Writing and literacy is such a huge part of our children’s education. It is a skill for life that we know will help them to progress whichever path their lives take so it’s natural to want to support them to start writing as early as possible.
So, what can we do as parents to give our children a head start?
Babies and toddlers: laying the foundations
Right from our children’s first months we can begin to give them opportunities to make their own marks. As soon as babies can sit up in a chair for their meals you will notice them using their little fingers to play with any spilt food or water. This is one of the first ways that babies explore making their own marks, marvelling at the effect they can have on their world. To further support your baby you could provide them with a mixture of cornflour, food colouring and water on a tray to get stuck into. Give them different sized metal and wooden spoons so that they can practise their grip.
2 to 3 year olds, introducing mark-making tools
As children gain more control over their grasp, we can begin to introduce tools for mark making. Egg sized chalks that fit comfortably in their palms, sponges for printing and large brushes for using with paint are all great. Provide your child with an easel and large sheet of paper so that they can make their squiggles standing up and facing forwards, a much better position than crouched over a table. Children need to gain control of their large movements before they can begin to master fine motor skills. Another great idea is to give them a bucket of water and old brushes and rollers so they can ‘paint’ your garden walls and fences- a great activity for a sunny day!
Preparing for school
In the year before your little one begins school it is a good idea to practise using pencils. Start by using the thick pencils and crayons and join in with their mark-making as often as possible to model how it’s done. Remember that learning to write is a long process that will take your child years to master and praise them for their efforts rather than correcting them. The fine motor dexterity that it takes to control a pencil only comes with time and maturity.
When choosing a nursery for your child, ask how they support children’s writing. Look for well stocked easels and lots of opportunities for children to get creative with paints and pencils.