I get a lot of emails from parents and teachers asking for advice about teaching, worried about children being behind their peers, and looking for ways to help them “catch up.” When I saw a query asking how to teach a 3-year-old to write, my heart sank. No 3 year old needs to be able to write. Some young preschoolers can write at 3, some 3-year-olds can read, some can ride a bike with no training wheels… but that doesn’t mean we should expect ALL three-year-olds to write, read or ride a bike without wobbly training wheels. What we should be doing is creating a strong foundation for the skills that will eventually lead to writing. This is how you teach a child to write. We can’t expect our students and children to be able to successfully learn skills like reading and writing if we don’t focus on the foundation. So these activities are how to teach kids to write.
How to teach a child to write? Start with a strong foundation.
Activities To Build Hand Strength for Writing
The muscles in the hands need to be developed if we want kiddos to hold a writing tool for more than a few seconds. These activities are great for this development. When children have these skills more fully developed, they will be ready to write.
Make Letters With Playdough – squish, squeeze and form letters with this fun playdough activity. This is a great 3 year old writing activity. It’s great for 4 and 5 year olds too.
Glue Tracing Letters – squeezing glue bottles is hard and a great hand workout too.
Playdough Bug Fossils – push the bug in and carefully peel it out. Your students won’t even know they are building handwriting skills with this playful activity.
Clothespins are fantastic little tools that build hand strength, and these clip activities work on hand-eye coordination too!
Fine Motor Activities for Pre-Writers
Fine motor skills aren’t JUST for writing, but they are essential for it. Children can’t be expected to tackle handwriting if they have underdeveloped fine motor skills. Bonus these skills are also crucial for using utensils like forks and knives, buttoning their pants, and zipping up their jackets <– I am HERE for that!
This bead tray is used ALL the time in my classroom, and it’s survived through many years of use too.
Lego is a fun tool for building fine motor skills that doesn’t feel like “work” for children but gives their fine motor skills an enjoyable challenge. This Lego Roll and Build Game is my favorite, but Lego challenges are great too.
Embellish playdough animals with small bits and bobs and build fine motor skills.
Stickers are my favorite cheap material for fine motor skills building. This Sticker Station is so simple and totally perfect for preschool.
Do you have a kitchen utensil holder with holes in it? This one is from IKEA and is a super useful fine motor tool for my preschool classroom. Get yours here with my affiliate link ( I make a small commission from sales) –> IKEA Utensil holder.
If you celebrate Christmas in your classroom, I love this Christmas lights activity.
Hand-Eye Coordination Activities for Preschool
A vital component for developing handwriting and other self-help skills is strong hand-eye coordination. Without this children won’t know where their hand is moving to, or to master directionality when making marks which will eventually become letters and numbers on paper.
Playdough Kabobs – you don’t have to use sharp skewers for this hand-eye coordination activity, popsicle sticks work great too.
Color matching while working on hand-eye coordination with this fun flower activity.
Using feathers is a fun sensory addition to this hand-eye coordination activity.
Vertical Activities To Build Arm Strength
The most uncomplicated vertical activity for children to build arm and shoulder strength for muscle development is paper on the wall, chalk at an easel, even a whiteboard with dry-erase markers. If you are looking for something a little different, here are some of my favorite mural activities for kids. Yes, these are all writing activities for three year olds, even if it’s not what writing activities would look like for you or I.
This Sticky Easel is rad for helping children to develop the shoulder strength needed for writing.
My students love this sheep activity, and they don’t even know that they are working on skills that will help them write someday.
Button Mural – this is fantastic for fine motor as well as arm/shoulder strength!
Explore all kinds of skills and build arm strength simultaneously with these fun mural ideas.
How Do You Make A Great Writing Center?
When your students are interested in making marks on paper, chalkboards, and more, it’s time for a writing center.
Are your students having fun making marks on paper? Then they are ready for an engaging writing center. Check out my tips for a rad writing center.
Looking for more great preschool activities?
HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO FIND INSIDE EVERYDAY PRESCHOOL:
- Over 170 simple preschool activities that use everyday materials. You don’t need to invest a lot of money to teach your child at home.
- Activities are short, with minimal prep, so you can fit some learning into your busy day.
- The book is organized into nine categories of learning; literacy, math, science, sensory, art, fine motor, gross motor, social-emotional, and bedtime reading tips.
- Everyday Preschool activity book was created using various state standards for PreK and has tips for making activities easier or harder to fit your child.
- An Appendix filled with an extensive book list links to free printables, song lyrics, nursery rhymes, my favorite playdough recipe, and more.
Akua A Tutu says
Very great resource.
Spartan Kids says
Thank you these are fantastic ideas.
Oh my goodness I would have never thought of these ideas thank you so much.
Thank you for all of this information. You have helped me so much in preparing my son. I especially love the focus on preparation rather than pushing.
This is the first article I have read that didn’t make me feel like a terrible mother. Thank you for allowing me to keep my sanity. My baby girl will love these ideas!
Thank you for sharing. What about children reading and kids reading programs like children learning reading?
Shannon N Powell says
These are amazing! thank you!
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I have to say that MY heart sank a little when I saw this link for “How to Teach a 3 Year Old to Write”. Whew…I was scared to click, but was pleasantly surprised that it was NOT what I thought it was. You have hit the nail on the head!!! All of these things ARE teaching those little ones how to write. There are so many skills that are required for handwriting that are bypassed when we just stick a pencil in hands that are not ready for one. Most of the time this leads to poor habits that are difficult, if not impossible, to correct. Thank you for these wonderful, developmentally appropriate activities that will work on skills needed for writing! Great post!
Allison McDonald says
So sorry this took me so long to reply – and for the click bait, but so many people were using these search terms to find my site, I needed to make sure they got the right info!
The Teacher Treasury says
Thank you so much for these ideas! I like the sticky sheep the most. The sheep is really cute and I think the kids will love it, too.