Blogger Maria Trivisonno

Write On! The Importance of Hand Strength in Early Writing

In my Family Engagement work in tandem with a school psychologist and occupational therapist, I have learned the importance of pre-writing skills in kindergarten readiness…and that many children today have fallen behind in this stage of development.  We worry about the “dangers” of screens concerning attention span and other developmental stages…but scrolling with touch screens is really hampering hand development, a vital part of writing.

What can we do to help children develop the physical skills needed for writing?  First, leave out crayons and pencils with paper for them to explore.  Toddlers can use big, chunky writing utensils, but as we get closer to kindergarten, give children more traditional sized items to drill down on fine motor skills. 

Use playdough or clay in your programming to help build hand strength.  Many families are hesitant to use these materials at home, so let kids get messy at the library!  Of course, besides hand strength, playdough and clay help develop creativity…and are just fun!

Let children practice cutting—kindergarten teachers will thank you!  Perhaps invest in loop scissors for early cutters.  Allow kids to try to open their own afternoon snacks…where you buy applesauce cups to promote spoon usage instead of the squeeze bottle snacks.  Work on buttoning and zipping. Have children peel stickers off their backings. 

Do finger plays in storytime that promote fine motor skills (such as the Itsy Bitsy Spider) or that force children to cross the midline (gee, I talked about that in my last blog.  Yes, kind of inspired this one). 

Allow children to draw and write on a vertical plane—meaning paper taped on a wall or at an easel. 

I found a great Australian resource that discusses writing, hand development, when to be concerned, typical developmental expectations and more.  And of course, if caregivers have concerns, perhaps suggest they speak to an occupational therapist. 

What do you do to promote writing at your library?

This post addresses the core competency of I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.


  1. Kyra Nay

    Hi Maria! I did a Playdough Party at my branch in December and it was a huge hit. We read “Play with Clay!” by Jenny Pinkerton then sang “This Is the Way We Squish the Clay” (pinch, smush, knead, etc), to the tune of Mulberry Bush.

    Next we made a no-cook playdough, following a recipe I had written on our storytime room whiteboard (bonus math and print awareness skills). Kids got to help add pre-measured ingredients to the bowl/stir.

    Finally, we played with our fresh playdough. I did have some prepackaged individual tubs of playdough while we waited for our dough to cool thoroughly. I have 2 kits from Lakeshore Learning – their Classroom Clay and Dough Designer Kits. I highly recommend them – nice variety of tools, high quality, and easy to clean afterwards. Kids got to take home their playdough.

    It was a great way to talk about the importance of fine motor skills – caregivers and kids all LOVED the program.

    1. Maria Trivisonno

      This sounds fantastic! Tons of skills, but LOTS of fun too! Who doesn’t love playdough! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kary Henry

    Maria, this is a great post; thanks!

    In the past, I’ve brought in grocery store advertisements from newspapers and had storytime participants create “grocery lists” by circling what they wanted to buy, using markers or crayons. The kids then shared what their favorite foods were, and we also created a bar graph of who liked fruits or vegetables better.

    1. Maria Trivisonno

      I love that this also gets kids talking about what they like and getting some math skills in too, all while practicing writing skills! So much of early childhood is interdependent on each other! Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *