Play Dough Tic-Tac-Toe Game: Pre-Writing Activity for Kids

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I'm always looking for fun ways to work on pre-writing skills with my 6-year-old and 3-year-old. This play dough tic-tac-toe activity is perfect for improving fine motor skills and introducing the “X” and “O” shape to your child. It's a great pre-writing activity for kids, especially kindergarten age.


Play dough tic-tac-toe game. Pre-writing activity for kids.


Play Dough Tic-Tac-Toe Pre-Writing Activity for Kids

Here is what you will need:

That is literally IT!


Choose one color for the “O” and one for the “X”. I also chose a different color for the lines of the playing area.

Have your child roll small balls of play dough with their hands. Then use both hands to roll out the play dough into long lines or “worms” as my kids call them. 🙂

Play dough tic-tac-toe game. Pre-writing activity for kids.

We used a small pair of scissors to cut one line in half for the “X”. My daughter pressed them together slightly to help them stick. You could just pull apart the lines in the right spot, but I snuck in some added cutting practice with the scissors.

Play dough tic-tac-toe game. Pre-writing activity for kids.

Then make the “O” by squeezing the two ends of a line together to form the shape.

We rolled out 4 large lines to make the playing area grid.

Play dough tic-tac-toe game. Pre-writing activity for kids.

After all your pieces are made, put the board together and start playing.

Play dough tic-tac-toe game. Pre-writing activity for kids.

Activity Adaptations: 

If your child needs a visual cue for how to make the “O”, “X” or the playing grid, you can draw it out on a piece of paper for them to see. Or you can simply make an “O” or “X” yourself and leave it out as a prompt.

Have your child play while laying on their stomach on the floor. This adds some great core strength practice if they struggle to sit at the table.

Play dough tic-tac-toe game. Pre-writing activity for kids.

There are so many amazing skills that your child can practice with this activity.

  • Bilateral Coordination (using both hands together to roll the play dough out)
  • Crossing midline (using the dominant hand to reach across to pick up the “O” or “X” pieces to play)
  • Fine motor strengthening (the hand and fingers by manipulating the play dough)
  • Following directions (following the directions of the game)
  • Visual-motor skills (eye-hand coordination and motor planning)
  • Sensory input (kids learn and retain information better when you involve more senses with an activity)

Plus, it's a FUN way to play a familiar game while getting in some amazing pre-writing practice.

Need more pre-writing skill activity ideas? Check out the resources below.


Follow Heather | Growing Hands-On Kids's board Handwriting Skills and Activities on Pinterest.

Basics of pre-writing activities for kids ages 2-6 and preschoolers.


Heather Greutman, COTA

Heather Greutman is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with experience in school-based OT services for preschool through high school. She uses her background to share child development tips, tools, and strategies for parents, educators, and therapists. She is the author of many ebooks including The Basics of Fine Motor Skills, and Basics of Pre-Writing Skills, and co-author of Sensory Processing Explained: A Handbook for Parents and Educators.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER: Heather Greutman is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.
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All activities outlined on the Website are designed for completion with adult supervision. Please use your own judgment with your child and do not provide objects that could pose a choking hazard to young children. Never leave a child unattended during these activities. Please be aware of and follow all age recommendations on all products used in these activities. Growing Hands-On Kids is not liable for any injury when replicating any of the activities found on this blog.

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