Use colored pencils to help your preschooler learn how to write.

How to Teach Handwriting to Preschoolers

by Erica Loop

Those wild and often wacky-looking scribbles that your toddler made were actually steps on her way to handwriting. By the time that your little learner reaches her preschool years, she is ready to start real writing. Three- and 4-year-olds might still make "mock letters" that look more like squiggles than the ABC's. Older preschoolers typically take a leap forward and begin writing real, or conventional, letters. Don't get ahead of yourself and expect your 5-year-old to write out her own manuscript just yet. Instead, focus on a few pieces of easy script such as the letters for her first name.

Give your child a few kid-friendly magazines or books to look at. Sure, printed pages aren't the same as handwritten ones, but letter recognition is key to handwriting success. Ask your preschooler to name some of the letters that she sees.

Give your preschooler a choice of writing tools. Put out a basket or bin that you can fill with regular pencils, colored pencils, markers and crayons. Add in an array of different hues, making a rainbow of tools to try.

Model handwriting for your preschooler. This doesn't mean that you should hold a pencil in a fashionable way and ask your child to photograph you. Instead, modeling, in this instance, means that you write a few letters to show your little one what to do and how it looks. Ensure that you at least look like you're having the time of your life. Looking like you are having fun will make this activity even more interesting to your preschooler. Write your name and her name with a few different tools in your basket/bin.

Invite your child to pick out her first writing tool. While it would seem fun to begin with four differently colored markers, a pencil and three crayons, it's hard to imagine actually handwriting this way. Ensure that she sticks to one utensil at a time for this activity. Have her copy a letter or two from a book or one that you've drawn. Start with something familiar such as "her" letter (i.e., the first letter of her first name).

Items you will need

  • Lined and plain papers
  • Pencil
  • Colored pencils
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Magazines or books


  • Use both lined and plain papers for your handwriting lesson. The lined paper will give your preschooler more structure, but the plain one will let her explore writing in different sizes.
  • If you notice you child is struggling to write her own letters, start her off with a tracing activity. Write a few letters with a light pencil and have her go over them with a marker or crayon.
  • Use markers and crayons in different thicknesses. This will help her to develop fine motor skills such as grip.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images