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Fun Preschool Activities that Build Foundational Writing Skills

Jan 17, 2024    |   Language & Literacy

The ability to write letters of the alphabet with a pen or pencil is an important foundational early literacy skill. Writing requires children to have strong fine motor muscles in their fingers and hands so they can securely hold a writing utensil and maneuver the utensil to form letters. Preschool aged children are at just the right age to practice using the fine motor skills that will help them be ready to write when they enter kindergarten. In this article, we share play-based activities you can try with the preschool aged children in your care to help them build the early writing skills that will set them up for later academic success. 

Squishy Ziploc Bag Writing Practice

This simple sensory activity invites little ones to practice writing shapes and letters (or words if they are more advanced!) in a squishy and playful way. 

To prepare, you’ll need to make the sensory bags, which require only a few budget-friendly materials: flour, water, food coloring, zip-lock lunch bags, tape, and a small mixing bowl. Mix the flour, food coloring, and water in the small bowl until all the ingredients are blended together. Scoop the mixture into the ziploc bag and use the tape to seal the bag closed. 

Offer each child a bag and invite them to practice writing a letter on the bag with their fingers. You can also give them Q-tips so they can practice their pencil grip while writing letters on the bags. Younger children might need to see the letter so that they can copy it as they write. Once they’ve tried one letter, they can erase it by shaking the sensory bag so they can form another letter.

Playdough Writing Tray

Working with play dough allows children to squish and squeeze as they strengthen the small muscles in their fingers and hands. Playdough can also become a fun and unique canvas on which little ones can practice their letters!  

To set up this activity, roll out three different colors of play dough and place them on a flat surface next to tools, such as toothpicks or twigs from outside, that can be used to make marks and create letters. Invite the children to use the tools to write letters on the playdough. Younger children who are just beginning to learn their letters might benefit from having a reference to copy. Older children with more advanced skills can practice writing different letters, or even their names and short words!

Fingerprint Letter Tracing

This activity is perfect for little ones who are still in the introductory phase of learning to write their letters. You’ll set up the activity by using a black marker to draw a series of letters on a large piece of construction or kraft paper. Then, offer the children the lettered paper along with washable ink pads, and invite them to dip their fingers onto the ink pad and use the ink on their finger to trace the letters. Tracing along the letter and trying to keep their fingerprints moving on the lines of the letter gives little ones an opportunity to practice precision with the small muscles in their fingers while learning about the different shapes in each letter. 

Rainbow Rice Sensory Writing Activity

This activity is a fun and colorful sensory activity that little ones will really enjoy! To set it up, you’ll need pre-made rainbow rice (or colorful birthday sprinkles), a tray, and alphabet cards. The alphabet cards can be made by printing out letters from your computer, or by simply writing letters with a marker onto index cards.  

If you are interested in making rainbow rice, you’ll start by gathering your materials: uncooked white rice, various colors of food coloring, vinegar, and ziplock bags (one bag for each color of rainbow rice). Place uncooked rice into each ziplock bag until the bags are halfway full of rice. Add a few drops of a different food coloring, along with a squirt of vinegar, into each bag. Seal the bags and mix the rice, vinegar and food coloring together until the uncooked rice in each bag is fully coated in color. (If the rice is not as dark or vibrant a color as you’d like, you can continue to add more food coloring until you’re happy with the result). Pour the colored rice onto separate trays, one tray per color, and wait about an hour for the rice to dry completely. Once the colored rice is dry, you can mix all of the colors together to create a colorful sensory material! 

Set the rainbow rice on trays with letter cards and invite children to practice copying the different letters. They can write with their fingers, or you can offer paintbrushes to encourage them to practice their writing grips. 

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