Writing Development

Children’s writing development starts at a young age. Children learn how to manipulate different toys and objects during infancy which is important for their grasp development and future writing skills. Children’s grasp development progresses and forms depending on their individual abilities and preferences.  

What is a hand preference or hand dominance? 

It is where an individual uses one hand consistently for the primary component of the task such as holding the pencil when writing, doing up zips, opening drink bottles, or even using cutlery. Individuals then use their non-dominant hand for other components of the tasks such as stabilising the paper while the dominant hand writes or holding the drink bottle while the dominant hand opens the lid. Children start developing their hand preference between the ages of 2-4 years old. 

How should my child be holding their pencil?

The ideal pencil grasp is called a tripod grasp where the thumb, index finger and middle finger are holding the writing tool. This is the ideal grasp as it allows the fingers to move in a coordinated way and have control of the writing tool. This grasp is generally developed between the ages of 4-6 years.  However, it is important to acknowledge that every individual is different and it is about developing a grasp that is functional for them.

Pre-writing shapes for handwriting development

The image below is a guide of handwriting development. Pre-writing shapes are the foundational pencil strokes required for writing shapes, letters, and numbers. 

Activity ideas to help your child of any age develop their grasp and writing skills:

  • Drawing with different writing tools such as crayons, pencils, or chalk.
  • Using tweezers, small tongs or pegs during play. 
  • Drawing in the sand or dirt with sticks. 
  • Threading beads onto a string or shoelace.
  • Playing with play doh. 
  • Colouring in pictures, tracing shapes, or drawing people. 

How can TAG help? 

Our lovely team of Occupational Therapists can help with:

  • Late development of a hand dominance 
  • Delayed pencil grasp development and/or appears to have difficulty controlling their pencil 
  • Messy writing 
  • Slow writing speed
  • Pressing really hard or really soft during writing tasks (pencil pressure). 
  • Poor endurance and becomes fatigued easily during writing tasks 
  • Difficulty colouring in within the lines 
  • Poor sitting posture (for example leaning on the table, supporting their head with their hands, tilting their head). 


If you have any concerns regarding your child’s development, it may be beneficial to book in with an Occupational Therapist to gather some further information. We have Occupational Therapists in Toowoomba, Beenleigh, Morayfield and Chinchilla. Book a phone consult now to discuss your specific therapy needs.