The “writing” of a child may look like gobbledygook to an adult, but it is full of meaning to the preschooler who wrote it. Just ask her to read it back to you!
Learning to write does take time. Just as learning to talk starts with babbling and learning to walk starts with crawling, learning to write starts with scribbling.
Over time, children become more aware of letters and words around them – on cereal boxes, traffic signs, PostIt notes, etc. Children try to copy those letters and string them together into words to make themselves better understood.
Here are seven ways you can encourage your children to write:
Give them the “write” stuff
Have plenty of markers, crayons, and paper on hand at all times. Consider keeping a zippered bag or box full of writing materials in the car or in your bag so your child will be able to write anytime, anywhere.
Make it real
Ask your child to sign a card or thank-you note, to autograph a painting, or help with the grocery list. Young children's desire to write increases when they know their writing has a purpose and an audience.
Make it “official”
To encourage writing as well as creative play, provide your child with a variety of official-looking forms and pads, such as office memos, bank deposit/withdrawal slips, store order forms (those IKEA shopping list might come in handy), etc. These forms look so important, they just beg to be filled out.
Be an example
Let your child see you and other family members writing letters, birthday cards, grocery lists, instruction for the babysitter, recipes, and so on. This way, your child will learn to understand that writing is important and useful.
Praise the “writing”
Respond to your child's scribbles as you did to his first attempts to walk and talk – with joy and enthusiasm. Words of praise and encouragement will give your child the confidence he needs to stay with “writing”, no matter what form it takes. Display your child's writing samples on the wall or stick them with magnets on the refrigerator (so you can rotate them if you're short of wall space). Better still, save them in a scrapbook!
Don't worry about mistakes
Ignore the niceties of spelling and penmanship, for now at least. The mechanics of writing are usually taught in kindergarten or elementary/primary school. Pointing out mistakes can make a preschooler self-conscious and reluctant to write. Young children should learn that writing is a useful and enjoyable way of expressing themselves. The rest will follow in due time.
Put some feeling into the writing
Many preschoolers enjoy tactile learning experiences. This can apply to writing too. Let your child try writing with:
- chalk on the sidewalk
- noodles on the kitchen table
- alphabet blocks on the floor
- fingers on a steamy window/mirror
- fingers in finger paint
- a stick in the sand
- a spoon in flour
Proud father of two lovely kids, who at times pushed me to seriously consider editing out the word “lovely” from this sentence. (I am not alone in this.)