Pencil Control Worksheets

pencil control worksheets

Part of handwriting legibility is the visual motor skills needed for pencil control and one tool in our toolbox are pencil control worksheets. Pencil control in isolation isn’t always addressed, but actually focusing on the refined pencil strokes and controlled movements of the pencil makes a huge difference in overall legibility. In this blog post, you’ll find many pencil control worksheet ideas and even have the ability to access a few of our favorites.

pencil control worksheets

Pencil Control Worksheets

Pencil control worksheets, or printable PDFs that target specific visual motor skills needed to move the pencil with precision and refined movements are tools that support handwriting.

When we use pencil control worksheets, it’s more than just moving the pencil to make marks.

Pencil skills worksheets can target many aspects of writing with a pencil:

  • Making small lines within a given space
  • Writing a letter on a small space, such as on our code breaker worksheets
  • Tracing over lines (Read here about the benefits of tracing lines)
  • Using precise movements in order to re-trace over letters when forming the alphabet correctly (letters like h, m, n, and r have re-trace where the pencil moves over an already formed pencil line).
  • Erasing the pencil marks
  • Writing with an appropriate and legible pencil pressure
  • Fluid and coordinated pencil strokes

Using worksheets to target specific skills like practicing letter formation isn’t always ideal. The occupational therapy practitioners may actually sway away from rote handwriting practice.

We’ve all seen it: A child is copying letters on a worksheet and the letters progressively get worse as they go across the page…or the margin creeps in as the child writes down the paper.

That is not to say that all letter formation worksheets are bad! In fact, we LOVE to target specific skills using letter writing practice on printable PDFs.

The OT trick is to facilitate the underlying skills, special themes that make the worksheet fun and engaging, and even using interactive worksheets that support skills in games or play-based learning.

The multisensory aspect is what turns an ordinary writing worksheet into a therapy tool!

All of these reasons are why using pencil control worksheets are great ways to target specific skills leading to handwriting legibility and functional writing skills.

Below, you’ll find ideas to make DIY pencil control worksheets, and then some of our favorite pencil control sheets. You can also grab a printable pencil control worksheets pdf at the very bottom of the page.

DIY pencil control worksheets

DIY Pencil Control Worksheets

The ideas below are some of our favorite ways to create your own DIY pencil control worksheets.

Does your school-aged child have difficulty with line awareness, pencil control, or letter formation?  Is your preschooler just learning to control the pencil while making straight lines, the diagonal lines of an “X” or the angled, connecting lines of shapes like a square, rectangle, or triangle? Do you know a child who is learning to control the “wobble” of the pencil while making a circle that connects the start to the finish?

All of these are pencil control skills!

It is easy to make fun worksheets that apply to your child’s needs/age-appropriate level/skills…and interests!

To make your own worksheets, you need just a few items:

  • plain paper
  • lined paper
  • graph paper
  • marker or highlighter
  • markers
  • pencil
  • stickers
  • dice

You don’t need to use all of these items…the activities below can be created over the course of several days or weeks. Pick and choose an activity and then go from there!

 
We shared one of our favorite pencil control exercises previously.
 
Use that idea along with these other worksheet ideas for more visual motor and fine motor work.
 
These are some easy handwriting exercises that can be done at home, or in the classroom. However, going from personal experience, the school-based OT doesn’t always have a ton of supplies on them. Depending on the setting and schedule, you may only have a marker, a pencil, and some paper in your possession. That’s where these DIY pencil and paper worksheets come into play.
 
 
 
Pencil control worksheet with stickers
 

DIY Pencil Control Sheet with Stickers

 
This worksheet activity is great because it targets pencil skills with a motivation factor. Using fun stickers makes it engaging for the user. Plus, you can factor in the benefits of playing with stickers by asking the child to place the sticker at one end of the lines.
 
Try to find some stickers that work with your therapy theme of the week or just are fun and motivating for the child’s interests.
 
Don’t have stickers? It’s not a big deal. Draw a small smiley face, simple car for the child that loves vehicles, or even colors of the rainbow. You can easily factor in so many personal interests to make this activity motivating with a simple drawing.
 
To make this pencil control activity:
  1. Use a highlighter to make straight, angled, and curvy lines going across the page…or add different twists and turns for your older child to trace along. 
  2. Grade the activity with the line width. Use thicker lines for a new writer and the school-aged child can work on very thin lines.
  3. Add a sticker at one end of the line. You can also add another sticker at the other end of the line if you like. 
 
Ask the child to keep the pencil lines inside of the yellow guide.  Fun stickers at the end of the lines always help ūüôā
 
 
DIY pencil control worksheet

 

Graded Pencil Control Activity

This handwriting activity can be “graded” (adjusted to start out very easy for the child and then changed just slightly to make it more and more challenging).  Grading an activity is helpful for the learner because it allows the child to feel success and gain confidence during a task, but also builds success with more difficult  levels.
 
 Ideas to grade these pencil worksheets:
 
  • Consider orientation: By changing the direction of the lines, you can target different skills.
  • Lines that start at the top of the page and go down toward the child’s body are easiest. Start there. Consider placing this style of worksheet activity on a slant board or vertical surface for strengthening, support, or upper body positioning. 
  • Lines that go from left to right across the page cross the midline. This is a need for many children and can also target visual scanning skills.
  • Consider using all curved lines or all angled lines, depending on the needs of the individual.
((I love Little Guy’s knight costume sleeve in this picture.  He rocks the knight costume at lease once a day  haha!))
 
 
 

DIY Pencil Control Sheets- Shapes

 
For the preschool child who is just learning to control the writing utensil, requiring them to write letters or write their name is beyond the scope of their development. We cover this in our resource on what happens when preschoolers are asked to write.
 
The pre-writing skills preschoolers actually need involve lines, shapes, coloring, and of course, fine motor play! We can target these skills using a pencil control sheet on shapes.
 
Think of it this way: To make a letter “A”, a child needs to create diagonal lines, which are two separate pencil strokes. The pencil needs to be placed at the correct point as the second line is created. The diagonal lines are further down the line-up, developmentally. Then, the middle line needs to connect two diagonal lines. For the child with an “A” in their name, asking them to make these marks before typical developmentally ready, you may end up with curved lines, shaky pencil marks, and misaligned connecting lines.
 
Practicing these skills in preschool over and over again leads to a motor plan for a poor letter formation.
 
That’s where pre-writing lines pencil control tasks are key.
 
We can foster the line markings of letters by making shapes and lines that ARE developmentally appropriate.
 
Pre-writing skills that can be targeted with pencil control shapes include: 
  • Straight lines
  • Starting the pencil at a certain point
  • Stopping the pencil at a certain point
  • Diagonal lines of an “X”
  • The angled, connecting lines of shapes like a square, rectangle, or triangle (making a sharp corner)
  • Smooth pencil strokes to create a curved line of a circle
  • Connecting shapes completely to close the shape
  • Hand strength and endurance to color in the shapes
  • Lifting the pencil and placing it on a specific point (Like adding a triangle to the top of a square to create a house, which is a skill needed to form some letters like adding the middle line to an “A”)
 
 
This DIY worksheet is similar to the one described above. Simply draw shapes using a marker. Create thicker or thinner lines. Then ask the child to trace over the lines.
 
You can then ask the child to color in the shapes using a crayon. We explained the skills behind this task in our pencil control activity which used colored pencils to fill in circles. 
 
 


DIY Pencil Control WORKSHEET with Line Awareness

The next worksheet idea focuses on spatial awareness skills in handwriting. This is also a pencil control technique.
 
  1. Use a blank piece of paper and using a marker, draw a shape such as a square.
  2. Draw a square around it. 
  3. Take turns with your child to make larger and larger shapes.

This activity is an easy way to work on pencil control skills using pre-writing shapes, but also focuses on the sharp angle of lines as they turn a corner. 

When the child makes the shape around your shape, they can work on pencil control for evenly spaced pencil strokes.

 
It’s a lot like doodling you did in your notebooks or while talking on the phone, right?
 
 
Taking turns with your little handwriting student helps them to see an accurate shape right next to the lines that they are drawing…with sharp edges and straight lines.
 
 
 

 


DIce Pencil Control Worksheet

Big Sister LOVED doing this one.  She filled out the whole sheet and had so much fun!  She would roll the dice, count the dots, and draw the dots (in the correct arrangement) in the squares on the page.
 
To create this DIY worksheet, you’ll need:
  • Blank paper
  • Marker
  • Dice
  • Pencil, crayon, or marker

You can work on so many skills with this activity. Counting, Copying, and Drawing with accurate spacing all work on her visual perceptual skills and spatial awareness.  

Set this activity up by:

  1. Draw lines to create a large grid on the paper. 
  2. Roll a dice. We used a large dice but a regular game dice would work too.
  3. Count the dots on the dice using the point of the pencil. Touch each dot. (A GREAT activity for targeting graded precision skills with the pencil)
  4. Then draw the dots on the paper in one of the spaces. Draw the dots exactly as they are on the dice.
 
These skills are essential for forming letters on lines, placing letters close enough to others in a word, and when copying lists of words. It’s a great beginner activity for near point copying skills.
 

 
 
 
 
Make early handwriting fun and your preschooler will have success…and love it!
 
 

Printable Pencil Control Worksheets 

Printable pencil control PDFs are an easy way to work on skills in therapy. You can print off a handful of the worksheets for your therapy caseload and use them in a variety of ways to target different OT goals and by grading the activities.

In The OT Toolbox Membership Club, we have over 130 printable pencil control worksheets (along with a thousand+ other skill-building activities and PDFs!). Membership Club members can log in and then head to our Pencil Control Skill to access them all.

Some of our favorites include:

  • Pencil control mazes
  • Dot games
  • Simple line printables
  • Eraser skill PDFs
  • Pencil control roads
  • Mazes
  • Connect the dot PDFs
  • Pre-writing pencil mazes
  • Pencil shading worksheets
  • Pencil line drawing activities like adding textures, dot features, or symmetry activities
  • Word search printables
  • Connect the matching items
  • So many more!
free pencil control worksheets

20 Free Pencil Control Worksheets

To get some printable pencil control worksheets, head to these blog posts. Each one addresses various aspects of handwriting skills, but in them, you can get a free printable pencil control PDF.

To get these printable worksheets, simply go to the bottom of the blog post and enter your email address into the form. (Each printable is also found in Level 1 of our membership, where are all “freebies” can be found. Level 2 members also get this benefit as well).

  1. Pencil Control Exercise– Copy pre-writing lines and shapes in a given space, between writing lines
  2. OT Coloring Pages– target hand strength and coloring in the lines
  3. Copy OT Words onto lines
  4. Mitten I Spy and Writing Pages– Color the shapes with a colored pencil and then write the words on the lines
  5. Number Formation Worksheet– Trace numbers on the shaded numbers
  6. Winter Color By Number– Color in the given space with controlled pencil/crayon motions
  7. New Years Maze– Keep your pencil in the path of the lines
  8. Number Road Playmats– Great for pencil control when making numbers
  9. Blank Word Search– Place letters inside the squares of the wordsearch grid
  10. 100 Snowballs Worksheet– Place numbers inside the circles
  11. Snowball Letter Practice– Trace letters on snowballs
  12. Holiday Lights Letter Tracing worksheet
  13. Hannukah Word Scramble– write the letters in the boxes
  14. Christmas Word Match– write the letters in the boxes
  15. Arctic Animal Word Search– circle single letters or the words to work on pencil skills
  16. Shadow Matching Worksheet– Connect the matching animals with pencil lines
  17. Dinosaur Worksheet– Connect the matching dinos with lines
  18. Owl Directed Drawing– Use pencil lines to create a simple owl
  19. Cotton Swab Art PDF– Break a cotton swab in half and use it to dot the lines
  20. Fine Motor Writing Sheets– Place play dough or small objects in the dots…or mark each dot with an X to fill the picture. Then write on the lines

For more resources, check out our library of letter formation worksheets. These printables are free and can be used to target a variety of skills.

The OT Toolbox membership club

Get all of the items listed above when you join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club! Free printables are available in our Level 1 membership and the freebies PLUS 1500+ more printable tools are available in our Level 2 membership!

Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club today!

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Pencil Control Exercises

Pencil control exercises

Pencil control exercises, or visual motor exercises using precise pencil lines in a given space, support the motor skills needed for handwriting. Unlike what you typically think of when you hear the word, “exercise”, pencil exercises do not need to be rote physical work. The pencil control exercise ideas we have listed below are fun and easy ways to support refined and coordinated pencil control when writing.

Pencil control exercises

Pencil Control Exercises

We originally wrote this blog post back in 2017 and used graph paper to create a DIY pencil control exercise, targeting small pencil movements, eye hand coordination, and visual motor skills. The pencil exercise remains a valuable tool now, too! In fact, there are many reasons why using graph paper supports handwriting and the visual motor precision needed for forming and writing letters of the alphabet. Don’t forget about that sleeve of graph paper that is in the bottom of your filing cabinet!

When we say pencil control exercises we are referring to just one tool in the occupational therapy provider’s toolbox.

Pencil control can be achieved in many ways.  Using crayons to help with improving pencil control in handwriting  is one fun way that doesn’t seem like handwriting practice.  

Colored pencils are another tool that can be used to work on pencil control, like we did with these rainbow pencil control exercises

Below, I’m sharing how to use graph paper to address pencil control.  

But first, what is pencil control?  Glad you asked.

What is Pencil Control?

Pencil control is using the pencil to write in a way that is fluid and in control.  It’s writing letters with changes in direction at a speed that is developmentally appropriate and automatically.  Writing with pencil control allows children to write letters and words on the lines and with in a given space efficiently. 

Pencil Control Exercises

These pencil control exercises are so easy to throw together and a sure way to help kids work on line awareness and pencil use.  Working on pencil control is a way to help kids with letter formation and legibility in handwriting.  

When kids write quickly, legibility often times diminishes.  When kids have control over pencil strokes, they are able to carry over those skills.  

There are many ways to work on pencil control in creative and fun ways.  

We’ve shared a few different pencil control activities ideas that may help.  The pencil control practice sheets below are one that can be done quickly and in between classroom or therapy activities. 

 
 
Use this free pencil control exercise to help kids work on handwriting legibility.
 

This post contains affiliate links.
 
 

Use graph paper to work on pencil control:

It is very easy to work on pencil control with graph paper.  Graph paper is readily available.  Grab this inexpensive pack of graph paper, and get started!
 
First, it doesn’t matter what size graph paper you use.  Younger kids are using less control naturally, so changes in direction in a smaller area are more difficult for new writers.  
 
However, beginning lines and control with those lines can be used with smaller graph paper sizes.  
 
By that, I mean learning the beginning strokes of pencil control don’t contain a lot of changes of direction in a small area.  Beginning pencil control includes starting and stopping pencil lines, line length, and placing the pencil and pick it up in the correct areas.  
 
More advancing pencil control, and the ability needed for smaller handwriting size can use smaller sized graph paper for more changes in direction.  
 
Use this free pencil control exercise to help kids work on handwriting legibility.
 

Pencil Control Practice Sheets

This exercise is very easy to set up.
 
You need just two items:
  1. Graph paper
  2. Pencil
 
How to set up this pencil control exercise:
  1. Using the graph paper, just draw lines, shapes, dots, angles, and shapes.  
  2. Then, show kids how to copy those forms.  They will need to keep their pencil on the lines of the graph paper, start where the model starts, and end where the model lines end.  
 This is a good sheet to start with for kids who are writing.  Kids who have never written letters before or are new writers may benefit more from pencil control worksheets without the graph paper grids.  
 
 

 Other Pencil Control Exercises

You can use graph paper or regular notebook paper for these exercises.
 
  • Another way to work on pencil control with graph paper is using increasingly complicated forms and shapes on the graph paper.  Think: squares, X’s, and up/over/down lines.
  • Used lined paper and simply draw a series of lines from top to bottom lines, going across the page. Show the student how to start at the top line and stop at the bottom but not go over the line.
  • Then go across the page and draw lines down. 
  • Draw circles on the line.
  • Draw diagonal lines in both directions, starting at the top and then starting at the bottom.
  • Use blank paper and draw small circles like we did in this rainbow pencil control activity. Then fill in the circles with colored pencils.
  • Make your own pencil control worksheets.
 
 
Use this free pencil control exercise to help kids work on handwriting legibility.
 

Use this free pencil control exercise to help kids work on handwriting legibility

 

Read more on pencil control and find creative ways to improve handwriting through improved pencil control activities. 

 

Skills needed for pencil control exercises?

Movements of the pencil in order to form letters and place written work on lines or in a given space requires several underlying skills. Those skills include:

These skills enable the individual to move the pencil with the smaller joints of the hand, place the pencil point in a precise location, and move the pencil with graded movements.

When these skills are lacking, you might see the pencil movements not being precise or refined, the pencil not moving fluidly when forming letters, letters not being placed on the lines, lack of legibility, writing at an appropriate pencil pressure, poor re-trace in letters, and other factors that lead to challenges with controlled pencil strokes.

Looking for more Pencil Control Exercises?

Grab some of the pencil control worksheets we have here on the website! The OT Toolbox membership members can also access many resources inside the membership that target this area of development.

Level 2 members will find over 130 pencil control exercises, activities, and tools to specifically support this skill, with more being added all of the time. Plus, there are over 1500+ other printables, activities, screening materials, and much more available to target other skill areas.

Members can log into their account and click this link to access the printable materials.

Not a member yet? Learn more here.

The OT Toolbox membership club

Free Pencil Control Exercise

This free printable sheet is perfect for kids who struggle with legibility during writing, older kids who need to touch back on the basics of pencil control.  

It’s a great start for kids who need to work on visual perceptual skills needed for handwriting. Plus, we created this activity to target pre-writing skills. So, for our younger learners in kindergarten who are possibly pushed to write before they have developed the fine motor and visual motor skills needed to copy letter forms on a line, this is a great morning work activity or center activity.

Get the printable below by following these directions:

  1. Enter your name and email address into the form below.
  2. Click the button.
  3. Check your email.
  4. Find the email that just arrived from The OT Toolbox (sometimes it lands in spam, so check there too).
  5. Download the file in that email.

Here you go…

FREE Pencil Control Exercise

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    How to Draw a Cute Owl Directed Drawing

    how to draw an owl easy directed drawing sheet

    If you are looking for how to draw a cute owl, than this easy directed drawing owl activity is for you. There are so many benefits to directed drawing when it comes to visual motor skill development, so adding a cute owl to the fun makes sense! In this post, you’ll find a printable “how to draw an owl-easy” worksheet that you can print and use over and over again.

    If you are wondering what ages can use directed drawings, check out our resource on drawing milestones.

    How to draw and owl easy directed drawing sheet

    a word about directed drawing worksheets

    While this is a fun free occupational therapy worksheet, I have to say…sometimes “worksheets” get a bad rap. I mean, hands-on, occupation-centered function is what we do as OTs, right?

    BUT, for some kids, meaningful and purposeful are centered around topics, or themes. Owls are one of those popular topics that draw kids in. And, to take this concept a step further, drawing and creativity is a powerful tool to support and develop creativity as a cognitive skill, but also part of one’s self Creativity and creating are what we do as humans so when a child has an interest such as drawing or learning more about owls, that is meaningful to them.

    That’s where this how to draw an easy owl worksheet comes into play.

    This How to Draw an Easy Owl activity is a directed drawing worksheet that can be used in owl activities in OT or in the classroom. Draw an owl with step by step directions to work on visual motor skills, direction following, pencil control, and more. This easy owl drawing activity uses basic shapes and pencil lines, so it’s a great owl drawing activity for kids!

    how to draw an owl

    How to Draw an Owl

    Owl directed drawing activities like this one is a great way to help kids develop visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills. When kids follow the step-by-step directions on the drawing worksheet, they are developing several skill areas:

    • Visual perceptual skills (form constancy, visual discrimination, visual attention, visual closure, visual memory, sequential memory, visual spatial relations)
    • Pencil control
    • Eye-hand coordination
    • Direction following
    • Working memory
    • Copying skills needed for handwriting

    Directed drawing activities like this owl drawing easy directed drawing page are fun ways to help kids strengthen a variety of areas in a creative way!

    The directed drawing sheet walks users through the steps to form an easy owl drawing. From a circle, to adding circle eye details, and the beak, and horns, this easy owl directed drawing activity is step-by-step and supports developmental skills.

    Use this directed drawing sheet along with a woodland animals theme in therapy. Think: owl activities, deer crafts, mushrooms to hop along in obstacle courses and forest animal puzzles. There are so many fun ways to incorporate this directed drawing activity into therapy plans!

    Free how to draw an Owl (Easy) Worksheet

    If you are part of the OT Toolbox newsletter list, then you may have seen this free OT worksheet before. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email address into the button at the top of this page to access weekly free resources!

    I wanted to create a how to draw an owl EASY worksheet for younger kids starting out with pencil control, but also older students who need to work on skills outlined above. In this easy owl drawing, kids can use simple pencil lines to make the cartoon owl drawing.

    This owl drawing easy activity uses simple pencil strokes and only 4 steps to complete the owl cartoon. Kids that are moving from simple drawing lines like circles and curved lines can benefit from the four simple steps to add details to the owl drawing.

    Want to grab a copy of this free how to draw an owl EASY worksheet?

    Just enter your email address into the form below. You can print off the directed drawing sheet and use this to work on copying skills.

    FREE How to Draw an Owl (EASY) worksheet

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Uppercase Cursive Letter Formation

      Teach kids how to write upper case cursive letters.

      Teaching kids to write uppercase cursive can be quite tricky. Upper case cursive letters are part of handwriting and everyday written expression, but when it comes learning the motor plan for forming uppercase letters in cursive writing, establishing fluent writing is needed for accuracy. Below you’ll find tricks for teaching uppercase cursive letters and uppercase cursive letter formation.

      Upper Case Cursive

      In this blog post, we refer to the terms “upper case cursive letters” and “uppercase cursive”. The semantics of describing capital letters in cursive is simply for understanding the material, and meeting the needs of all individuals seeking resources on teaching upper case letters in cursive formation.

      Let’s get started with the uppercase cursive writing resources and tips.

      Some uppercase cursive letters are not used as often as their lowercase counterpart.

      When kids learn to write their name in cursive and become proficient at their cursive signature the uppercase letter is just part of the writing motor plan becomes natural and a personal part of a personal style.

      There are many uppercase cursive letters that can easily be forgotten simply because they are not used very often!

      Here are the verbal prompts needed to teach uppercase cursive letter formation.



      This post is part of our 31 day series on teaching cursive. You’ll want to check out the How to Teach Cursive Writing page where you can find all of the posts in this series. 

      For more ways to address the underlying skills needed for handwriting, check out the handwriting drop-down tab at the top of this site.

      Uppercase Cursive LetterS

      Some students develop a natural speed and personal writing style and will prefer to write in cursive. Other students will write only their signature in cursive. Still other students develop a natural speed and personal style and may mix upper and lower case cursive letters. 

      If you look at the average adult handwriting you may notice that there is a mixture of printed and cursive letters. The goal being functional written work, this is fine for adults and individuals who are writing for speed such as high school students.

      However, consistent and accurate formation is needed for formal written work in cursive.

      Like the cursive letter families for lowercase, the uppercase letters are divided up into groups of families based on pencil strokes.

      Teaching kids to write cursive upper case letters is broken down by formation and pencil strokes. We’ve listed the letters out in groups below to support letter formation and motor planning skills.

      Read this resource on motor planning and handwriting to better understand this concept.

      The descriptions are designed to promote the easiest formation style of cursive letters, eliminating extra lines such as the beginning loop of uppercase cursive letter C.

      The letters that are exact replicas of their printed counterparts are designed to ease transition for letters that are not commonly used in written work. This is a tactic of the Handwriting Without Tears format. 

      Uppercase Cursive Letters D, F, T

      Cursive D, F, and T are Uppercase Cursive letters with a downward start.

      These letters include D, F, and T. These letters all start with a downward stroke of the pencil. Let’s break these letters down by formation and pencil strokes.

      Uppercase cursive D begins down followed by a loop to the left upwards with a curved back to the baseline and a big round curve to finish off the top.

      Uppercase cursive F starts in the middle of the letter with a downward stroke followed by a curve to the left and a crossline. Then on top is a crossline topper.

      Uppercase cursive T starts with a middle down work stroke in the middle of the letter followed by a curve to the left and no crossline. Then on top is a crossline topper.

      Uppercase Cursive A, C, E, O, and Q

      Upper case cursive A, C, E, O, and Q are considered “Right curve start uppercase letters” because the pencil stroke starts in the right upper corner. This group includes uppercase letters that start on the right side and curve left. Consider the formation of these letters much like the formation of a printed c.

      Uppercase cursive A starts at the right top line and curves to the left with a big C motion to the baseline. The pencil then curves up to close a letter causes at the top line. Retrace back down in loops a way to connect.

      Uppercase cursive C starts with a right curve start at the top uppercase C

      Uppercase cursive E starts with a right curve start at the top line. It includes two small curves pausing at the middle line before curbing again to the left to the baseline.

      Uppercase cursive O is a right curve start beginning at the top line and curving in a big city motion to the baseline. It continues around to close the lot start has a small loop at the top.

      Uppercase cursive Q is a right curve start letter beginning at the top line and curving in a big motion to the baseline. Q continues around to close the top of the letter and has a small loop at the end. It then has a kickstand line to complete the letter.

      Uppercase Cursive B, P, R, L

      These letters are considered “Rocker start uppercase letters“. Uppercase B, P, R, and L begin with a small curving motion to begin the letter at the top line.

      Uppercase cursive B starts with a rocker start followed by a straight line down to the baseline. It retraces up to the top line and curve around right to the middle line. Pause and curve around right to the baseline.

      Upper case cursive P is a rocker start cursive letter. The letter starts with a rocker line to the top. Straight  line down to the baseline. Retrace up to the top line. Curve around with a small curve to the middle line.

      Upper case cursive R is a rocker start cursive letter. The letter starts with a rocker line to the top. Straight line down to the baseline. Retrace up to the top line. Curve around with a small curve to the middle line. Kick out to the baseline with a slant.

      Upper case cursive L is a rocker start letter that continues with a small loop down to the baseline. The line continues with a small group and diagonal line to connect as it swings away to the baseline. 

      Upper Case Cursive I and J

      Next up in teaching cursive capital letters are the “Left curve start letters“. These letters switch pencil stroke directions and have a starting point on the opposite side of the other letters previously covered. There are just two letters start with a left. These include uppercase letter I and J. Both letters start with the pencil moving in a left line direction.

      Uppercase letter I is a left curve start letter. The letter starts at the baseline and swings in a loop to the left and turns at the top line. It continues the tall loop back to the baseline, but continues the motion until reaching the middle line. The pencil pauses and pulls in toward the loop at the midline.

      Uppercase letter J is a left curve start letter. The letter starts at the baseline and curves left and then up to the top line. It swings straight back down to the baseline and pass the baseline with a table. The line then swings left and then curves up and away to connect.

      Upper Case Cursive H, K, M, N, X, W

      Next up are the “Top loop start letters“. Several letter start with a top-starting loop that continues down. These letters include capital H, K, M, N, X, and W.

      Uppercase cursive H begins with a top loop that continues down to the baseline. The pencil picks up and starts again at the top line. The pencil stroke goes straight down to the baseline and then swings away to touch the initial pencil line. It swings in a loop and then connects over to the second line. 

      Upper case cursive H is one of a few letters with two pencil strokes where the pencil picks up to continue a letter. Most cursive letters and all other cursive letters use only a single pencil stroke.

      Uppercase cursive K is a loop start letter. It begins at the top with a link to the right on the lease straight line down to the baseline. This is much like the uppercase letter H. However with the K, the second line starts at the top line and continues in to cross the first line with a small loop and then continues out again to the baseline.

      Upper case cursive M is a loop start letter that begins at the top line with a loop. The line continue straight down to the baseline and stops. It retraces up over the climb to the top with a bump and continues down to the baseline again. The pencil strip retraces back up that one to the top line and bumps over to the baseline

      Upper case cursive N is a loop start letter that begins at the top line with a loop. The line continue straight down to the baseline and pauses. It re-traces back up and curbs away with a bump at the top line. The line continue straight down to the baseline and stops.

      Uppercase cursive X is a loop start letter that begins with the loop at the top line followed by a diagonal line down to the baseline. The pencil is picked up and continued at the top line and has a diagonal in the opposite direction to cross at the middle of the X.

      Upper case cursive W is a loop start letter that begins at the top line with a loop. The line continues down with a bottom bump inverted bump at the baseline that continues up to the middle line and beyond to the top line. The line is retraced back down with an inverted pump at the baseline. The line continues back up to the top line.

      Upper case cursive U, V, W, Y, Z

      The last remaining uppercase cursive letters are ones that are very similar information to their lowercase counterparts. They are quite similar in most cases to their printed letter.

      These letters include U, V, W, Y, Z

      Uppercase cursive U is an exact replica of its printed counterpart.

      Uppercase cursive letter V is an exact count a part of its printed counterpart.

      Uppercase cursive W is an exact replica of its printed counterpart.

      Uppercase cursive Y is an exact replica of it’s lowercase cursive counterpart.

      Uppercase cursive Z is an exact replica of the lowercase Z form.

      Uppercase Cursive letter practice

      Now that you have the specific letter formation directions down and the order to teach uppercase cursive letters, the next step is practice!

      Creating a motor plan for automatically creating letters supports handwriting speed, autonomy, and legibility. Practice makes perfect, after all!

      But how do you help kids (or adults) create that motor plan for uppercase letters?

      Adding sensory motor handwriting strategies! Use the ideas below as a practice component for practicing uppercase cursive writing.

      Use bold lines to help kids write with better legibility
      Use transfer paper to work on letter formation, size awareness, line awareness, and pencil pressure in handwriting with this easy writing trick that will help kids write with neater and legible handwriting.

      Bold Lines Handwriting Trick– Work on forming uppercase cursive letters on the lines using this bold lines trick.

      Teach Handwriting with Transfer Paper– Work on that motor plan for uppercase cursive by using transfer paper.

      DIY Desk Letter Strip– Make an uppercase cursive letter strip to using forming letters correctly and grouping uppercase cursive letters into families based on the way the pencil strokes go.

      Work on Visual Perception with Markers– Use this marker trick to work on forming uppercase cursive.

      Sky-Ground Paper and Size Awareness– Help writers learn where the pencil starts with making uppercase cursive letters.

      Box and Dot Size Awareness Handwriting– The box dot handwriting trick supports uppercase cursive too.

      Need more uppercase cursive tips? Try the Handwriting Book:

      The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

      The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

      The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

      • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
      • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
      • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
      • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
      • Tips to improve pencil grip
      • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

      Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

      Here are the verbal prompts needed to teach uppercase cursive letter formation.

      Uppercase Cursive Letter Challenges

      There are many reasons why writing uppercase cursive letters are so difficult for many students. While cursive is a fluent progression from printed handwriting and an easier form for many students, there can be some issues that impact legibility and fluency with forming the uppercase version of these cursive letters.

      Cursive letters are not used as often as the lowercase counterparts. Because of this, it can be challenging for kids to consistently remember how to form uppercase letters in cursive.

      Practicing letters to create the muscle memory is the way to get there. Practice those upper case cursive letters and they will become fluent and legible!

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Cursive Handwriting Loop Letters

      teach cursive loop letters

      Here we are covering how to teach cursive b, cursive e, cursive f, cursive h, cursive k, and cursive l. These loop letters are all connected because of their similar pencil movements that make the letter. You can add these tips and strategies to teach cursive letter writing. Today, you’ll find creative activities and tips for teaching formation of cursive loop letters. Cursive loop letters are those ones that start with a loop line up. Lowercase cursive letters b, e, f, h, k, and l¬†are loop letters.¬†

      Writing cursive letters in order with a specific strategy is very helpful in teaching proper letter formation in a way that is logical.

      Our resource on bad handwriting is a great place to start.


      What are loop letters?

      Loop letters are a set of cursive letters that all have a loop in the initial formation of the letter. These loop letters include:

      • cursive b
      • cursive e
      • cursive f
      • cursive h
      • cursive k

      After the initial loop, or upswing of the pencil, the pencil moves back down toward the baseline and moves into another pattern to form the rest of the letter.

      This cursive letter family is a group of cursive letters that are formed with similar pencil strokes.

      Breaking letters down into cursive families can help students learn cursive letter formation. Below, you will find information on how to teach cursive letter formation of “tree letters”.

      Use these tips and strategies to help kids learn to write in cursive and learn the cursive loop letters (Cursive b, e, f, h, k

      This post is part of our 31 day series on teaching cursive. You’ll want to check out the How to Teach Cursive Writing page where you can find all of the posts in this series. 

      For more ways to address the underlying skills needed for handwriting, check out the handwriting drop-down tab at the top of this site.

      Motor Plan for Formation of “Loop” Letters

      When instructing students in forming these loopy cursive letters, start by outlining a cursive letter lesson plan of activities. You can read more about cursive letter lesson plans here. Students can start out with learning the cursive letters that make up the Loop Family. 

      Start by practicing a series of upward curves across a line of paper. This can look like a string of cursive letter loopy l‘s joined together. When practicing the curve of the cursive letter l motions in a strand across a page, set the child’s awareness on height and the start/stop point of each curve.  

      Most important is the width of the loop. Instruct students to draw the lines with proper width of the loop. A wide loop will make the letter inefficient and difficult to connect to other letters.   

      When beginning with cursive instruction, students should concentrate on an upward curve from the base line to the middle line or top line of the paper.

      This loop occurs in the Loop Family letters: b, e, f, h, k, and l.   

      Fine Motor Activity for Practicing Cursive Loop Letters 

        Try this activity to practice the loops of the loopy letters.   Use washable markers to draw loops on a paper towel. (Adding pencil lines for writing spaces before starting can be a big help for addressing loop and letter size!)  

      To the loops, add drops of water and watch the colors expand. 


      Be sure to talk to the child about loop height and width as these aspects to cursive writing will carry the most weight when it comes to legibility.


      For a colorful work of art, trace over the marker loops with additional colored markers.
      Read more about this cursive handwriting activity and others here on The OT Toolbox. 

      Activities for Teaching Cursive Loop Letters

        Use short phrases to instruct cursive formation. Phrases like “Loop up to the top line” or “Loop up to the middle line” can help.   


      Try these sensory activities to teach cursive handwriting loop letters: Affiliate links are included below.

      Write with glitter or colored glue on lined paper. Allow the glue to dry. Students can feel the raised lines of the loops.

      Draw with wet chalk on a chalkboard or sidewalk. Be sure to add guide lines first to address loop height.

      Create different sized loops using wikki stix. These are a great tool for getting the hands in on the fine motor action with a tactile experience that promotes motor planning and kinesthetic learning. 

      How to Teach Cursive b

      Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter b:  

      1. Start at the baseline.
      2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline.
      3. Swing up to the middle line.
      4. Tow rope away to connect.

      Lowercase cursive letter b is a tow rope letter. These are letters that connect at the middle line. They change the beginning of the letter they connect to.

      It can be helpful to practice letters that are commonly connected to letter b such as ba, be, bi, bl, bo, br, bu, and by.  

      How to Teach Cursive e

      Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive e:

      1. Start at the baseline.
      2. Loop up to the middle line and back to the baseline.
      3. Loop away to connect.
      4. Instruct students to stop at the middle line.  

      How to Teach Cursive f

      Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter f:

      1. Start at the baseline.
      2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline.
      3. Continue straight down past the baseline.
      4. Curve right and up to the baseline, connecting at the strait part of the tail.
      5. Swing away to connect. 


      Note about cursive letter f– This letter requires the pencil lines to close the tail into a “bunny ear” type of loop. Think about drawing a tall bunny ear. The lines create a long, loop type of shape that does not cross like a the loop on the top part of the f.

      Rather, the curved motion has a potential for an opening. It’s important for students to close the tail of the f. Likewise, it’s important to keep the closure point at the baseline. If the closure point creeps up above the baseline or has an opening, the letter can potentially look like a cursive b.

      Work on loop formation and motor control for closure points in multi-sensory activities such as with sandpaper or in writing trays.    b, e, f, h, k, and l. 

      When it comes to specific letters, an understanding of tall, short, and tail letters is needed for carryover of accuracy related to line use and size awareness.

      Taking the size awareness piece into consideration is an overall understanding of size both on paper and outside the body in the world around us. This tall and short worksheet has a fine motor and visual motor component that can be incorporated into whole-body movement activities to teach these concepts that carryover into handwriting.

      How to Teach Cursive h      

      Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter h:  

      1. Start at the baseline.
      2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline. 
      3. Pause.
      4. Re-trace back up to bump to the middle line.
      5. Continue over the bump to the baseline.
      6. Swing away to connect.    

      How to Teach Lowercase Cursive k

      Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter k:  

      1. Start at the baseline.
      2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline. 
      3. Pause.
      4. Re-trace back up to bump to the middle line.
      5. Continue over the bump and pull back into the loop.
      6. Add a kickstand to the baseline.
      7. Swing away to connect.

      Use these sensory activities to practice cursive letter k:

      Note about cursive letter k– This letter requires the pencil lines to close the bump at the loop. It’s important for students to pull the pencil lines in and to close the bump. 

      If the closure point doesn’t close at the loop, the letter can potentially look like a cursive h.

      Work on loop formation and motor control for closure points in multi-sensory activities such as with sandpaper or in writing trays. 

      How to Teach Cursive l

      Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter l:    

      1. Start at the baseline.
      2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline.
      3. Loop away to connect.  


      A few tips for teaching cursive loop letters

          It would be very difficult to teach cursive handwriting only by verbal instruction. Carryover and accuracy would suffer!

      A visual component and slow teaching strategies are very important. Try these tips to help with learning cursive loop letters.    

      • Use large motor movements when starting out with cursive instruction. 
      • Teach each letter individually and for short periods of time each day.
      • Practice cursive letters in multiple sensory experiences, including shaving cream on desks, writing trays, in goop, with play dough or slime, etc.
      • Practice near copy work using a visual cue like these free cursive letter flashcards.
      • Practice each letter in a group focusing on one letter at a time. When a new letter is introduced, continue with previously learned letters. 

       

      Want to teach other cursive letter families? 
      Here is information on how to teach wave letters (c, a, d, g, q).
      Try these ideas to teach bump letters (m, n, v, x, y, z).
      Try these ideas to teach tree letters (i, j, p, t, u, and w).

      Use these tips and strategies to help kids learn to write in cursive and learn the cursive loop letters (Cursive b, d, f, h, k, l)

      More Cursive Handwriting Tools and Resources:

      Affiliate links are included.

      Try these cursive writing tools to help with forming letters: Affiliate links are included. 

      Cursive Writing Wizard is a free app on Amazon that allows students to trace letters and words. The app has stickers and animations as well as games that promote learning of cursive letters and connecting lines.   

      Cursive Handwriting Workbook is a workbook for kids in elementary grades and focuses on  formation of cursive letters (upper and lower case) as well as words.   

        Teachers can use a laser pointer in the classroom to help students see parts of cursive letters as they instruct each part of the formation. This is helpful when teaching letters in cursive letter families.        

      The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

      The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

      The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

      • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
      • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
      • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
      • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
      • Tips to improve pencil grip
      • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

      Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Pencil Pressure When Writing

      If you’ve worked with kids teaching handwriting or fixing handwriting issues, they you probably have come across a common handwriting problem area…Pencil pressure when writing. Handwriting pressure can play a huge role in legibility, whether pressing too hard when writing or writing too lightly.¬†

      Pencil Pressure in Handwriting

      Some kids press too hard on the pencil. They may press so hard on the pencil that the pencil tears the paper when they write. When they try to erase, there are smudges that never really go away.

      Other students use too little force when writing. Or, you might see pencil pressure that is so light that you can’t discern letters from one another.

      Either way, pencil pressure plays a big part in handwriting legibility.

      Here are tips for pressing too hard when writing…and tips for helping kids write darker. Scroll down for everything you need to know about writing with that “just write” pencil pressure…Typo intended¬† ūüôā

      These writing tips are great for kids that press too hard when writing or write too lightly.

       

      Pencil Pressure with Writing

      Learning to write is a complex task.  Choosing a hand to hold the pencil with, pencil grasp, managing the paper with the assisting hand, sitting up straight.

      And then there is the physical task of marking letters: letter formation, line awareness, letter size… this is multi-level functioning for a child! ¬†

      Yet another aspect to consider is the pressure one exerts on the paper when writing. ¬†Press too lightly and the words are barely able to be seen. ¬†Press too hard, and the letters are very dark, the pencil point breaks, lines are smudged, and when mistakes are erased, they don’t really erase all the way, the paper tears, and frustration ensues! ¬†

      Sometimes, when it comes to pencil pressure, simply helping kids become aware that they are writing too lightly or writing with too much pressure can make a big difference. Here is one simple activity to work on pencil pressure. All you need is a sheet of foam crafting paper. 

      Pencil pressure is dependent on proprioception, one of the sensory systems.  With October being Sensory Processing Awareness month, this is the perfect time to talk sensory and handwriting!
       
      As an occupational¬†therapist¬†in the school setting, I’ve come across many school-aged children showing difficulty with pencil pressure. ¬†There are reasons for these dark pencil marks and some tips and tools for helping with this handwriting difficulty.¬†

       

       
      Tips and tools for kids who write with too much pressure in handwriting.  Does your child write or color so hard that the pencil breaks?  Writing too hard makes handwriting difficult to read and effectively write.
       
       
       
      This post contains affiliate links.  

       

      Proprioception and Handwriting


      The proprioceptive system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  Our bodies are able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. 

      Proprioception allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task. Instinctively, we know that lifting a feather requires very little pressure and effort, while moving a large backpack requires more work.  

      We are able to coordinate our movements effectively to manage our day’s activities with the proprioceptive system. ¬†The brain also must coordinate input about gravity, movement, and balance involving the vestibular system.


      When we write, the pencil is held with the index finger, middle finger, and thumb, and supported by the ring and pinkie finger as the hand moves across a page.  

      A functioning proprioceptive system allows us to move the small muscles of the¬†hand¬†to move the pencil in fluid¬†movements and with “just right” pressure. ¬†

      We are able to mark lines on the paper, erase mistakes, move the paper with our supporting arm, turn pages in a notebook fluidly, and keep the paper in one piece.

      Heavy Pencil Pressure

      When students press too hard on the pencil, handwriting suffers. Sometimes, children hold their pencil very tightly. Other times, they are seeking sensory feedback. ¬†You’ll see some common signs of heavy pencil pressure:

      • They press so hard on the paper, that lines are very dark when writing. ¬†
      • The pencil point breaks. ¬†
      • When erasing, the pencil marks don’t completely erase, and the paper is torn. ¬†
      • The non-dominant, assisting hand moves the paper so roughly that the paper crumbles. ¬†
      • When turning pages in a notebook, the pages tear or crumble.
      • Movements are not fluid or efficient.¬†
      • Handwriting takes so much effort, that the child becomes fatigued, frustrated, and sore. ¬†
      • It may take so much effort to write a single word, that handwriting is slow and difficult.¬†

      All of these signs of heavy pencil pressure are red flags for pencil pressure issues. They are not functional handwriting. 

      Below, we’ll cover ways to reduce¬† pencil pressure?¬†

      Writing Pressure: Too Light

      The other side of the coin is pencil pressure that is too light.

      Writing with too little pencil pressure is another form of non-functional handwriting. Some signs of too little pencil pressure include:

      • Kids may write so lightly that you can’t read the overall writing sample.
      • You can’t discern between certain letters.
      • The writing pressure is just so light that the child’s hand or sleeve smudges the pencil lines and the writing sample is totally not functional or legible.
      • The student starts out writing at a legible pencil pressure, but with hand fatigue, the writing gets lighter and lighter.

      All of these signs of too light pencil pressure and too much force when writing can be addressed with some simple tips. Working on proprioceptive input and hand strengthening can help with too light pencil pressure. Try some of the writing tips listed below.

      Pencil pressure and Messy handwriting

      Messy handwriting can be contributed to many factors.  Decreased hand strength, Visual motor difficulty, motor planning issues, visual memory difficulties, or impaired proprioception. 

      Difficulty with grading the movements required in drawing or making letters in a coordinated way may present as messy, smudged, illegible handwriting.
       

      Writing Tips for Pencil Pressure

      Bringing the writer aware of what’s occurring is one way to support pencil pressure issues. Proprioceptive activities allow the muscles to “wake up” with heavy pressure.

      Moving against resistance by pushing or pulling gives the muscles and joints an opportunity to modulate pressure.  

      Resistive activities before and during a handwriting task can be beneficial for children who press hard on the pencil. 

       

      Pencil Pressure Activities:

      Some of these pencil pressure activities are writing strategies to help kids become more aware of the amount of pressure they are using when writing.

      Others are tools for helping the hands with sensory needs. Still others are tools for strengthening the hands. Try some or a mixture of the following ideas to addressing handwriting needs.

      • Stress balls or fidget toys can help to strengthen pinch and grip strength.¬†
      • Use carbon paper or transfer paper to help kids become more aware of the amount of pressure they are exerting through the pencil when writing. Here is some easy ways to use a Dollar Store find to use carbon paper to work on handwriting.¬†
      • resistive bands- Use these as an arm warm-up to “wake up” the muscles of the whole upper body. They are great for positioning warm ups too.¬†
      • theraputty with graded amount of resistance (speak to a license occupational therapist about the amount of resistance needed for your child. An individual evaluation and recommendations will be needed for your child’s specific strengths/needs). Use these theraputty exercises for ideas to get started.
      • Gross grasp activities- These activities can be a big help in adjusting the grasp on the pencil, helping the hands with sensory input and strengthening the hands to help with endurance when writing.¬†
      • Some children will benefit from using a liquid gel pen for fluid handwriting marks. The gel ink will provide feedback when gobs of ink are dispensed when writing too hard.
      • Still others will benefit from a gel pen, marker, or using a dry erase marker on a dry erase board. This can be beneficial as a tool for teaching about pencil pressure or as an accommodation for those writing too lightly.
      • Pencil Weights¬†or¬†Weighted Pencils- Weighted pencils can be helpful in providing sensory feedback through the hands.
      • A vibrating pen¬†provides sensory feedback to the fingers and hand and helps to keep children focused on the task.¬†
      • Practice handwriting by placing a sheet of paper over a piece of sandpaper. The resistance of the sandpaper is great heavy work for small muscles of the hand.¬†
      • Practice writing on a dry erase board with dry erase markers to work on consistent pencil pressure- Pressing too hard will make the marker lines wider and press down on the tip of the marker. Can the learner keep a consistent line with their writing or drawing?
      • Use a grease pencil- These pencils are commonly used to marking wood or used in construction. The lead of the pencil is very soft and can be a great alternative for those that press too hard on pencils.
      • Cheap eyeliner pencil- One cheap alternative to a grease pencil is using an inexpensive eye liner pencil from the dollar store. Get the kind that you sharpen with a turn sharpener (almost like a hand held pencil sharpener). Kids can use that pencil to draw lines and match the amount of pressure they are using. This is a good activity for those that press too hard when writing, too.
      • Practice Ghost Writing: Encourage the child to write very lightly on paper and then erase the words without leaving any marks. The adult can try to read the words after they’ve been erased. If the words are not able to be read, the writer wins the game.¬†
      • Hand exercises are a great way to “wake up” the hands before a handwriting task. Encourage the child to squeeze their hand into a fist as tight as he can. Then relax and stretch the hand and fingers. Repeat the exercise several times. Practice holding the pencil with the same type of tight and relaxed exercises Practice writing on tissue paper. A very light hand is needed to prevent tears. Discuss the amount of pressure needed for writing on the tissue paper.¬†
      • This will provide the child with awareness and words for the way they are holding the pencil.¬†
      • Wrap a bit of play dough or putty around the pencil as a grip. Encourage the child to hold the pencil with a grasp that does not press deeply into the dough. Encourage using a “just right” pressure.¬†
      • Provide terms for they way they write. Encourage “just right” writing and not “too hard” or “too soft” marks.¬†
      • Use a lead pencil to color in a small picture, using light gray, medium gray, and dark gray. Talk about how using different amounts of pressure changes the shade of gray.¬†
      • Instead of writing on a notebook, pull a single sheet from the pages and place on a hard table or desk surface. The firm surface will limit the amount of pressure. You can also slip a clipboard between pages of a notebook to provide that hard surface, if sheets must remain in a notebook.
       
      Help kids with pencil pressure and handwriting problems with these writing tips to work on heavy pencil pressure or writing too light.

      Need more tips and tools for addressing handwriting needs? Be sure to check out all of our handwriting activities here on The OT Toolbox.

      More Handwriting Tips

      For a comprehensive resource on handwriting, check out The Handwriting Book. This e-book was written by pediatric occupational therapists and physical therapists who focus on function and take a developmental look at handwriting.

      In The Handwriting Book, you’ll find practical suggestions to meet all needs that arise with messy or sloppy handwriting. The developmental-based approach to teaching handwriting focuses on strategies to support common issues with written work.

      Click here for more information on The Handwriting Book.

      The handwriting Book

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Valentine’s day activity sheet

      valentine's day activity sheets

      In today‚Äôs free printable the Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet, all the Valentine stuff is certainly mixed up!¬† This set of Valentines pencil control scanning worksheets combines visual motor and visual perceptual skills in several different PDF forms to delight and entertain even the most picky learner! Add this resource to your Valentine’s Day occupational therapy activities.

      Valentine's Day activity sheets to work on visual perceptual skills

      Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet

      Add this hearts and roses worksheet to your therapy line-up. This is such a fun time of year to add creative resources like the Valentine activity sheet described below. It may even become a new Valentine tradition!

      Do you have any Valentine‚Äôs traditions? Maybe making handmade valentines, baking cookies, or going out to a favorite restaurant.  Sometimes traditions are purposeful, while other times they just happen. If something ‚Äúworks‚ÄĚ one year, it tends to become a tradition whether you want it to or not.  There are expectations in motion, or maybe just lack of creativity.  Hey, she liked it last year, let me do it again for 25 years.

      For at least fifteen years I received a box of Russell St****rs chocolates for Valentine‚Äôs day.  I am not a fan of this kind of chocolate.  I probably faked enthusiasm the first year, thus starting a tradition.  In short, traditions are ok, but it is also awesome to mix things up a little!

      Before looking at the Valentine’s Day Activity Worksheets, we need to understand:

      What is visual perception and why is it important? 

      Visual perception is being able to look at something and make sense of it.  Items have to be ‚Äúperceived‚ÄĚ in the correct way for motor output, reading, following directions, self care, and just about everything we do. That jacket that is inside out?  It takes more than just fine motor skills to right it.  The eyes and brain need to ‚Äúsee‚ÄĚ that the jacket is inside out, where the problem stems from, then use motor skills to correct it. 

      Check out this article from the Vision Learning Center about breaking down visual perceptual skills.

      While righting jackets and reading are not the most enticing tasks for developing visual perceptual skills, Valentine Printable Scanning Sheets are!

      Better yet, to avoid having to submit your email address each time, consider becoming a member of the OT Toolbox! Membership has it’s perks. As a member you will not only be able to find every single one of the free printables offered on The OT Toolbox, but you‚Äôll:

      • Be able to download each of them with a single click (No more re-entering your email address and searching through folders!)
      • Receive early access to new printables and activities before they‚Äôre added to the website (You‚Äôll find these in the What‚Äôs New section.)
      • Receive a 20% discount on all purchases made in the The OT Toolbox shop!

      Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet for Visual Perception

      This great bundle of free visual scanning/pencil control printables works on several different visual perceptual skills:

      • Visual memory – remembering what was seen long enough to find it somewhere else
      • Visual scanning – being able to look at all of the choices (either in random or sequential order)
      • Visual form constancy – looking at items that might be slightly different or in a different position and recognizing they are the same figure

      four more visual perceptual skills

      We use these to make sense of what is seen.  Can you think of examples of activities or everyday tasks that require these skills?

      • Visual figure ground – picking out items from competing backgrounds
      • Visual spatial relations – identify items in relation to other items. What is in front, next to, behind
      • Visual closure – making sense of an item when only given part of it, such as doing a puzzle
      • Visual discrimination – the ability to idenfity differences between objects which may be obvious or subtle

      When thinking about figure ground, picture looking for an item in the refrigerator.  This skill requires being able to perceive or ‚Äúsee‚ÄĚ the item among a forest of other items.  Visual spatial relations may be looking at pictures to determine what is in the foreground and what is in the background, or how far something is.  There are a lot of pictures and games that trick the mind‚Äôs eye into thinking it is seeing something else.  The brain has to work extra hard to decipher these.

      In case you missed it, Colleen Beck posted a great article on visual perception:

      Some people have amazing visual perceptual skills, while others really struggle. I have mentioned before, there is a gender divide when it comes to visual perceptual skills.  Males were designed to hunt/gather/protect, therefore their eyes do not perceive subtle differences.  Do not despair!  These can be taught, or at least compensated for.  

      Knowing that visual perceptual skills can be a weakness for many, it is important to address these difficulties early, and train the brain to recognize the difference between objects, be able to find things, and solve puzzles.  Learners who struggle with anything, are going to be less likely to want to do something that is challenging.  Make it fun!  Get puzzles that have the theme your learner gravitates toward. The OT Toolbox has a great Valentines Day Fine Motor bundle to add to your theme. Use food or other motivating items to teach these skills.

      While I tend to discourage more electronic use than is already imposed on young minds, here are a couple of fun examples of online games that are motivating AND build visual perception from the Sensory Toolbox.

      As always, there are a dozen ways to adapt and modify these Valentines Day Activity Sheets to meet the needs of most of your learners.  

      This Valentine scanning pencil control worksheet is no exception:

      • Laminate the page for reusability. This saves on resources, and many learners love to write with markers!
      • Print in black and white or color for different levels of difficulty
      • Cut the shapes and make a matching game instead of using a writing tool to draw lines
      • Talk about the items, describe their characteristics, and give context clues to help your learner understand why certain pictures match
      • Copy some of these designs to add to the visual motor element
      • Try different writing utensils. This is not only motivating, but some learners work better with markers as they glide easier on paper. Did you know that golf sized pencils promote more of a tripod grasp than traditional long pencils? Try having your learner color with one inch crayons to enhance their grasp
      • Enlarge the task for beginning writers who need more writing space
      • Shrink the task for older learners who need to learn to write smaller
      • Velcro the back of the Valentine items, after laminating and cutting them,  to create a matching game
      • Have students write on a slant board, lie prone on the floor with the page in front to build shoulder stability, or supine with the page taped under the table
      • Project this page onto a smart board for students to come to the board and write in big lines
      • More or less prompting may be needed to grade activity to make it easier or harder
      • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills
      • Don’t miss this great post on Valentine’s Day Activities, including Valentine’s Day Playdough, and a Valentine’s Day Shredded Paper Sensory Bin

      Besides visual perception and/or writing, what else is being addressed using this Valentine’s scanning, pencil control printable?

      • Fine motor ‚Äď grasping pattern, wrist stability, intrinsic hand muscle development, pencil control
      • Bilateral coordination ‚Äď hand dominance, using ‚Äúhelper hand‚ÄĚ, crossing midline
      • Proprioception ‚Äď pressure on paper, grip on writing tool
      • Strength ‚Äď shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, core, head control
      • Visual perception ‚Äď scanning, figure ground, line placement, crossing midline, visual closure, seeing parts to whole
      • Executive function/behavior ‚Äď following directions, attention, focus, sequencing, planning, task completion, frustration tolerance
      • Social function ‚Äď working together in a group, problem solving, sharing materials and space, turn taking, talking about the activity

      It can be very frustrating if you have excellent visual perceptual skills and other people do not ‚Äúsee‚ÄĚ the world as you do. Take comfort in the fact that these skills can be learned with a little bit of effort.  Until then, make sure the Ketchup is always on the same shelf, and the clothing is never inside out!

      Free Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet

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        Superior visual perceptual skills here! – Victoria Wood, OTR/L

        Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

        **The term, ‚Äúlearner‚ÄĚ is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term ‚Äúthey‚ÄĚ is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

        Looking for more pencil control activities?  Look no further:

        Rainbow Pencil Control Exercises

        Pencil control exercises with colored pencils

        If you are looking for ways to work on handwriting legibility¬†and pencil control, then you are in the right place. This Occupational Therapist loves to teach kids handwriting. ¬†Neatness counts when it comes to writing on the lines and being able to read that homework assignment a few hours into the nightly after-school ritual. ¬†Today, I’ve got one easy tip for helping kids to manage with pencil control in order to write on the lines at an age-appropriate speed. Add this pencil control activity to this list of pencil control exercises.

        Combine this pencil control exercise with a Fruit Loop rainbow craft for more colorful fun.

        Pencil control exercises with colored pencils
        This activity is perfect for kids from Kindergarten on up through school-aged.  Anyone who is writing with a pencil and trying to form letters on lines, copy written work, fill in worksheets, and take notes will love this handwriting exercise in pencil control.
         
        Try these pencil control handwriting exercises to work on writing in lines with the small muscles of the hands for more accuracy with lines, legibility, and speed when writing.
         
         


        Pencil Exercises

        This post contains affiliate links.
         
        Pencil exercises like this simple colored pencil activity are powerful ways to improve pencil control in handwriting.
         
        This activity is really, so simple.  There is nothing you need more than a pencil and paper.  We pulled out colored pencils to make our handwriting activity into a rainbow of color and to add a visual scanning component.

         

        Try these pencil control handwriting exercises to work on writing in lines with the small muscles of the hands for more accuracy with lines, legibility, and speed when writing.

         

        Rainbow Pencil Control Exercises

        With this activity, we’re working on keeping the pencil strokes within the lines of a small circle.  

        1. First, draw a bunch of circles in different colors on a piece of paper.  The circles should be 1/4 inch in diameter.  
        2. Ask your child to fill in the circle with the matching colored pencil. A red circle should be filled in with the red colored pencil.  

        The objective here is to fill in the whole circle without going over the lines.  Because the circle is so small, filling it in with the colored pencil requires very small muscle movements of the fingers.  

        A child who uses their wrist or forearm to write (such as a child using a grasp such as the thumb wrap grasp, for example, are over compensating for weakness and lack of endurance of the intrinsic musculature in the hand and utilizing a stabilizing grasp.  This rainbow pencil control exercise strengthens dexterity, including range of motion in the thumb IP joint. Read more about the thumb IP joint and handwriting in a previous post.

        This overcompensation does not allow fluid motions of the fingers when moving the pencil in handwriting.  Because the circles are so small, the child can focus more on using the small motor motions to fill in the color.

         
        Try these pencil control handwriting exercises to work on writing in lines with the small muscles of the hands for more accuracy with lines, legibility, and speed when writing.

         

         

        More Pencil Control Exercises


        Extend this activity to further your child’s fine motor skills and pencil control in handwriting:

        • Ask your child to draw an “X” in each circle, without going over the lines.
        • Ask your child to draw horizontal or vertical lines within each circle, much like we did here.
        • Create a color coding activity: Match one circle color up with another pencil color.  When you call out a color, your child can fill in that colored circle with a different, predetermined colored pencil.  This is a test of visual scanning and quick thinking.
        • Draw larger circles and show your child how to fill them in with strait pencil strokes.
        • Work on pencil control strokes using the pages in our Colors Handwriting Kit
        Pencil control exercises for kids using colored pencils

            This rainbow handwriting activity is part of the Rainbow Activities for Kids series.  Find more rainbow activities here:

        rainbow activities for kids

        FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:Rainbow in a Bag – No Mess Art // Powerful Mothering Rainbow Pasta Threading // Play and Learn
        Everyday Rainbow Tinker Tray // Still Playing School How to Flip a
        Rainbow | Simple Science for Kids
        // Lemon Lime Adventures Rainbow Sun Craft // Fairy Poppins Beginning Sound Rainbows // Playdough to Plato DIY Rainbow Crayon Names // Pre-K
        Pages Rainbow Bear Color Matching Game
        // Life Over Cs Rainbow
        Marble Painting Process Art
        // Preschool Inspirations DIY Paper Plate Loom: Rainbow Yarn Art // Sugar Spice and
        Glitter Rainbow Sight Words // The Kindergarten Connection Rainbow Math with a DIY Abacus // Fun-a-Day Simple Rainbow Sensory Bottle for Kids // Coffee Cups
        and Crayons Roll a Rainbow // The STEM Laboratory  

        Colored pencils exercises for improving pencil control in handwriting.

        Looking for more handwriting ideas?  Here are some of my favorites:

        Colors Handwriting Kit

        Rainbow Handwriting Kit– This resource pack includes handwriting sheets, write the room cards, color worksheets, visual motor activities, and so much more. The handwriting kit includes:

        • Write the Room, Color Names: Lowercase Letters
        • Write the Room, Color Names: Uppercase Letters
        • Write the Room, Color Names: Cursive Writing
        • Copy/Draw/Color/Cut Color Worksheets
        • Colors Roll & Write Page
        • Color Names Letter Size Puzzle Pages
        • Flip and Fill A-Z Letter Pages
        • Colors Pre-Writing Lines Pencil Control Mazes
        • This handwriting kit now includes a bonus pack of pencil control worksheets, 1-10 fine motor clip cards, visual discrimination maze for directionality, handwriting sheets, and working memory/direction following sheet! Valued at $5, this bonus kit triples the goal areas you can work on in each therapy session or home program.

        Click here to get your copy of the Colors Handwriting Kit.

        Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.