This is part 2 in my preschool readiness series! Part 1 is Preliteracy Skills.
Writing can be an intimidating part of homeschooling. And rightly so. So much of today’s world is dependent upon writing, and writing is as much of an art as it is grammar and punctuation. Never fear! Writing is a skill that can be learned, and it starts early. What can we do to encourage our children to be confident writers from the start, before we start formal lessons?
The written word is beautiful, and young minds have a natural thirst for it. Read to them at every opportunity. Like I said in my previous post, do not just stick to things on their level (although picture books are usually written on an adult level anyway). Read to them anything that strike their fancy. This is about exposing kids to complex sentence structure and syntax, and a wide vocabulary. Language development is strongly supported by reading. In fact, reading aloud from a young age is arguably the most important predictor of school success.
Let your kids watch you write. Seems so boring and basic. However, young minds learn by seeing then imitating. Hold the pencil correctly, make your letters, correctly, and explain why you are writing what you are. Mine often ask me to draw dinosaurs. I will gladly do that, too. I show them how to draw circles, make sharp wavy lines for the teeth, how to draw squiggly lines, etc, all the basic pre-writing skills. Then give them the tools to imitate.
My kids have enjoyed the freedom to write since they first asked for a pencil. I didn’t give them a pencil because of the eraser being a choking hazard. They also ate crayons, so we just jumped right on in with a pen. I make them sit down, but they are free to draw on paper or their skin (not their clothes), and they are required to turn the pen in to me when they are done. Both my toddlers (Cayden and AJ) taught themselves to hold the pen correctly by the time they were 18 months old. Cayden taught himself to draw a circle by around 3.5. For ages, their squiggles looked like scribbles. That’s ok. Don’t focus on trying to get them to do anything. Just encourage their exploration. Every time they would proudly show me their work, I would respond with “My goodness! It looks like your worked hard!” Cayden’s first formal writing lessons will begin later this week with tracing the basic lines (straight, curved, pointed, and wavy). Get your free dinosaur themed pre-writing printable!
Hand Eye Coordination
There are some basic skills every child needs to be able to write easily. If your child hasn’t learned these yet, no worries. It’s ok to wait until they develop these skills by themselves or you can do some simple exercises to help your kid strengthen these skills. Let me know in a comment if you would like me to outline some easy exercises.
What to do if your Child is Struggling
It is common for children to struggle with these concepts. There are several easy low cost solutions to fix this problem.
First, get your child using their hands as much as possible. Play doh/salt dough/clay are all great ways to build dexterity and strength with their hands. Any sensory play ideas that develop tactile awareness is going to help as well. These activities help your child learn how to move their hands and give practice for gentle touch and developing the finesse that’s important in writing.
Next, lacing activities will also help by developing strength and awareness of the mobility of the shoulder joint. This is as easy as using a hole punch to make random holes in a piece of cardstock and letting your child go to town with a pipe cleaner or old shoe lace.
Third, let your child play with tongs to pick stuff up. This develops the awareness of the hand and strength of the hand and wrist. Plus kids love to do it. You can play a fishing game in the spirit of operation. As they get used to the tongs, switch out for tweezers and smaller objects.
Last, encourage your child to use scissors and let them cut stuff out. Don’t expect them to do more than cut randomly at first. Let them practice using the scissors before worrying about cutting anything out. I give mine paper that would be going in the trash anyway to just cut up. I also have them cut directly over the trash can so there is easy, if any, clean up involved. Scissors develop awareness of the hand’s movements as well as the dexterity of the thumb and wrist.
As your child grows, writing will become more about the process than about mechanics, but the most important part of preschool writing is ensuring they are ready for it. Use play as a means of giving them the tools to be successful.