Pencil Grasp

 Performance Task                                                  Age Level

Scribbles on paper                                                        10-12 mo

Imitates horizontal, vertical, and circular marks           2 years

   on paper  

Copies a vertical line, horizontal line, and circle           3 years

Copies a cross, right oblique line, square, left             4-5 years

   diagonal line, left oblique cross, some letters

   and numerals, and may be able to write own


Copies a triangle, prints own name, copies most         5-6 years

   lowercase and uppercase letters

Development of Prewriting and Handwriting

in Young Children



Handwriting is a complex process with many underlying components involved. There are roughly six prerequisite skills that are necessary before handwriting instruction should begin. These skills include small muscle development, eye-hand coordination, the ability to hold utensils or writing tools, he ability to form basic strokes smoothly (such as lines and circles), letter perception (including the ability to recognize forms and notice differences), and orientation to printed language (including left-right discrimination). Children should have the strength and dexterity in their hands before being expected to hold a crayon correctly and write. When writing, a child should be positioned in a 90-90-90 position, where the elbows, hips and knees are bent to 90 degrees. 

Activities to Improve

  • pop bubble wrap

  • practice screwing and unscrewing lids

  • floor activities - completing puzzles, large drawings or games laying on stomach on floor

  • dot-to-dots and mazes

  • working on a vertical surface such as an easel or chalkboard (at eye-level or above)

  • finger-to-palm translation - pick up tiny objects, such as pennies, with index finger and thumb, then move them into palm with one hand

  • in-hand manipulation tasks, such as opening a Starburst with one hand

  • clothespin or pinching activities

  • scrunch up newspaper using one hand

  • use toothpicks to draw designs in Play-Doh

  • build shoulder and wrist strength with animal walks and donkey kicks

  • complete games or puzzles on stomach with elbows propped

  • write numbers, letters and words in sand, shaving cream, with chalk on pavement or carpet squares

  • use eye dropper to make colored designs on paper

  • play tic-tac-toe with letters of the alphabet you are practicing (i.e. you're g, I'm y)



Pre-writing skills


Bayley, N. (2005). Bayley scales on infant development (rev. ed.). San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation; Beery, K. E., (2005). The Development Test of Visual-Motor Integration. Cleveland: Modern Curriculum Press; Tan-Lin, A.S. (1981). An investigation into the developmental course of preschool/kindergarten aged children's handwriting behavior. Dissertation Abstracts International, 42, 4287A; Weil, M., & Amundson, S. J. (1994). Relationship between visual motor and handwriting skills of children in kindergarten. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 48, 982-988.