Preschool tracing letters and numbers activities should start with larger arm motions, then work their way down to fine motor activities. Use these activities to prepare the young child for later writing work.
Large Arm Movements for Tracing Letters and Numbers
Child development experts teach that children develop from the trunk to the extremities. This means they are more adept at using their arms before they can use their fingers. Start tracing letters and numbers activities in preschool by using large arm motions.
Stand in front of the children with your back turned toward them. Raising your hand in the air, you can demonstrate motions used in writing. Use a lot of large circular motions, followed by straight lines. If necessary, stand behind an individual child and guide his arm in the motions. When the children are comfortable in making lines, move into shapes, and then letters and numbers.
Follow up empty arm movements with a piece of chalk at the chalkboard. Draw a large shape, letter, or numeral on the chalkboard in one color. Have the child trace over it in another color. Another option would be for the child to hold a paintbrush dipped in water, or to erase your writing with the eraser. Maria Montessori said that the hand was the direct link to the mind. These stereognostic movements will create a movement memory for the child, that will be recalled when naturally starting to write.
Other opportunities for these large arm movements can come when painting at an easel. Again, you can draw the letters and numbers on paper for the child to cover with paint. Children can also practice by writing in fingerpaint, or in shaving cream on a table.
Tactile Tracing of Letters and Numbers
Within Montessori education, children trace letters made out of sandpaper glued to a painted piece of wood. While they are learning the phonetic sounds as they trace the sandpaper letters, they are creating yet another physical memory of how to write the letters. The first two fingers are guided along the rough surface of each letter, mimicking actual writing wit the fingers that will later hold the pencil. The same technique is used with the sandpaper numerals.
Children can later make their own letters and numbers to trace, by gluing sand or pasta along letter and number shapes.
Utensils for Tracing Letters and Numbers
Children can use different kinds of markers to trace over laminated cards that have letters and numbers printed on them. More practice can come from tracing cards with the children’s names on them, or through tracing dictated stories based on magazine pictures. Later preschool tracing letters and numbers activities can include the child using a regular or colored pencil to trace and write in a workbook.