Handwriting refers to the actual mechanics of forming letters. Young children are interested in the marks, shapes, symbols that eventually become legible, understandable communication. When children begin to make marks on paper they are attempting to communicate in writing. While drawing is an important communication mode, actual writing is also something children want to know how to do and need practice to develop.
We use sandpaper letters to introduce children to the sound, name, and shape of the letters, extending the practice with sand trays and sandpaper letter rubbings. Children trace the letters and have a sensory, tactile experience. They learn the shapes of the letters without the burden of having to use a pencil.
Eventually children will be ready to write letters and words themselves. Practicing letter formation with pencil and paper supports children’s early, spontaneous attempts to write. We use Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) because we like the wooden pieces and “less is more” approach to handwriting. HWT focuses on children making a few high quality letters rather than pages of worksheets of hastily scrawled letters. HWT begins PreK children with upper case letters and we recommend moving to lower case as soon as possible so that children become familiar with the shapes and forms they will mostly be exposed to in the world. Teachers should model writing with conventional lower and upper case style whenever possible.
Video shows an example of an activity using stencils that can support the skills for early letter formation.