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Tracing Alphabet Letters with markers, dot-stickers, play-dough, marbles and water (the importance of the proper pencil grip)

Dr. Maria Montessori described the First Plane of Development (lasting from birth to six years) as a period of the Absorbent Mind, characterized by "young child's behavior of quickly and effortlessly assimilating the sensorial stimuli of his or her environment, including information from the senses, language, culture, and the development of concepts."  While the child from 0-3 yrs has absorbed his environment, the child from 3-6 wants to make sense of it, entering the stage of a “conscious absorbent mind”. Having done the work of self-construction, the child now wants to master his environment by intentionally directing his attention on experiences that have been created during the first three years of life. “It is as if the child, having absorbed the world by an unconscious kind of intelligence, now ‘lays his hands’ to it ...  Now, it is the hand as a ‘prehensile organ of the mind,’ not just the senses, which moves the child through a period of constructive ‘perfectionment’." Maria Montessori.

So, today, we are focusing on a hand, by practicing the correct pencil grip while tracing Alphabet letters with markers and a water brush.  



I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the proper pencil grip, which involves holding the pencil between the thumb and pointer finger, and resting the pencil on the middle finger for added stability. Since a child’s natural inclination is to hold a pencil with his entire fist, the correct pencil grip must be diligently taught. 

Writing and tracing helps develop coordination of small muscles in the hands and fingers, which leads to strong fine motor skills, which are essential to completing many other tasks such as drawing, putting puzzle pieces together, cutting, using a fork or spoon, threading beads, zipping, buttoning, tying shoe laces and so forth.  It is important to help your child develop a correct pencil grip when he/she is young, since the skill will last a lifetime, and it is easier to learn to hold a pencil correctly from the beginning rather than correcting the improper pencil grip later. 


From time to time, I still position Adrian's fingers correctly on a pencil by having him pinch the pencil with his thumb and index finger about a centimeter above the sharpened point. I also remind him to “rest” the pencil on his middle finger, and to have his hand lay comfortably on the paper, and not be suspended in the air off the table. Lastly, I remind him to use his non-dominant hand to hold the paper so it remains steady as his dominant hand does the work.

DSC_0001.JPGAdrian tracing Alphabet letters at 36 months.

Thanks to Jae from Pinay Homeschooler for these wonderful Alphabet Tracing Mats. Once Adrian saw Vito tracing, he wanted to do the same:)

DSC_0102-001Extensions: using small dot-stickers, play-dough and marbles. Thank you Jae for an idea:)

DSC_0001.JPGAdrian also traced (or erased I would say) Alphabet letters I had written on a chalkboard for him.



Lastly, Adrian matched all the capital letters to their shadows. These A-Z wooden letters with cards are one of our favorites! Adrian has been doing this activity for about a year now and he still enjoys it greatly. He gets to practice matching, language by naming the corresponding animal, and finally, on the other side of the card, arrows show the directions for writing/tracing the letter.


“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence ... [allowing] the minds to reveal itself.”  

                                                            - Maria Montessori


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