Parent's Guide / Writing Skills
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In order for any child to write meaningfully, he or she must first build up their fine motor skills. Art projects, working with play dough, measuring and pouring sand and water, and practicing writing are excellent ways to improve fine motor skills.

To build skills along the path to writing, your child should be encouraged to:

Scribble with crayons.
  • Have plenty of paper and writing materials on hand for your child.
  • Place paper pads and pencils throughout the house.
  • Encourage all efforts to write.
Make circles and other basic shapes.
  • Again, put plenty of paper and writing materials around the house.
  • Point out shapes in the house and try to draw them together (be encouraging).
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Read Shapes with Harry and Larry to introduce and discuss basic shapes.
  • Have stencils available for your child to trace.
  • Discuss your child's attempts with him/her in a positive way.
  • Encourage your child to look at and talk about their work.
Gain more control of small muscles of the hand through...
  • Squeezing activities.
    Let them move water from bowl to bowl with a sponge.
    Provide play dough.
    Squeeze a small ball or bean bag.

  • Pinching activities.
    Move water with an eye dropper.
    Use tweezers to move beads from one dish to another.
    Make collages together with materials you buy, collect, or find together.
  • Using scissors (with your supervision).
    Cut pictures from magazines.
    Cut play dough.
    Cut plain paper or lined paper.
    Cut collage pieces.

  • Lacing and stringing.
    Lacing cards are available in toy departments.
    Have them practice lacing and then tying shoes.
    Use shoe laces to string beads or macaroni.

  • Tracing activities.
    Draw lines on a page and have them trace the lines.
    Draw a simple path to help Goldilocks find her way home and have them trace the path (children seem to like tracing activities like this).
    Find a book with simple mazes for your child to trace.
    Spray some shaving cream on your bathroom or kitchen counter and let your child play with it like finger paint. (It's fun and you'll have a clean counter, too.)

    Related ONLINE ACTIVITIES: Move a pirate captain through a simple maze to find his ship. Drag a star along a string to light a lantern. Use your mouse to move a little train engine along railroad tracks.
Begin to make drawings of real people, objects, and events.
  • Encourage all efforts (stick people are beautiful when your child draws them).
  • Ask your child about his/her work. Let your child tell you what he/she made.
  • Keep samples and encourage your child to look at and talk about his/her work.
  • Hang your child's art in their room or on the refrigerator.
Begin to recognize letters.
  • Write your child's name on a card so they can look at it often.
  • Find the letters in their name in other words in magazines or books you read to them. Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Create an Alphabet Scrapbook.
  • Encourage your child to pick out letters they know.
  • Talk about the letters in your child's name.
  • Point out and talk about capital and lower case letters. Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Learn to recognize letters through visits to the Alphabet Soup Cafe.
  • Play letter lotto (a Bingo type game using letters).
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Learn to recognize letters "at work" in words and sentences in Missing Letter/Busy Letter.
  • Read alphabet books. Here's a list of great ones.
Begin to recognize written names and some words.
  • Work with your child on picking out words they recognize in magazines and books.
  • Together, notice similarities and differences in words (bell & dell, wall & walk).
  • Make a word card with a word and a picture of that word when possible.
  • Always encourage your child in their efforts. Keep the cards in a "word box".
Realize the permanency of words (r-u-n always spells run).
  • Write down a story your child tells you and reread it every day. Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Our Young Writers Workshop provides forty-eight illustrated story starters and helpful instructions.
  • Read familiar books with only one or two lines on a page.
  • Notice word labels on boxes; reread them to reinforce their permanency.
  • Buy a first words dictionary and use it together.
Begin to imitate letters in writing.
  • Provide writing materials.
  • Have word and picture cards on hand.
  • Have letter cards and stencils on hand.
  • Encourage letter writing and hang up their paper.
  • Make shoe strings into letters with your child.
  • Use play dough to make letters.
  • Provide sandpaper for letter tracing (the feel of the letter helps you remember what it looks like).
  • Provide chalk and a chalkboard.
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Learn how to make letters by watching Spinner the Writing Spider.
Attempt to write their name.
  • Do not worry if the letters are out of order or backwards.
  • You write their name and encourage them to copy it.
  • When your child says they can write their name alone - let them.
  • Encourage all efforts. Let them know you are proud of their attempts.
  • Provide plenty of writing materials.
Begin to write other words.
  • Encourage all writing.
  • Be ready to write words for them to copy when they ask you.
  • Show pride in their efforts.
  • Write stories with your child and put them with your child's other books.
  • Related ONLINE ACTIVITY: Print letters on an egg and move them about to make words.
Improve through practice and positive feedback.
  • Encourage children to write letters to family members, thank you notes, or notes to their favorite character in a book.
  • Help them write rhymes.
  • Invite them to help you make a grocery list.
  • Have them write reminder notes to you about anything they want you to remember.

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1998, 2018, Susan Jindrich. All rights reserved.
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