Pre-WRiting Skills

Toddler drawing pre-writing strokes with markers

Did you know there’s a specific developmental sequence to learning how to draw and write?  Before kids can pick up a crayon to write their ABCs and 123s, they need to achieve the “pre-writing skills” of drawing certain lines and shapes.  These lines and shapes will be the basis for all the letters and numbers they will soon learn to make!  

We expect kids to start learning pre-writing skills/strokes at 2 years old.  First, kids will learn to imitate the shape, meaning they will watch you draw it before they give it a try.  As the child starts to master the skill, they will be able to copy the shape, meaning they can see a circle and draw it without needing to see how someone else did it.

It is so important that we help our children learn the pre-writing strokes before teaching them to write the alphabet. The letters and numbers of the English language are made using the same few lines and shapes. If your child learns these lines and shapes first, it’s much easier for them to combine the strokes to form legible letters. 

If you were asked to do your best to re-create a detailed painting, it would be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start. Proportions might be off, depth perception may be altered, or entire details might be left out. If you had a step-by-step tutorial that broke the painting into its basic shapes and taught you how to combine these shapes to form the final picture, wouldn’t that make it much easier? The same is true of our children first learning to draw letters and numbers.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Don’t limit yourself to crayons and paper – draw with your finger using finger paints or in a pile of shaving cream, or build the lines and shapes with toys, food, sticks, or blades of grass.
  • Use painters tape to make lines and shapes on your floor or draw them outside using chalk. Encourage your child to crawl, walk, or hop along the lines or pretend they are roads and drive toy cars along the lines
  • Draw a stick figure: Teach your child to draw a stick figure using the pre-writing strokes they have learned. This will vary by your child’s developmental level but may include: a circle head, vertical lines for hair, circle eyes, half-circle smile, half-circle ears, vertical line for neck/body, horizontal line for arms, and diagonal lines for legs. It can be made more difficult by adding additional details like a triangle nose, half-circle eyebrows, vertical line eyelashes, clothing, hands and fingers, and feet or shoes.
  • Make silly noises when drawing to increase the child’s interest. Try having a certain silly sound for vertical lines, horizontal lines, diagonal lines, circles, ect. A screeching “car brake” noise can help children to know when to stop, for example, when your child is attempting a circle but is going around and around to form a spiral, make the car brake noise to remind them to stop their crayon after going around only once.
  • Take it slow, and keep your expectations age-appropriate.

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