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Learning to write

At the ages of 3 and 4, children are starting to use their hands and fingers to draw in a more detailed way and may be starting to copy letter shapes. This needs coordination and control, which most young children are still developing. These skills are called fine motor skills.

Is your child showing an interest in writing their name?


My child is not showing any interest in writing, what should I do?

For young children, learning to control a pencil, pen or even paintbrush is hard. To do it, they first need to develop their hand–eye coordination, and build up the muscles and control in the hands. And children need more than just the control of their hands – they also need to be able to coordinate their arms and shoulders.


Some ideas for developing fine motor control:

  • Let the children make patterns using pegboards.

  • Provide sewing and weaving activities.

  • Involve the children in chopping and peeling in cooking activities.

  • Provide woodworking tools – pliers, screwdrivers, hammers.

  • Use finger rhymes, counting fingers, playing with words and sounds, etc.

  • Provide small construction toys.

  • Structure sand and water play to include sieving, pouring, picking up toys using tools, etc.

  • Develop the pincer movement: show the children how to use tweezers to pick up and sort sequins, small beads, etc., sprinkle coloured sand, glitter, salt, etc. on pictures.

  • Provide the children with paints, finger paints, etc. for making big patterns on differently shaped paper, for example fish, balloons, kites. Talk about the patterns they make. Focus on developing the curly caterpillar, long ladder and one-armed robot.

  • Encourage the children to strengthen their fingers by using clay, play dough, Plasticine, etc., for modelling. They can make letter shapes and patterns using the modelling media.

  • Encourage dexterity by asking the children to cut out large letter shapes or patterns. They can use different coloured marker pens for tracing along inside the shapes. Emphasise that circles and curly caterpillars need to be traced from the top and anti-clockwise.

  • Give the children thick paintbrushes and water to paint patterns on walls, fences, etc.


My child is showing interest in writing, how can I support them?

It is very important that we teach our children the correct letter formations when they first begin to write. In order to form letters correctly, they need to know the proper starting points (see below) and the correct direction in which to move the pencil.

We begin by teaching children to write in lower-case letters and only introduce capital letters for the beginning of names and then at the beginning of a sentence.

We often start by dotting out the shape of each letter remembering to include a large dot as a starting point.

We have many resources to support writing at Sawtry Day Nursery, which we are happy to loan to parents.






By emphasising the proper starting point of letters, children avoid developing poor letter formation habits.






Starting positions for correct letter formations


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