Learning to write involves many skills. Children need fine motor skills to write by hand and on a keyboard. Putting words on paper also requires knowing how words are spelled and other skills that are closely related to reading.

When writing it is necessary to organize the ideas. As children get older they are expected to use more complex sentences and vocabulary. They also have to do more planning, summaries, and revisions. Many children have difficulty using these self-regulatory strategies when writing .

Children develop writing skills at different rates, but they tend to reach certain developmental milestones at particular ages. Here’s how writing skills develop as children grow.

Infants (1-2 years)

  • They hold a crayon in a clenched fist.
  • They understand that crayons are used to scribble.

Preschoolers (3-4 years)

  • They draw wavy lines across the page that look like lines of text from a book.
  • They make marks that look like letters and are separated from each other.
  • They write some letters, especially those of their names.
  • They may write your name.
  • They try different types of writing, such as writing a list or a card.
  • They may begin to draw pictures and label them using letters or marks that look like letters.

Beginning of primary school (5-7 years)

  • They hold the pencil correctly and form letters accurately.
  • They know the sounds of the letters and write the words according to how they sound.
  • They write some common words that are not spelled the way they are heard (often called sight words ).
  • They use different endings for the same word.
  • In kindergarten they label pictures using various words and begin to write simple sentences that are grammatically correct.
  • At the end of first and second grade they write a page or more about their personal experiences and what they are learning in school.
  • They can begin to use different types of writing such as narrative and opinion reports (“Why I liked this book”).

Final years of primary school (8-10 years)

  • They write words using prefixes, suffixes, and root words, such as auditory ,  hearing aid , very good, and very fast .
  • They write more complex sentences and use a variety of sentences to express their ideas clearly.
  • They use a different structure and content for various types of writing (narrative, informational, and persuasive).
  • They understand the process of planning, summarizing, and revising, and begin to use strategies for each of these steps.
  • They may begin to collect information to write.
  • They may start to type quite quickly on a keyboard, if the school teaches this skill.

Middle School

  • They continue to develop typing, vocabulary, and knowledge of grammar.
  • They write more complex narratives that describe personal experiences.
  • They cite the literature in informative and research essays.
  • They write argumentative essays that support reasons and evidence and consider opposing positions.
  • They use strategies for planning and review, including how to find reliable information on the Internet.


  • They continue to develop typing, vocabulary, and knowledge of grammar.
  • They write longer and more complex essays on a variety of topics (science, social studies, literature).
  • They use planning strategies to research and combine information from multiple sources.
  • They continue to develop revision strategies.

Keep in mind that all children are different. A child might have acquired one skill, but be a little behind in another. Having trouble writing doesn’t mean kids aren’t smart. Some need more help to get better at writing.

If you’re concerned that a child hasn’t reached many of these developmental milestones, find out why some kids struggle with writing .