Writing is a great way for children to express themselves, even at this young age. Of course, they will start with scribbling, but before you know it, they will be writing. Young children often observe and mirror how writing is used in everyday life. They watch adults and older siblings writing lists, notes to family and friends, and text messaging and they want to try it, too. So, keep lots of paper, markers, pencils, and crayons available at home for your child to write.
When your child writes, talk to them about their writing. Ask them to tell you what they wrote.
Also, remember to share their writing. You can display their writing on your refrigerator, on a wall, or in a frame.
This module will cover the different stages of writing development, provide strategies to support your child in building writing skills, and provide tools, techniques, and activities that you can use at home to prepare your child for kindergarten and to become a lifelong writer.
By the end of this module, learners will be able to:
Order the different stages of writing development.
Understand strategies to support their child in building skills for writing words and phrases.
Identify tools and techniques for assisting their child in recalling important information and making connections when writing.
Is your child scribbling?
Is your child writing shapes that look almost like letters?
Is your child writing letters all over the place?
Is your child writing letters grouped with spaces, words with some correct spaces and letters?
Is your child writing words with lots of correct spelling?
Is your child able to tell you what they have written?
Stages of Writing
Remember, children develop at different rates. Just like all other skills, there is a progression for writing development. Children start with scribbling, then shapes that look almost like letters, then letters all over the place, then letters grouped with spaces, words with some correct spaces and letters, and then words with lots of correct spelling.
We provide a chart below to show the stages of writing and pictures to see what writing might look like at each stage.
Where does your child fall? Wherever they fall IS FINE. We just want to see them continue to develop and move along this progression.
Let’s look at some ways you can support this progression in fun and healthy ways at home.
Learn more at NAEYC in an aricle on "Promoting Preschoolers' Emergent Writing."
How Do We Help Our Children Read and Write Their Names? Repeated Practice!
Activities for Developing Written Communication Skills
Below are the activities you can do with your child to support their written communication skills. Click on the title to reveal the activity content.
We know that pencil and paper are used for writing. What are some other things that can be used as writing tools?
Who remembers writing on a foggy car window with your finger? What about rice in a zip lock bag and shaving cream on the table?
You can pour some rice, cornmeal, or salt on a plate or in a large Ziploc bag, and your child can practice writing letters and words.
You can start with writing one letter and then to words.
You can have your child write the letters of their name, too. Show them the letters, words, or names written clearly on a piece of paper, so they can see how the letters are formed.
You can also use crayons, small pencils, sidewalk chalk, and a paintbrush as writing tools. The paintbrush can be used with just a cup of water! If you “paint” the water on the sidewalk, fence, or side of the house, it shows up for a little while and then disappears when it dries! No mess!
You can write a letter on the sidewalk with chalk and let your child paint over it with a thick paintbrush dipped in water. They’ll love seeing the chalk turn to paint! Or, you all can just draw and write with the chalk. Any time they scribble is great practice!
You can make letter bags using a plastic baggie and magnetic letters. Put the letters of your child’s name in the baggie. Have them pull the letters out of the bag and arrange them correctly to spell their name.
Variation: You can also show your child words in books or magazines and have them create the same word with the magnetic letters in their “letter bag.”
Bath time can be fun and used as an opportunity to write. Squirt shaving cream on the tiles and smooth it out. Have your child form letters using their finger. You may want to write the letter first to show the correct formation of the letters. Make sure you narrate or describe what you’re doing and the strokes you use to make the letters. Then have your child make the same letter.
There are many tools that can be used to write besides pencil and paper. Using all types of writing tools can be fun. We want to encourage our children to get comfortable with writing and write, write, write!
Draws Recognizable Pictures to Express Ideas
Children need to understand that pen on paper communicates information. Children begin written literacy by telling their stories through pictures they have drawn. So, your child’s first writing skill will probably be drawing pictures to express their ideas.
You may be wondering: Why would this be important? What is the connection between drawing, writing, and reading?
Drawing is a precursor to writing. It demonstrates that we communicate through the marks we make on a page. Additionally, writing is a reciprocal process to reading. Drawing supports learning to write and learning to write supports learning to read.
Can your child draw to:
Retell an event?
Retell a story?
Tell a story from imagination?
Can your child explain his/her drawing to you and tell what it means?
Let’s look at some activities you can do at home to support this development.
Activities for Written Communication and Drawing Recognizable Pictures to Express Ideas
Below are the activities you can do with your child to support their written communication and learning to draw recognizable pictures to express their ideas. Click on the title to reveal the activity content.
Give your child a journal and encourage them to draw in it multiple times a week. It can be one you buy at your local dollar store or one you make by putting several pieces of paper together. Have your child draw pictures often. When they are done with the drawing, have them describe what they have drawn. Be prepared to see smiles on their faces as they tell you because these first scribbles are usually proud accomplishments!
The important thing is not the child’s drawing skills. The important thing is your child understands that drawings carry meaning and can explain what their drawing means.
Occasionally, your child might say, “I don’t know what to draw or write about!” I know mine did!
Our next activity will be very helpful. It is a handout entitled, “What will I write about?” It can help your child figure out a drawing/writing topic. One of our favorite prompts is “draw about something you did today” or “draw about your favorite part of today.”
Now you have this beautiful drawing that your child has done, and they tell you the story behind what they have drawn; now, you can use our next activity, dictation.
Dictation is like the stepping stone between drawing and writing.
Dictation is when a child draws a picture, and the adult writes the words that go with the picture. Ask your child to tell you what they drew about, and then you write down on their paper what they say. Then read their words back to them. It will show them the connection between drawing and writing.
They will also feel so proud that you took the time to write down what they told you, teaching them that their words are important.
Shared Writing is when a child and an adult both write something together. The child writes the words that they are comfortable trying, and the adult fills in the words the child doesn’t know how to write.
Learning to write well helps children to be better readers. Remember, they will start with scribbling, but before you know it, they will be writing words and sentences! You can support this development at home.
You can give them opportunities to practice by involving them in your writing activities. For example, you can make a shopping list together or write a note or letter to send to a family member. Let your child see you writing, too. It could be writing a letter, composing an e-mail or text message, or communicating with your child’s school.
Remember, children develop at different rates. So be patient.
However, if you are worried that your child’s writing skills are below average, feel free to reach out for help. You can talk to your child’s Pre-k teacher or someone at the local school. Your child’s pediatrician might be able to offer some guidance with hearing and vision screening or other diagnostic and development screenings.
Remember to keep using these activities over and over until your child has mastered these skills. Practice, Practice, Practice!