Children need to master lots of skills before forming those first squiggly letters.
When you go to a doctor for your baby, does the doctor ask if your one-year-old can pick up a small piece of food with two fingers? The doctor wants to know if your baby pincer grip is developing, the first check in making sure your baby fine motor skills (the ability to do things with the small muscles in his hands) were on track. These skills, along with hand and arm strength and hand-eye coordination, lay the early groundwork for printing.
At three years old, a child should be able to draw horizontal and vertical lines, cut with scissors and remove lids from small containers; at four, draw horizontal and vertical lines that cross, snip a straight line and lace with string; by five, trace lines, coy a square and cut out a circle.
The good news is that much of what a child does in Beyond Alphabets preschool (scribbling, crafts, working with playdough) naturally develops their skills. Even trying to color within the lines is an important activity that builds strength and control in the forearm. For older kids, mazes and dot-to-dots are great practice for drawing straight lines, which they’ll need to master to form many letters.
I believe that teachers and parents should get help from their children in the kitchen, cutting green beans or peppers with child-safe scissors, stirring batter and opening containers. Outside, kids can play in the sand or squeeze spray bottles of water to build hand strength, poke at bubbles for hand-eye coordination, and use sidewalk chalk for fine motor skills.