October 2023 Newsletter – Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood: The Development of Writing Skills

The Development of Writing Skills

As with other areas of child development, the ability to write builds over time.  Writing is a skill that each child learns at their own pace. Some children show interest in writing earlier than others, which could be influenced by older siblings or being around other children who are writing. Some children are developmentally more mature than other children.  In some cases, children are just more interested and motivated to write than other children.

There are also a number of factors that contribute to writing readiness, which we cover in the section entitled Prewriting Skills.  The information that follows describes the general path of the development of writing skills, specifically.

A child’s scribbling is the very first step in the development of writing skills.  These seemingly unimportant marks on paper are the beginning of an important journey.  To scribble, a child needs to be able to grasp a crayon and move their arm in different directions.  As the child’s grasp strengthens and matures, they will gain better control of the crayon and be able to make more intentional marks.  The same is true when you consider the slow transition from whole-arm scribbles to scribbles made with controlled hand and wrist movements.

By the age of three, adults should notice that children’s scribbles and drawings include horizontal and vertical lines, as well as circles.  As children’s strength and coordination develop, they begin to add new strokes and shapes to their repertoire, including diagonal lines, plus signs, and squares.

By the time a child is 4-6 years old, they should be able to copy straight lines, diagonal lines, circular lines, intersecting lines (X and +), and connect lines to form shapes (squares and triangles).  The ability to create and copy these lines and shapes is an indication that they are ready to create the shapes of letters and numbers.

Indications that a child is not ready to write include:

  • The inability to form the shapes and lines described above.
  • Avoiding or refusing to write or draw.
  • Immature hand grasp.
  • Difficulty with other fine motor skills, such as manipulating small toys and utensils.

When this is the case, adults can take a step back and provide the child with learning opportunities that strengthen hand coordination and strength, which are covered in the activity sections of this newsletter.


For the main article Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Infants and Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Preschoolers, CLICK HERE