What’s in a Name? Literacy and Identity through Name Play

October 8, 2015 Published by

From the moment your child is born one of the words they hear more than any other is their own name…

As parents we are delighted the moment they start to recognise anchild-name-tag-must-attribute-lucy-gill-fundamentally-children-dot-comd respond to hearing their name. But what about learning to recognise it written down or even writing it themselves – are these important milestones? Seven Academys new app Name Play prompted us to delve further into this subject.

Nurseries and pre-schools often put a lot of focus on a childs name encouraging them to recognise it as early as possible. As Little Learners Pre-school in Stevenage explains:

“We encourage children to recognise their names and the first letters by having them at story and on the tables at snack time to find their seat. They take book folders, books and activity bags home all with name cards in to share with their parents.”

Clearly there are practical advantages to a child recognising their written name, such as being able to find their peg and identify named possessions, but the value goes far beyond this.

Literacy is one of the most vital skills a child needs to learn and it is not an easy journey . It is so important to find the right motivations to start children along this path and there  is no doubt that their name can be a crucial tool. Typically around the same age a child is recognising their first words and letters they are also starting to develop their independence and sense of identity so empowering them to know which peg is theirs, for example, gives them a real sense of pride. Once they start to recognise a few words like their name (initially just as a picture) they can then slowly start to recognise individual letters and phonics within that word and take their first steps from Pre-readerto Emergent reader.

Equally, if you’re trying to support your child in learning to write, its no coincidence that many childrens first written word is their name. A childs earliest attempts at writing is making marks:


The motivation is always the same: the marks are meaningful and relevant to them as individualsFor this reason, childrens earliest mark making often involves their name or their age, as these are of particular significance to them 

Source: The Department for Children, Schools and Families – Mark Making Matters


Writing their name in a birthday card or on their artwork is a natural and purposeful reason to write – it harnesses their instinct to mimic adults as well as to impress adults, enables them to own whats theirs and develop that sense of self. Can you think of any other single words that would be anywhere near as worthwhile for a child to write?dr-gummer-on-child-literacy

As Dr. Amanda Gummer explains:

“Encouraging children to write their name not only helps develop literacy, it is also great for boosting their confidence. Their name and recognising that they are a unique individual is a first step on the road to developing their whole identity”

This is echoed by Janet W. Bloodgood’s research in her paper Whats in a name? Childrens name writing and literacy acquisitionwhich concluded: “name” has the instructional potential to help children connect literacy strands in a meaningful way.

Its therefore not surprising that a childs name is given such prominence in nurseries and pre-schools or that the UKs Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum specifically mentions their nameas part of a number of progress areas tracked by early years professionals. In particular, in Physical Development: moving and handling, early years professionals are prompted to track when a child Can copy some letters e.g. letters from their name(30 – 50 months) and in Literacy, Reading Recognises familiar words and signs such as own name and advertising logos(30-50 months) and Writing Writes own name and other things such as labels, captions(40 – 60+ months).

It also explains why we, at the Good App Guide, were so delighted to see Seven Academys newest app Name Playhit the market. The app can be personalised – plaName Play app by Seven Academy, Recommended by the Good App Guidecing your childs name on their locker, with the names of their friends or siblings alongside. There are so many activities to discover in the app from sorting labelled objects into the right named locker to learning to write their name in a virtual notebook, with some really fun additions for example retro video games (with a nod to games like Space Invader), playing skydiving letters and even doing the washing. The app was a particular hit with our 3 & 4 year old testers who could already recognise their name and were showing an interest in writing it – although we were surprised with how popular it remained for older children too. They really enjoyed the range of activities and discovering quirky extras and it was clearly a wonderful chance to practise their knowledge of reading and writing their name, and so cement the foundations of their literacy.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 14.38.25 For more articles like this, check out our Learning to Read article on Seven Academy’s Joy of Reading app.


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