Build Pre-Writing Skills Through Play with Occupational Therapist Jorge Ochoa of TamboRhythms

pre-writing skills occupational therapy jorge ochoa tamborhythms
materials pre-writing skills occupational therapy jorge ochoa tamborhythms

We are proud to share this guest post by Jorge Ochoa, an occupational therapist and founder of TamboRhythms, about helping young children develop pre-writing skills through play that will help them with writing and literacy in school.

As a school-based occupational therapist, pre-writing skill development is an area that I address.  Pre-writing skills are the foundational strokes and forms that children need to develop prior to actual writing.  They are the basis for letter formation. These skills typically begin to develop at one year and progress through five years of age. Forms/shapes include (in order): scribbling, formation of vertical and horizontal, circle, cross, square, and triangle.  This article explains the approximate age level by which these are obtained: “Handwriting Needs Perceptual and Visual Motor Skills.” 

First Imitation, Then Copying

When learning pre-writing stokes, imitation is developmentally easier and comes before copying. Imitation is when the child sees how you draw a form and then draws it. Copying is when the child sees a completed form (without instruction) and draws it.  

Learn more in this video, “Pre-writing Shapes: Imitation versus Copying”

Building Fine Motor Skills Through Play

A variety of fine motor activities that can assist with development of pre-writing activities. Activities include:

  • Rolling shapes using play dough
  • Forming designs from cooked spaghetti
  • Using Wikki Stix—yarn sticks covered in wax
  • Drawing in sand or dried rice
  • Drawing in shaving cream on a cookie sheet or against the wall in a shower

Holding Writing Tools

It is recommended that no pencils be used before kindergarten. Use small pieces of crayons and chalk to develop finger control, strength, awareness, and grasp. The resistance of the crayons and chalk helps with strength and awareness. Use short pencils—like golf pencils—in kindergarten and first grade. Find more information about holding writing tools in this handout, “Help Me Hold the Crayon.”

Read More About Pre-Writing Skills

Read More About Literacy

Charter Moms Chats

Watch Jorge Ochoa talk with Inga Cotton about creating a family self-care plan on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at 4:00 PM Central on Facebook and YouTube.

Jorge Ochoa, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and group drumming facilitator in San Antonio, Texas. As a school-based therapist, he works with students ranging from 3 to 21 years of age who are in special education. He is the creator of Legiguide handwriting paper which assists students with improving their legibility. Jorge is also the founder of TamboRhythms, a company dedicated to promoting FUNctional living through rhythmic expression regardless of age or previous musical experience. TamboRhythms uses drums and percussion to encourage social-emotional skill development, as well as health and wellness. Get updates from Jorge via his Facebook groups—TamboRhythms and Occupational Therapy and Educational Tips—and on Instagram at tamborhythms and ottipsandbeyond.

Jorge provides 1:1 general purpose pediatric (ages 3-17 years) education sessions for parents, educators, caregivers, etc. Topics include sensory, fine motor, and self-care skills. For more details, please message Jorge on Facebook, e-mail him at, or call/text on WhatsApp (210-289-7100).