Writing, along with reading, is often seen as the most important thing a young child can learn, and according to educational consultant and professor Audrey Curtis, parents play a large part in teaching handwriting. Curtis suggests that children will naturally copy and take an interest in their parents’ activities.
So, if you write a lot of shopping lists or keep a diary, your child will want to write too. Although most preschool children are not able to fully write, you can teach them the skills and concepts necessary to help them write later.
Learning What Writing Is For
According to Dr. Trevor Kerry and pre-school teacher Janice Tollitt, your child has to know why people write. It might seem obvious to you, but for a small child it needs to be explained. You could talk about writing an address on an envelope for the mailman to deliver to Granny’s house. Once this is understood, you can role play games that involve handwriting. One such popular game is playing post office.
Encourage her to write on envelopes and make lists. This form of early writing, which is really just marks and unrecognizable scribbles, is called emergent writing and is a normal part of developing handwriting skills.
Tracing and Copying Games
The basics of holding and writing a pen and making letters are also skills needed to write. It’s not as easy as some think! According to pre-school inspectors Sally Neaum and Jill Tallack, your child needs to develop the fine motor skills necessary before she can start writing. Neaum and Tallack feel this is best achieved when starting slow. You can begin with some simple and fun copying and tracing activities.
You could ask her to trace a straight line picture of a bee’s pathway to her hive or trace simple pictures of fruit or balloons. Once she’s mastered these skills, she can then move on to copy-writing her name, which you can write for her. Remember to write it clearly and use big letters to make it easier for her to copy.
Teaching letter sounds
Once she is able to copy or even write some letters, you need to teach her about the sounds used in letters and words. Speak the phonetic alphabet to her, say the sound of each letter and use pictures and alphabet wall charts too to help. Don’t over-complicate this — if she recognizes the sound of a few words such as the sound and letter of her own name, knows that “M” is for mommy and “D” is for daddy and writes or copies the letter, she will be in a good position for extending these skills once she starts school.
Allow your child plenty of time to learn the basics of letter writing and don’t forget to praise her for her efforts. According to Neaum and Tallack, if your child consistently fails at the writing or tracing tasks and isn’t encouraged or praised, she is likely to have a negative association with writing, and trying to motivate her to write will become a great deal harder.