As adults, writing comes easily to us and without much thought. For children, however, writing is a whole new skill requiring time, practice and encouragement.
The skill of writing begins with a process that we call ‘mark making’. Adults often think of this process as directionless scribbles but, as children are mark making, they are taking the first important step towards writing.
The stages of early writing are:
- The act of making marks on paper
- The meaning that a child gives to those marks
- Developing an understanding of how written language works
The act of making marks on paper or ‘mark making’ is also often called ‘emergent writing’. In the early stages, it is vitally important to allow children to ‘mark make’ with many kinds of media and to provide them with as many different experiences of doing this as possible. This has huge benefits for children’s physical development and, in turn, helps to develop a strong and correct pencil grip.
As children move on from scribbling, they begin to give meaning to the marks that they make, understanding that what they are writing can actually ‘say’ something. Some examples of this are:
- They begin to tell an adult what their writing ‘says’.
- Children will often draw a picture and then label it with ‘words’ or write a ‘story’ to explain what it is.
- Children will begin to copy words and letters that they see, but these may not make any sense and will often be written back to front.
- Children will often make links to print in the environment, such as labels on food or familiar words and logos.
The final stage of early writing is when children begin to understand written language. Children begin to learn phonics, understand letter shapes and, therefore, their writing changes again as they understand more about what they are writing or trying to write.
Supporting your children at home with early writing couldn’t be easier. There are many simple activities that you can do with your children to help them.
A few ideas are:
- Large scale drawing Take some large pieces of paper and stick them together to make an even bigger piece. Using different pens, pencils, or paint (if you have it), encourage your child to create on the paper. This supports both fine and gross motor development.
- Play with playdough Using playdough for rolling, squashing and modelling helps children to strengthen the muscles in their hands, enabling them to have the strength to hold and handle writing media correctly.
- Puzzles and mazes Writing is not only a fine motor skill but also a visual motor skill. Helping your child complete a puzzle will help with early writing skills.
- Labelling pictures and drawings Valuing what your child is saying and allowing them to ‘write’ it next to a picture develops confidence in your child. Providing example letter cards can help, but don’t get too worried if they’re not copying correctly. Supporting the first attempts is vital for children to progress to the next stage.
EYFS Coordinator and F3 Teacher