There’s a lot of pressure put on parents to help their children learn to write, before they start school. However, this is not necessarily giving the children a head start on their peers.
A lot of development must occur before a child is able to write and this development is both cognitive and physical.
Muscles develop from big to small. Being able to write legibly requires not only the accurate control of the hand and finger muscles but strong arm muscles to hold the hand steady and even good core stability to enable a child to sit still in an upright position for any length of time.
Therefore, for pre school children it is much more beneficial for them to be active, developing their bigger muscles so that they are able to concentrate just on controlling their hand and fingers, rather than getting frustrated because they can’t maintain an appropriate posture.
Paints, easels, pavement chalks and finger painting are all great for developing the larger arm muscles and at the same time promoting hand-eye coordination. Gradually use smaller areas for children to draw/write on but be reassured that activities such as climbing, crawling and anything involving balance will be helping your child develop the muscles that will facilitate writing when he’s ready.
Writing goes hand in hand with reading and children need to learn to recognise the letters before they can write them in any meaningful way, but once a child knows his letters, he will find it easier to write them in a large space than on a small piece of paper.
Fun ideas for stimulating writing:
- Squirt shaving foam or squirty cream on a tray and get your child to use their fingers to draw the letters or words in it.
- Get a bucket of water and a large paintbrush, find a wall or a fence and use it as a canvas.
- For slightly older children, get them to draw a word on your back, letter by letter and you have to guess what it is. Then switch places.
- Let children help with writing lists for shopping, jobs or packing for a holiday. They will enjoy ticking the list off.
- Make room signs and stick them on the doors.
- Encourage your child to sign their own name in cards to friends and family.
- Make sure your child sees you writing with pen and paper, not just using a computer.