resource. For the price, it might be cost effective to purchase a copy for each learning child, tear it apart, and photocopy only the back sides of pages you want to use.



If you would like a copy of my handwriting “cheat sheet,” click on the words below. I print a copy of this for each child, checking off items as they are mastered.



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