Prewriting Myths for Young Children

If you work in a preschool, you are probably quite familiar with the myths that surround the development of prewriting skills. Many educators and parents are taught the earlier the better. In reality, when we introduce skills too early it can create bad habits in children that can be very hard to break when they are developmentally ready to achieve a new skill. You can download a FREE copy of this hand out at the bottom of this post.

Check out the complete Prewriting Success Handout Packet to help highlight the importance of prewriting skills.

MYTH #1: Pencil Grasp Develops Naturally

This is one of the most common myths, and unfortunately, it is not true. The proper pencil grasp must be adequately taught. It involves so much more than just “holding a pencil”!

THE TRUTH: Every child benefits from understanding how to hold a pencil. The focus on grasp messages to them the importance of control in to learning to write legibly.

MYTH #2: Demonstrating prewriting activities to the whole class saves time. 

This one we hear too often! Showing a group of children how to do something can be great for introducing the concept. However, this does not mean that the children have necessarily mastered the skills. Young children do not have the perceptual and visual skills to learn quickly with the teacher at a whiteboard. 

Every child learns differently and at their own pace, so demonstrating prewriting activities to the whole class could be used as a quick introduction.

THE TRUTH: Small group or individualized instruction is necessary to ensure mastery of this skill.

MYTH #3: Playgrounds and building blocks will develop the bilateral control needed for writing.

While it is true that hand-eye coordination and bilateral integration can be developed with fine motor play, they are not the same as prewriting skills. Pre-writing activities require a more controlled integration of the two hands to coordinate fine motor skills and visual tracking.

THE TRUTH: Just like grasp, not every child will generalize gross motor skills into drawing and coloring. Use targeted instruction to optimize sitting posture at a writing surface and the use of the “helper hand” in preparation for writing.

Myth #4: Every 4-year old child knows where their pointer finger is. 

Children must be taught about body awareness, hands, and fingers.

THE TRUTH: Many children with excellent fine motor and language skills do not know what you are talking about! When you teach grasp, they have no idea what you are saying.

Myth #5: Kids with sensory processing or visual-perceptual issues are easy to spot. 

There are so many variations of sensory processing and visual-perceptual issues. It can be very difficult to detect these issues without proper evaluation.

The Truth: Many young children can hide their mild SI or VP issues behind claiming that they aren’t interested in coloring and drawing, or that they simply love building or running around more than they like using dough or chalk.  

Myth #6: No child needs to be taught how to color. 

Coloring is a complex skill and requires more than just putting a crayon to paper. The steps involved in coloring require coordination, attention, and visual tracking—all of which should be taught.

THE TRUTH: Many children have been spending time on screens, and they have been using their fingers to “color”. They have no idea how to manage the “grippiness” and shapes of wax crayons. When they encounter crayons, they could reject them.

Myth #7: Free writing builds confidence. 

Free writing can be an enjoyable activity, but it is not a substitute for developing the prewriting skills needed to draw and write legibly.

THE TRUTH: Free writing, in which the child draws letters and numbers any way they wish, builds inefficient habits that are difficult to remediate. Teaching letter formation at an appropriate age is more beneficial for students.

Myth# 8: All crayons are the same. 

Different types and shapes of crayons can be used to help children master their prewriting skills. For example, shorter crayons can encourage a child to use an more efficient grasp.

THE TRUTH: Shape, length, and design can transform grasp and control.

Myth #9: Start teaching when children show interest in letters. 

Writing letters is a complex skill requiring higher level visual perceptual and fine motor skills.

THE TRUTH: Start teaching handwriting when children have the motor, sensory, attentional, and cognitive-perceptual skills to succeed.

Myth #10: Lefties will always be sloppy writers.  

Left-handers can be sloppy writers due to their lack of knowledge about their left hand and the expectations for forming letters in a certain way.

THE TRUTH: Begin teaching left-handers about their hand and how to form letters correctly at an early age. With practice, left-handers can become efficient and neat writers. Targeted teaching can eliminate most issues.


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Prewriting Success Handout Packet – Make life easier with this set of 15 colorful, easy-to-follow handout sheets. Written by CathyAnn Collyer, OTR, LMT, the Prewriting Success Handout PDF Packet works equally well as individual handouts or as part of a larger informational packet. Increase your professional visibility and demonstrate your clinical expertise with a comprehensive assortment of attractive handouts that offer strategies your team can put into use immediately! 


Download your FREE Myths About Prewriting Handout Here