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How can I support my child’s hand coordination skills for writing?

toddler scribbling

Key Points:

  1. Hand coordination skills involve controlling hand and finger movements and integrating them with visual and perceptual abilities.
  2. Developing visual-motor skills, finger dexterity, and alphabet familiarization in preschoolers is crucial for later handwriting skills, influencing academic achievement.

Hand coordination skills are the ability to control the movements of hand and fingers, and to integrate this motor mastery with visual and other perception capacities in order to archive tasks like shaping objects, opening and closing jars, building structures, picking small objects while holding others, among others.

Closely related to this, handwriting refers to the complex skill of using language by integrating body posture, good pencil grip, and letter formation. It involves a lot of different systems and abilities, both cognitive and physical.

Although, according to The Child Development Centre, it’s usually acquired around the age of 6, handwriting needs the mastery of a wide array of previous skills, including being familiar with the shape of letters, having developed finger dexterity, understanding left to right and top to bottom progression, and having good attention, concentration and memory skills. And most of these skills are developed between 36 and 48 months of age.


Your little one has been on the developmental pathway of handwriting acquisition since they were born. First, your newborn started interacting with you using the grasp reflex, then during toddlerhood this transformed into the pincer grasp. And around 3 to 4 years they will develop a grip adequate and strong enough to hold writing tools.

Decades of research have shown that there’s a link between visual-motor skills, like hand coordination, and academic achievement. What this means is that every little opportunity for growth and development during the preschool years will help your child develop the skills needed for school later on.

In 2011, a group of researchers from the University of East Carolina published a paper on the American Journal of Occupational Therapy that showed that fostering hand coordination, visual-motor skills, finger dexterity, alphabet familiarization, and first-name writing in prekindergarten children had long-lasting benefits for the handwriting skills during the school years. In the study, children were assigned randomly to either a program that developed these skills, or to a control group of unstructured activities appropriate for their age. They found significant improvements in the skills development program when compared to the control group.

Following the guidelines and recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are some ideas to help your child develop their hand-coordination:

  • Opening different types and sizes of boxes and jars.
  • Providing lots of opportunities to scribble, trace, and draw abstract and free figures, lines and shapes.
  • Encourage good posture and activities that strengthen the core muscles to help support those hand movements.
  • Look for activities that exercise your child’s hand-eye coordination, like throwing and catching.

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