Learning the ABC’s of Handwriting

With the prevalent use of technology, keyboarding and dictation seemed to be favored over handwriting. In fact, many schools who are hard pressed for time, have reduced instruction in printing and ceased teaching cursive in favor of keyboarding, technology, and other subjects.

As a result of this shift, many children are struggling with handwriting and parents are left with questions. What are the appropriate developmental expectations for writing? Is handwriting even important anymore?  If so, how can I support my child?

 The Benefits of Handwriting

According to research, handwriting provides numerous benefits over keyboarding as it activates more areas of the brain, resulting in better learning, improved memory and emotional regulation. Think about it, how many times have you written something down so that you would remember it better?


The Developmental Stages of Handwriting

Just as children follow a developmental sequence when learning to walk, children also follow a particular progression of steps when learning to write. Handwriting is complex. It requires a child to think about what they want to write or draw, visually recall the shapes to be formed and motor plan the action so that the body stabilizes larger muscles while allowing the small hand muscles to make precise strokes with the correct spatial orientation, size, alignment, and spacing while holding a pencil. In addition, children also need to maintain focus, process information on the paper as well as sensory information around them among other things. It is not an easy skill to learn!

Learning to write takes time and practice. Below is a list of writing developmental milestones that can help you to keep realistic expectations for your child as they build writing skills. Be sure to keep writing fun!

4 ½ Years Old

  • Copies diagonal lines and a square
  • Draws a simple person with 2-4 body parts
  • May be able to copy a few letters or name

5 Years Old

  • Copies an X and a triangle
  • Draws a recognizable person
  • Colors a shape within the lines
  • Prints own name
  • Copies most letters


  • Learns to write on a line, size letters, and allow spacing

1 Year Old

  • Imitates scribbling

18 Months Old

  • Scribbles independently

2 Years Old

  • Imitates a vertical line

2 ½ Years Old

  • Imitates a horizontal line

3 Years Old

  • Copies a single circle from a model and imitates a plus (+) sign

4 Years Old

  • Copies a plus (+) sign

If you have concerns about your child’s handwriting, Enablr Therapy has a team of occupational therapists that can assess a child’s fine motor, visual motor, and handwriting skills and work with parents to ensure that their child is on track.


ScienceDaily. (2020). Why writing by hand makes kids smarter. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201001113540.htm

The Beery-Buktencia Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration Manual. (2010). Pearson Publishing.

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About Enablr Therapy
Enablr Therapy offers speech, occupational, and physical therapy to people of all ages and abilities through our school-based therapy services as well as cash-based services for individual clients. Individual clients can be seen through convenient online sessions in many states across the country.