Toddlers love to scribble as they explore their creativity and put their ideas on paper. It’s also considered “pre-writing” – a task that gets them one step closer to writing letters and words. When you add tracing to your little one’s drawing time, it helps refine those pre-writing skills, laying a strong foundation for drawing and emerging writing.
Why is Tracing Beneficial for Toddlers?
On the surface, tracing looks simple. It’s just copying some lines, letters, or drawings, right? Actually, tracing is very beneficial – and it’s a fun way to learn!
For 2 to 3 year-olds, tracing helps develop:
Fine motor skills
Tracing is a powerful way to practice fine motor control. Toddlers are just starting to enter the emergent writing period, when they begin to understand that writing is another way to express their thoughts. However, they don’t yet have the fine motor strength and control to write letters.
Simple activities, such as tracing lines and shapes, can build strength and coordination between your toddler’s fingers, hands, and wrists. The more he practices, the better he’ll become at grasping his writing utensil and controlling his movements.
When you give your toddler some straight or zig-zagged lines to trace, he’ll learn the beginning steps for writing letters. Tracing can fine-tune your toddler’s drawing and writing skills to provide him with more refined and coordinated movements he’ll need for handwriting. Other pre-writing benefits of tracing include:
- Developing a dominant hand (although a favorite doesn’t usually become prevalent until at least age 4)
- Gaining the ability to grip and manipulate writing tools
- Developing hand-eye coordination to write where his eyes are telling him to
- Crossing the midline, which aids visual tracking and right-and-left awareness
Concentration and focus
Concentration and focus often go along with pre-writing skills. As your toddler uses his hand and fingers to move a pencil, crayon, or marker along a line, he has to focus on what he’s doing. To follow that line, he has to keep watching it as well as remind himself to keep grasping his writing utensil and keep it moving. That’s a lot to concentrate on, but it all works to develop his working memory and attention.
Your toddler’s visual-spatial skills refer to his ability to sense where things are around him, like how far the paper on the table is away from his face. As he experiments with tracing, he’ll learn how to connect what he’s seeing (lines or shapes, for example) with how to form them using his pencil.
Creativity and drawing skills
Through tracing, your toddler will also learn how to create movements that he can use to draw pictures on his own. Tracing curved lines, for example, will eventually lead to him drawing a curved line on his own, which he can use to make a rainbow.
Be sure to visit the fine motor section of our BabySparks development program for fun tracing activities (including unique, printable templates) for your toddler!