West Moor Messy Play

How can I help my child learn to write?


Starting to write

When a child is around 3 or 4 most nurseries start to think about beginning to teach them some letters in their name. Our children might (if we’re lucky!) begin to be interested in writing letters and pretend writing. By the time they reach school it’s full steam ahead with learning to write and at the end of reception they are expected to write sentences independently.

Writing is really complicated and it needs lots of different skills and knowledge to come together. That’s why children can find it hard.

Why good physical development helps

One of the big aspects of writing is physical -making marks and handwriting. This includes being able to manipulate a pencil to form letters and requires very small movements in the hand. To make these small movements, the hand and wrist need to have the strength to grip pencils strongly. Also the arm and shoulders need to be strong enough to support the hand and wrist comfortably. Strong core muscles help to support all of this. Who knew so much of writing depends on good physical development! But it does!

Lots of movement and practise lead up to your child being ready to write. All the way back to when they are a baby and they are crawling, reaching for objects, stretching, grabbing and holding their own weight.

As a child grows into a toddler and preschooler, the practise they get in using tools, scissors, pens, pencils, paintbrushes etc, enables them to develop their pencil grip. They need to make marks, scribble and draw.

The stages of pencil grip

Lots of children, but not all, go through stages of pencil grip as shown below.

Fist grip (palmer-supinate grasp)- children tend to use their whole arm from the shoulder to mark make

Palmer-supinate grasp

Palmer- pronate grasp – the pencil is held with all fingers and the thumb and children use their whole arm from the shoulder or the elbow.

Palmer-pronate grasp

Four finger and thumb grip – the pencil is nearly vertical and children move the pencil using the arm from the elbow or wrist

Four finger and thumb grip

Static tripod grip – nearly the correct position; movement is coming from the wrist and large finger movements

Static tripod grip

The ideal pencil grip is called a ‘dynamic tripod grip’ as shown below.

dynamic tripod grip

This means that the thumb and first two fingers hold the pencil and their fingers are doing all the work, not the wrist or arm.  This is the most comfortable grip and enables children to write for longer periods of time.

How do I help my child get ready for writing?

So how to help our children get ready for school and writing? Lots and lots of practise and as early as possible. This does not have to be practising with a pencil. This practise is fun: reaching, grabbing, tummy time, mark making with tools, mark making with fingers in different materials, scribbling, making patterns, painting, drawing, copying letters.

Having fun making marks in sand and glitter

I love that Little Learners is designed exactly for this 💜

One response to “How can I help my child learn to write?”

  1. Elinor says:

    Thank you Katie a very informative blog. Writing is so tricky for Little ones and so much is expected of them at school. Its good to know how we can help them on their writing journey xx

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