Letter Formation Activities

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These letter formation activities may help your child to learn number and letter formations even if your child has poor fine motor skills and struggles to hold a pencil.

Our goal in helping kids form their letters correctly is to help them to do it automatically, and to free their brains up for higher level thinking skills.

So, my focus with these letter formation activities is to help children master the visual-motor aspect of a flowing letter formation. In other words to get lots of practice in the movements and flow required to actually write the letter, and not just to learn to recognize the letter..

Using these activities, your child can develop the feel and technique for forming different letters and numbers, without the stress of controlling a pencil or crayon.

But remember to focus on forming the letter correctly! Check out Handwriting Heroes#Ad if you want animations and rhymes to help your child remember the correct formation!

Fun Letter Formation Activities

1) Sandy Letters

Outdoor activities are always more fun than indoors, and practicing numbers and patterns in the sand hardly seems like work! Have your child use a stick or a finger to draw in the sand.

If you don't have access to outdoor sand, put some sand on a tray instead, for a great indoor sand activity.

letter formation activities in the sandDrawing letters in the sand with a stick
sand in a tray to practice lettersPractice writing letters in a tray filled with sand

2) Gloopy, Edible Letters

Put some gloopy food on a tray or plate, and have your child trace or copy the letter with a finger. You can try any squishy food that your child likes - such as yogurt, custard, angel delight or Jello instant pudding mix.

If your child dislikes the tactile sensation , then put the gloopy food in a Ziploc baggie to get the sensation without the messy feeling! Fill the bag about a quarter full, and squeeze out all the air. You will need to tape the bag down to enable the letters to be formed more easily.

use food to practice letter formationsPracticing letters with gloopy food
writing letters in foodWriting in yogurt on a plate
yogurt in a ziploc bag for letter formationsPut the yoghurt in a ziploc bag to reduce mess

3) Shaving Cream Letters

Ok, this one is really messy, but loads of fun. Stick your child in a bath or shower cubicle with a handful of shaving cream to smear and write in. For a more tactile experience, let your child use the whole hand as well as just the fingers!

Caution! Shaving cream can irritate tender skin, so use the sensitive skin variants, and don’t let it get in the eyes

shaving cream letter formation activityWriting in shaving cream on a wall
shaving cream letter formation activityUsing the whole hand to write in shaving cream

4) "Wet And Dry" Letter Formation Activities

You need a chalkboard for this one. You draw the letter with chalk and then have your child trace the letter with a piece of wet sponge . Your child can also use their index finger to trace your letter before or after the wet sponge is used.

trace over the letter with a small, wet sponge to practice letter formationsUse a small piece of wet sponge to trace the letter
practice letter formations using a small chalkboard and a wet spongeCompleting the letter tracing
trace over the wet letter with a finger to practice correct letter formationNow trace over the wet letter with a finger

5) Wipe Off Letters

Write a number or letter on a whiteboard or chalkboard, and have your child trace it with a finger to wipe it off. You could also use a small piece of dry sponge dry cloth to wipe off the whiteboard marker.

NB be sure your child washes the fingers properly afterwards!

after writing the letter with a dry-erase pen, have your child trace over it with a fingerTracing over a dry-erase letter with a finger
after writing the letter on a chalkboard, have your child trace over it with a fingerTracing over a chalked figure with a finger

6) Laminated Letters

I printed and laminated these handwriting activity cards from Handwriting Heroes. They are lovely for kids to trace with their fingers, or to use with write-on-wipe-off markers.

Tracing is a great way to get a feel for the letter as well as working on visual-motor skills. Use the rhymes that Handwriting Heroes provides, to reinforce the correct formation.

Read my review of their fabulous resources to find out more - you can teach your child to write in a matter of weeks!

child tracing over a laminated letter "d" from Handwriting Heroes to practice correct letter formationTrace over laminated letters
child tracing over a laminated letter "m" from Handwriting Heroes to practice correct letter formationTracing helps reinforce the letter formations

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Try Handwriting Heroes!

The Handwriting Heroes Program teaches the letters in groups with similar formations (eg m, n, r) and also provides a rhyme or story for each letter to reinforce the formations.

You can teach your child handwriting in just 5 weeks, using the Handwriting Heroes programme!

The use of catchy letter formation rhymes played a big part in helping my own kids learn and recall the correct letter formations.

There are stories, animations and catchy songs in this lovely program, that will help kids learn and remember their letter formations.

Find out more about Handwriting Heroes!

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Why Teach Letter Formation & Pencil Control Skills Separately?

In kindergarten and first grade, there are two separate sets of skills being taught in handwriting lessons: 

  1. the skill of forming numbers and letters and learning handwriting patterns
  2. the skill of controlling the pencil in order to work neatly.

I have found that when young kids have poor fine motor skills, it really helps to separate those two skills, and to deal with them individually.

Forming numbers and letters correctly from the very beginning can help reduce letter reversals, messy handwriting and errors in later years.

But when your child has poor fine motor skills, pencil-and-paper tasks can be tiring and frustrating, which takes away from the ability to really learn the correct number and letter formations.

Medwell et al (2009) state that "Handwriting is not just about training the hand; it is about training the memory and hand to work together to generate the correct mental images and patterns of letters and translate these into motor patterns of letters - automatically and without effort!"

Our goal in helping kids form their letters correctly is to help them to do it automatically, and to free their brains up for higher level thinking skills.

So when you want to work on letter formations, don’t ask your child to do it on paper with a pencil or crayon - this is frustrating for kids who are keen to learn their letters but can't control a pencil!

Instead, use the fun letter formation activities on this page to give your child a head start.

don't use paper and pencil activities to practice letter formation when your child struggles with pencil controlRather don't use paper-and-pencil activities

Read my Tips and Strategies For Teaching Letter Formation to get the most out of the activity ideas on this page.

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What About Developing Pencil Control?

If you have a very young child, or a child who is just a little behind where they should be, then the fine motor activities on my site may help you to boost your child's development.

But if you are concerned about your child’s development, or if your child really struggles to keep up with peers in fine motor skills, I really recommend you get an occupational therapy evaluation and advice as soon as possible, so your child does not have to struggle unnecessarily.

Some kids respond very quickly to the right kind of activities geared to improving fine motor skills.

They just need some encouragement and the right kind of opportunities.

a child coloring with poor pencil controlPoor pencil control

Here are some helpful activity pages on my site that can be helpful for kids who need a boost in their fine motor skills:

Thank you for visiting my site! I hope you were helped!

Visit my page of strategies and tips for teaching letter formation and get a free printable download as a handy reference!

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Fun activities and ideas to help your child with letter formations

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Pages Related To Letter Formation and Handwriting

If these letter formation activities were helpful, you may enjoy looking at other pages on my site that are related to handwriting:

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Laura H Dinehart Handwriting in early childhood education: Current research and future implications  Journal of Early Childhood Literacy · March 2014  http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1468798414522825

Medwell, J., Strand, S. & Wray, D. (2009) ‘The links between handwriting and composing for Y6 children’, Cambridge Journal of Education 39(3):329-344 · September 2009 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057640903103728

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