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Encouraging Writing Skills

Dear Debi,

Sometimes when my daughter sits down to draw, I write out a letter, tell her what the letter is, and she’ll scribble something on her own piece of paper. She loves this activity. Is this an appropriate way to start encouraging my daughter to write so she’s ready for school?
Alison Graham
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Encourage kids to write in their own way
  • Keep plenty of writing materials handy
  • Provide writing opportunities through play
  • Make writing fun
Expert Advice
Moisés Román
Moisés Román
UCLA Early Care & Education Department
The very first stage of writing is scribbling. Children don’t all of a sudden start drawing like Picasso and writing dissertations. They have to go through scribbling. It’s an important stage of writing development. Scribbling leads to drawing, which leads to writing.

Children develop at different levels, but the important thing for kids to understand first is how to grab a pencil. The important part is that they have the mechanics of holding a pencil. At this stage, they don’t need to write a specific letter. For kids who are ready, letters can be introduced to them, but if a child isn’t ready, they can wait until they get to kindergarten.

Remember, that when children are first learning to write and they make mistakes, such as letters being backwards – all of that is a normal part of writing development. Children are seeing something abstract and trying to make sense of it. The important part is the process, not the product.

Children are constantly observing and watching what their parents are doing, so it’s important for them to see the uses of writing – even writing a list. Tell your child, “Sit down with me, I’m going to write some checks.” Try to involve your kids in everyday writing activities so they see the importance of writing. If we just show them flash cards, they won’t understand how writing has an everyday important use.

You can incorporate writing into any type of play. You can do it in sand play by introducing molds and letters and things they can write with in the sand. I even gave my students little clipboards for them to carry around. They’d go around writing notes about anything they thought about. The possibilities are endless when it comes to “play” and writing.

It’s crucial to make writing a fun activity for children because if writing becomes a chore, then you push children away from learning it. You want to make it fun and exciting to draw them in, keep them interested and continue to build on their skills.
Child Care Provider Comments
Andre Wiseman
Andre Wiseman
Father of two
With my 2-year-old son, what we’re doing to get him ready for school is that we expose him to lots of books because reading goes hand in hand with writing. We also use different computer software like Reader Rabbit and we provide a lot of materials for him to scribble with, like pens, markers, crayons and paper. One of the first things we’ve taught him is how to draw his name so that gives him some correlation of a word to letters, some meaning to his name.
Cathy Agnew
Cathy Agnew
Cares for her grandchildren, mother of two
Encourage kids to write their letters or even just to scribble because that’s the beginning of something. It gets their hands moving around up and down and then later they learn to do circles. Eventually, they learn to form letters. I encourage my grandkids at home to write by just providing them with a lot of different writing materials like computer paper, construction paper or even the back of an old envelope, and all sorts of pens and markers.
Darlene Morales
Darlene Morales
Mother of one
Introducing a child to writing should be fun; it shouldn’t be a chore. A great way to do that is by providing materials for her on a daily basis, like crayons, pens, markers and paper. You can even provide her with space to write at her eye level by getting a long chalkboard and putting it in her room. Make chalk available to her so she can start becoming exposed to writing on her own; she’ll have fun and get good writing practice. Even if she were not making the letters perfectly, I would not discourage her from doing that because the basis for writing is scribbles.

Stencils and Coloring Books Featured Activity:
Stencils and Coloring Books
Encouraging Writing Skills Featured Video:
Encouraging Writing Skills
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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