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Mark Making and Emergent Writing: Supporting Writing at Home

Although there is more to education than the 3 Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic have long been considered the basic foundation to a successful education. Of the 3 Rs, writing has often been the area that we have trouble encouraging the boys with. Many parents tell me it’s a “boy thing” so we’ve employed all manner of ways to encourage handwriting practice. Here are more tips we received from our school on how to support the development of our children’s fine motor skills and writing at home…

Developing Fine Motor Skills Activities for Emergent Writing

  • Squeeze a small sponge or small ball of paper.
  • Sit at the table and try to move fingers as if playing fast music on the piano.
  • Put heels of hands together and fingers curled, fingertips apart. Child should try to touch corresponding tips one at a time as quickly as possible.
  • Use thumb and fore finger of writing hand to open and close spring clip pegs.

emergent writing - Pegs

  • Writing patterns with different implements – chalk, finger tips in paint, in foam. Large paintbrush in water, etc.

Drawing pad

  • Finger flicking – roll small piece of tissue into a ball using tripod pinch. Then flick into a ‘goal’.
  • Picking up and placing small items with fingers, e.g. pegs in a peg board.

peg board

  • Picking up small items with tweezers/tongs. Have a box with rice in it and add to it small items to take out with tweezers.

Tweezers game

  • Attach pegs to a plate. Could put numbers/letters/pictures on to plate. Child attaches peg in response to letter name, number, etc. Could turn plate into a clock .
  • Cutting practice – Start with thick lines, gradually use thinner ones. Make fringes. Cut simple shapes.
  • Mazes – keep the line between the path.
  • Tracing – not too complicated at first.
  • Playdough – roll into little balls. Roll intosausage shapes using fingers only. Flatten and child pinches between thumb and fore finger into peaks.

Play doh

  • Threading beads or use simple lacing cards.


  • Dot to dot – also helps ordering of numbers or could use letters of alphabet.
  • Fingertaps – Sit at table with hands on the top. Point to each of child’s fingers in turn. Child must try to tap on table with each finger in turn without moving the others.
  • Use empty squeezy bottle – blow a ping pong ball.

Supporting Writing

  1. Talking – Talk is very important to ensure children hear a rich vocabulary and understand the structure of a language.
  2. Listening – This lets children know they and their ideas are important an encourages them to practice language.
  3. Reading – When children are read to they learn new vocabulary and that symbols (letters and pictures) have meaning.
  4. Point out print in the environment.
  5. Provide materials and space for art and writing.
  6. Writing – Write your child a note, have them help you write a grocery list.
  7. When you child mark makes ask them to read it to you, or tell you about the picture.
  8. When they are ready teach them how to write their name and other words of interest to them.
  9. Change the environment – write on the floor outside with chalk.
  10. If your child writes a string of letters, write the conventional words on the bottom of the page, if they will let you! You are modelling for your child.


Other things to remember:

  • Try to avoid suggesting what children should draw or write.
  • Children learning to write can be messy.
  • Some children do not like messy play-so provide other materials for them to write with e.g. chalk.
  • Display your child’s writing this lets them know it is important.

More helpful tips for supporting children’s learning at home:


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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