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  • Michelle de Klerk


Learning to write is one of the most challenging motor skills that your child will ever learn. This is because there are so many components needed to make it work – cognitive development (memory and thinking), visual perception (e.g. size, shape, position in space, directions etc.), fine and gross motor skills development (e.g. posture, coordination of fingers and hands, motor planning etc.), as well as behaviour (e.g. attention, motivation, confidence etc.) and environment (e.g. desk, chair, distraction free etc.) that impacts on writing.

The basics of scribbling and drawing and using a pencil/crayon starts to develop between 1 and 2 years of age, and most children are able to write the letters of the alphabet by the time they are 6 years old. Many children miss out on developing the foundations of writing skills when they are younger. All children develop at different rates. If you are however concerned, or you/a teacher has identified a few red flags, do not hesitate to contact us to further investigate.

When to worry – Red Flags:

  • If by 2 years your child cannot pick up a crayon and/or scribble on paper and still prefers to eat or bang crayons instead of scribble with them.

  • If by 3 years your child does not scribble or make marks on paper when given a crayon, cannot imitate you drawing a straight line, and still holds the crayon in a full fist.

  • If by 4 years your child cannot draw straight lines and circles, still holds the crayon in a full fist and does not use a variety of strokes when colouring (e.g. just scribbles).

  • If by 5 years your child cannot copy a square and a cross (+), still holds the crayon in a full fist, or with their hand on top of the crayon, is not able to make any recognisable drawings, and colours way outside the lines in a colouring book.

  • If by 6 years your child cannot draw all the basic shapes (e.g. square, circle, cross, triangle etc.), still holds the crayon in a full fist, or with their hand on top of the crayon, is not able to make any recognisable drawings, colours way outside the lines in a colouring book, is not able to write most of the letters and numbers and has not chosen a dominant hand for drawing and colouring tasks.

  • If over 6 years and your child seems to hold the crayon or pencil very awkwardly for his age, your child refuses to participate in drawing or writing tasks that are appropriate for their age, your child’s drawings or printing look very immature for their age, your child is getting very frustrated by written tasks and or your child is still making a lot of mistakes in how they form letters by 7-8 years (e.g. reversals, incorrect formations etc.).

What can I do to support my child?

Supporting their gross motor skills, fine motor skills, hand strength, posture, visual skills, planning and grasp on the pencil by engaging in:

  • Monkey bars (hanging) and climbing activities.

  • Pushing and pulling activities.

  • Coordination activities such as jumping jacks, jumping rope, hand clapping games etc.

  • Ball skills for developing the hand-eye coordination needed for handwriting. Throwing, catching, and shooting balls all teach the brain to practice guiding the hands toward the proper direction and location.

  • Wheelbarrow walks, scooter boards, therapy ball games, theraband activities.

  • Crawling games or animal walks (e.g.bear walks (hands and feet), frog jumps etc.).

  • Lacing beads/shapes or threading.

  • Play dough rolling, cutting out shapes.

  • Construction games (e.g. Lego, magnetic tiles etc.).

  • Using weighted balls and hand strengtheners.

  • Playing with clothes pegs.

  • Using Mr. Tennis ball and feeding him.

  • Squeezing stress balls and theraputty.

Other therapy tools and games to try:

Modifications and pencil grips:

For more information, keep an eye out for the handwriting webinar that will be out soon on our website.


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