Development of Handwriting Skills

Writing involves many foundational skills.  Like most skills, writing is a process for children to learn. Before a child can write letters, they write lines. Before writing lines, they will scribble. Visual attention is an important foundational skill that children need to write. Writing also requires hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Children also need to understand the concept that we use a writing instrument to make deliberate marks and shapes on paper versus random scribbling. EVERY child develops at a different rate. Here are some writing milestones to keep in mind.  

Ages 2-3 years old

Can imitate horizontal lines (2 1/2 years)

Begins to imitate circle shape (2 1/2 years)

Can copy a vertical line (3 years)

Ages 3-4 years old

Can cut paper in half. (3 years)

Can Copy prewriting lines of vertical, horizontal, and circle shapes. (3 years)

Begins to imitate a cross shape. (3 1/2 years)

Ages 4-5  years old

Can draw a person with at least 3 different body parts.  (4 years)

Can copy color and shape patterns with blocks or beads. (4 1/2 years)

Can copy a cross shape. (4 1/2 years)

Begins to imitate a square shape and left/right diagonal lines. (5 years)

Can connect a series of dots spaced 1/2 inch apart to make a simple drawing. (5 years)

Can cut a large circle with scissors. (5 years)

Can cut a square shape with scissors. (5 years)

5-6 years

Begins to imitate an X and triangle shape (5 years)

Can draw a person with 6 or more body parts. (5 ½ years)

Can begin to write numerals 1-5. (5 ½ years)

Copies and X and triangle shape.  (5 ½ to 6 years)

Can recognize their name in uppercase letters (5 ½ to 6 years)

Can name most uppercase letters but not all lowercase. (5 ½ to 6 years)

Can print their name with either uppercase or lowercase letters. (5 ½ to 6 years)

I use Channie’s Dino Egg Puzzles and 3D Pop It Ball Fidget Toys to help my sons build hand and finger strength while doing a fun activity. The Busy Quiet Book is also a great way to build fine motor strength that is necessary for handwriting. 


Learning to write is an exciting milestone for a child. It is important to support and encourage them every step of the way. Your child will develop hand-eye coordination, hand and finger strength, fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, and executive functioning skills while learning to write. Encourage our child to try different types of writing instruments like pencilsdry-erase markers, and crayons. Each of these requires a different level of pressure when writing. Multi-sensory toys can also teach the foundations of letter and number formation. 

By Kristie Owens, B.S., J.D., M.A. Educational Psychology Candidate and M.A. Special Education Candidate

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