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 for 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. 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 you teach a 3-year-old to write.
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.
Make Letters With Playdough – squish, squeeze and form letters with this fun playdough activity.
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
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.
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 at the same time 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.