February always makes me think of Valentine’s day. Valentine’s Day is often associated with lots of hearts and chocolates, but when I think of the holiday I recall spending hours writing up my Valentines to deliver to my classmates’ special, heart-shaped boxes. At younger ages, this was an arduous task with lots of erasing and struggling to spell names correctly. However, as the years progressed it became more enjoyable and is one of my treasured memories.
Every year this holiday tradition continues, and kids of all ages like to participate in sending out their Valentines. But what age is appropriate to start this tradition; and are there ways to make the process a little easier for young children who are excited to write their own cards, but still struggle with writing their letters?
Let’s take a look at how to make writing easier and more enjoyable for our budding writers.
Keep Writing Supplies Close at Hand
Familiarity is important for kids. Keeping writing supplies in sight and accessible to young children is a great way to encourage writing. Pens, pencils, markers, paper, notebooks, and sticky notes are just some good supplies to have on hand. Additionally, it can be good to invest in larger pencils and writing tools that are easier for tiny hands to grip. Providing children with their own “special” writing utensil can also increase their interest in using them.
Think Outside of the Box
Although it’s important to keep writing tools on hand, it can be beneficial to be creative. For instance, consider drawing letters in the dirt/sand, air-writing with your fingers, making signs on the asphalt with chalk, or even molding 3d letters with clay.
Aim For Progress not Perfection
As your child begins to write, simply let them enjoy the process of writing. Don’t worry about handwriting, letter formation, or spelling – just let them write. Children learn a lot through free play, and allowing them to write without worrying about the rules is the best way to cultivate an interest in writing. Let them write their “story” and read it to you even if it’s undecipherable to anyone but themselves. Additionally, parents and teachers can stay in touch with Childwatch to discuss areas of progress and what can be worked on to improve.
Focus on Developing Motor Development
If your child has no interest in writing that’s also okay. Find activities that will allow them to develop their hand muscles and fine motor skills so that they will be ready to write. Some activities include building, play-dough, using scissors, painting, threading, and simple origami.
Make lists, have a message board in your communal areas, and let your kids see that you write on a regular basis. These actions show that writing is a part of everyday life and give our little copycats something to replicate. Before you know it they’ll be writing their own lists and messages as well.
Play with Letters
Alphabet blocks and letter magnets are great toys for supporting literacy development. These letters are brightly colored and fun to use, allowing children to start building words and laying down a good foundation for writing.
Annie Proulx, an American novelist, once said, “Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” If you want to help your child learn to write, the simplest thing to do is to read with them. Routine story time is beneficial for writing, literacy development, and so many other things.
When you focus on writing with your kids, it is important to remember that hands under the age of seven are not fully developed. They simply won’t be able to hold a pencil, draw, write, or color the same way an adult or older child can. However, that should not limit them from trying to write and learning all they can about forming their letters. The most important thing when it comes to engaging young children in writing is to follow your child’s interests. If they show interest in writing go for it, if they are reluctant take a step back and focus on other skills that will eventually lead the way to writing.