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Parents’ guide to handwriting for 4 - 5 year olds

Children in this age group are beginning to follow a more structured approach to learning handwriting.

They begin learning to form the pre-handwriting patterns and letters using the correct start point, directional pushes and pulls of the pencil and finish point.

At the same time they are also being introduced to the other necessary skills they will need to write for longer periods of time; sitting correct at a table and paper position and tilt.

The National Curriculums for the UK for this year group also expect children to:  

Remember children develop their handwriting skills at different times so the table below is a guideline only, based on the average expected achievement levels for a child in this age group.

Handwriting skills

4 year olds

5 year olds

Dominant writing hand

Preference appearing


Pencil grip stage

Stages 2 to 3

Stages 3 to 5

Sitting in chair correctly

Up to 5 minutes

Up to 10 - 15 minutes

Pre-handwriting patterns



Single letter formation



Joins (font specific)

Not applicable

Continuous Cursive only

Position paper correctly

Vertical to horizontal


Can your child sit correctly for handwriting?

The best sitting position for both right and left-handed writers.

What stage pencil grip does your child use?

Children should develop naturally through distinct pencil grip stages and should not be forced to use a stage they are not ready for as this can result in them developing a poor pencil grip later.

Supporting your child’s handwriting

Teaching your child the tripod pencil grip

If your child is ready to develop the tripod pencil grip (stage 5) here are resources to support this grip development.

Expected handwriting achievement levels

Are they a right or left-handed writer?

As a child begins to learn to write it is important to know which is their dominant writing hand. They will never write comfortably if this is not established.

Is your child being taught continuous cursive?

If they are being taught continuous cursive they may have started to join their letters. These are taught in join types on our website.

Can they form the single letters correctly?

By forming the single letters correctly joining them later is easier. They should use the correct start point, directional movement and finish point for each letter.

Can they form the pre-handwriting patterns correctly?

Pre-handwriting patterns teach your child the pencil pushes and pulls, which they may not have otherwise experienced, required to form letters.

Are they beginning to position the paper correctly?

Children that have moved from the vertical to horizontal plane will then be introduced to positioning and tilting the paper on the table.

Is handwriting stressful for your child?

Simple handwriting warm up exercises are a great way to get the body ready for handwriting and relieve the stress and tension that can build up while handwriting.

Teaching tips

Tips to help you support your child through the three stages of handwriting as well as tips on supporting left-handed writers.

Teaching tips