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April 13, 2009

Just like you must crawl before you walk, scribbling before writing is the natural order of progression. The benefits of scribbling is that it strengths the finger muscles which will help develop the fine motor skills in your child’s hand when holding a pencil, will increase her confidence and shows your daughter’s intention to communicate her ideas.


Scribbling is a pre-curser to writing!


  1. Encourage your child by having a variety of fun materials available to scribble, write or draw on at home and when you’re away from home. Having paper and crayons available is a great way to entertain your child and they will gain confidence in their abilities in the process.
  2. When your child wants to draw, lay the crayon on the table and see which hand they use to reach for the crayon.  That is probably their dominant hand and their writing hand.  It is important for your child to use the hand that they are the most comfortable with.

    • For more information on dominant factors, check out: “The Dominance Factor: How Knowing Your Dominant Eye, Ear, Brain, Hand and Foot can Improve Your Learning” By Carla Hannaford.
    • A brief description of the stages of scribbling can be found in “The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards.
    • For more information on the stages of scribbling and the beginnings of self-expression check out “Creative and Mental Growth” by Lowenfeld and Brittan.

Circles in the Air

Making circles in the air helps to integrate the brain in the activity. When you cross over the body which is called “crossing the mid-line”, it helps engage both hemispheres of the brain.

  1. To demonstrate, make large circles with your whole arm starting at the top, go counterclockwise and stopping at the top.
    • Be sure to stand beside your child when you demonstrate, otherwise if you are across from them, they will be going in the opposite direction.
    • Go counterclockwise because approximately 95% of the round letters are made going in a counterclockwise direction.
  2. Have them follow your example.
    • If they are having difficulty getting started, stand behind them and let them select which arm to start with by raising it up.
    • Take their raised arm in your hand and gently guide their hand to make a large circle going in the counterclockwise direction.
    • Have your child make the circles several times starting and stopping at the top until they can do it without your assistance.

    Making large and small circles in the air with the whole arm is a fun activity to begin writing.

Circles on Paper

After your child has practiced making the circles in the air, now you can have them trace a circle on paper.

  1. Make a circle on a piece of paper with a crayon and have them trace it several times until they are comfortable with the motion.  Have them start at the top of the circle, go around in the counterclockwise direction and stop at the top.
  2. Once they have the hang of that, have them change colors and start again at the top of the circle.
  3. If they don’t understand, you can demonstrate on the paper or by holding their hand and guiding them through the motion.
  4. They can also practice with sand, bumpy letters, shaving cream or whatever they would like to use.
    Check out our Spelling activities on more novel ideas of how to practice.

Circle Assessment

Watch for these clues see if your child is comfortable with this activity:

  • Do they start at the top of the page?
  • Do they have any trouble going in a counterclockwise direction?
  • Do they stop at the top of the circle?
  • Can they do the activity without any guidance from you?

When they can do this without you giving them any guidance or clues (no matter how subtle they may be, children do look for your approval), then they are ready for the next challenge.

Throughout Handwriting

The infinity symbol is a difficult skill to master. You should introduce this skill to your child when they are beginning to learn to write and continue to have them practice making it while they are learning to writing. It does not come easy to some children, so provide enough time for them to learn to do it.

Doing the infinity symbol is a great way to engage your child’s brain as their arm crosses over the mid-line. It also is a great warm up for handwriting as your child gets older.

  1. Start by demonstrating the infinity symbol (a sideways numeral 8) in the air using your whole body then have your child follow. Doing it with music or pretending to be flying adds to the fun.
  2. They can also practice using sandshaving cream, car (race track PDF) or other ways that we suggest in our Spelling activities.
  3. Then have your child make the infinity symbol with crayons in different colors on paper. The more they do it, the more embedded it gets in their brain.
    For additional information on exercises for the brain and “crossing the mid-line”, check out:

    • Brain Gym” by Gail Dennison, “Smart Moves:
    • Why Learning is Not All in Your Head” by Carla Hannaford and
    • Teaching with the Brain in Mind” by Eric Jensen.

Infinity Symbol Assessment

Just like with the circles, when your child is able to make the infinity symbol with a smooth motion and they aren’t looking at you for clues or guidance than they are ready for the next step – conventional handwriting.


  • Pencil Grip – Check out our video for an easy and effective way to show your child how to properly hold a pencil.
  • Conventional Handwriting – Activities, tips and techniques you can use with your child to help them learn handwriting.
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