Pencils…A Million Preschool Activities in One

I once asked Edison’s teacher what I should be working on with my son at home. She answered, “Give him a pencil and paper. That is all he needs at this age.”

Honestly, I thought the answer was a little cheap until I gave him a pencil and paper and watched him try to write. He kind-of looked like a pig trying to knit. I didn’t get it…He does great with crayons, pens, markers, etc. There was just something about using a pencil to write that was extra hard for him.

Nothing like a good challenge.

We picked up a package of those extra big, preschool pencils to make it a little easier. We also spent $1 on a manual pencil sharpener, the kind where the shavings are contained in a little cup. Then, we set about practicing with pencils. His fine motor skills and “writing” have already improved. Plus, he has tons of fun while accidentally learning valuable preschool skills.

Below are some preschool activities for pencils:

  • Sharpening Pencils – Who would have thought that this chore would be so much fun for a preschooler. Edison is fascinated with watching the shavings curl. He also loves emptying the pencil sharpener.
  • Erasing – Now there’s a mark…Now there isn’t…The first time I brought out the pencils, Edison spent a good 15 minutes erasing things. Can we say fine motor skill development?
  • Name Writing – Having a preschooler practice writing his or her name kills a lot of birds with one stone.
  • Correcting Misspellings – I wrote Edison’s name on a piece of paper and purposefully replaced the “d” with a “c”. He figured out it was misspelled, erased the “c” and did his best to write a “d”. We did this with a bunch of words.
  • Educational Write-A-Mats – I just love these things. They are place mats that you can write on. (Click here to see what I am talking about…) We have the United States map, the world map, the phonics place mat and the one for learning to tell time. Not only do they keep his table space clean, but they keep him occupied while we are getting dinner ready.
  • Drawing By Instruction – Sometimes, I will just ask my preschooler what he wants to draw. Then, I walk him through it. For example, if he says “a rocket!”, I say, “let’s start with a big rectangle.” I demonstrate by “drawing” a rectangle with my finger on the paper so he knows where to start. Then, I walk him through adding fins, windows, boosters, etc. This activity makes it fun to practice fine motor skills.
  • Tracing – Whether my preschooler is tracing his hand, tracing cookie cutters, or tracing things from around the house, it is a great way to practice his fine motor skills.
  • Shading – Did you know that if you hold a pencil at an angle, you get a wide line that is perfect for coloring in large areas? Of course you knew that, but maybe your preschooler doesn’t. Edison thinks it is pretty freakin’ cool.
  • Quick, Travel Entertainment – Now-a-days, I always keep a pencil and a tiny pad of paper in my purse now, for those boring moments in waiting rooms or in the car. What a life saver.


  1. I love this idea! Hats off to this teacher for her suggestion and hats off to you for putting it into work and providing your feedback.

  2. What a great low tech idea! A pencil and paper! Love it!

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