Pre-Writing Strokes and Shapes

making pre-writing stories

Tips for working on Pre-writing Strokes

What are pre-writing strokes?

Did you know, the progress of which children learn to draw various lines and shapes is actually fairly predictable? Pre-writing strokes are composed of shapes and lines that make up letters and numbers, and also prepare a child for learning to draw!

Before a child is able to draw pre-writing strokes on their own, they will learn to first ‘imitate’ and then ‘copy’. Imitating shapes means that a child will watch the shape being formed and then try to replicate what they just saw. Copying means that a child will look at the shape and try to reproduce it from that model. Once your child masters copying, they will be able to form a visual memory in their head and draw without a model!


Developmental Progression

  • 1-2 years: Randomly scribbles, imitates vertical lines, horizontal lines, and circular scribbles
  • 2-3 years: Imitates a horizontal line, vertical line, and circle; Copying vertical line, horizontal line, circle
  • 3-4 years: Copies a horizontal line, vertical line, and circle; Imitates +, /, \, and square
  • 4-5 years: Copies a +, square, /, \, imitates X and triangle, draws a recognizable face with eyes, nose, mouth; Draws a basic stick figure with 2-4 body parts
  • 5-6 years: Copies X and triangle; Begins to print own name; Copies most capital and lowercase letters; Draws a person with at least 6 body parts


What activities can help a child learn pre-writing strokes?

  • Trace the lines: Use masking tape, marker, or printouts and have your child line up themed or
    everyday items (buttons, stickers, toy cars, etc.) along the various lines/shapes
  • Play-dough: Roll play-dough into balls or lines and practice imitating and creating shapes and
    pictures. Play-dough is a great way to strengthen developing hands too!
  • Multi-sensory activities: Use shaving cream or another fun medium such as sand, flour, or paint to practice imitating, copying, and then drawing pre-writing shapes
  • Drawing: Use drawing as an opportunity to teach your child new pre-writing strokes. Try drawing
    a sun, house, or snowman!
  • Fine motor and visual motor activities: Your child will need to develop their fine motor and visual motor skills before mastering pre-writing strokes! Use activities such as lacing, coloring, cutting, crafts, legos, and stringing beads to strengthen these skills.

Pre-Writing Shapes Game Board

Download and print our Prewriting Shapes Board Game to practice making shapes with your client, student, or child! You will also need a pencil and paperclip to make a DIY spinner for the board game. Simply determine how many reps each player will make every turn, and then spin the spinner to move spots on the game board. Your child can either trace, imitate, or copy the shape based on what stage they are at. Have fun!


Is your child having difficulty with the skills needed for pre-writing strokes? Be sure to reach out to
Project Play, or to your child’s occupational therapist!


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