It is never too early to early to start your child on age-appropriate exercises to promote the development of his writing ability. As with other new skills, the learning process occurs in stages, with each building upon the previous and every child moving at his own pace. By encouraging your child’s interest in and practice of writing, you will help him along and may find that he is writing far sooner than you would have expected.
In this article, I will be sharing the particular steps that I have taken with my son. Though for organizational purposes I am laying everything out in a seemingly rigid manner, each phase lasted for in indistinct amount of time. I basically provide my son with the instruction, encouragement and tools necessary for each stage and he moves at his own pace. As soon as I recognize mastery, we move onto the next level. My goal here is to provide a layout that can serve as a guide and be tailored to fit your child’s needs.
The most important part of the entire ordeal is to figure out what method suits your child’s learning style. By making the activities fun, he will explore writing on his own and you will not be forcing anything upon him. If he seems to be frustrated, back off a bit and figure out what needs to be changed. I know it sounds obvious and possibly condescending, but I also know from experience that sometimes we can be so eager for our child to learn something that we can also be a little overbearing. At the same time, it’s equally important to keep your child from developing a quitting attitude by offering encouragement and making sure he follows through when necessary. It’s a tough balance, and I’m just trying to help others find that!
In our household, we have utilized three different tools: traditional workbooks and worksheets, wipe-off workbooks and plain old blank paper. Workbooks can be somewhat expensive, so I recommend checking into the myriad of free printable worksheets available on the internet. Still, the fact that each can only be used once becomes wasteful, so wipe-off books are a favorite in our home. An added benefit is the repetition of the same exercise a number of times rather than immediately moving onto a new page helps reinforce the lesson. I’ve found a number of wipe-off books in office supply stores for decent prices, along with other neat educational tools that are worth checking out if you haven’t already. Anyway, onto the method…
The first phase is writing readiness, which is familiarizing your child with the process of forming lines and then introducing the concept of direction. With this stage, as well as the others, it is helpful for your child to be familiar with what it is he is trying to write, so simple shape recognition would truly be the first step. With that down, your child can begin with simple straight lines. Draw a line along a sheet of paper for your child to follow; you can have him trace the line with his finger first, or whatever works for him. After he is able to follow a line, try having him trace other forms, such as squiggles and circles. Also put together lines to form boxes and triangles, etcetera. To introduce direction, place different colored dots at each end of the form being drawn, and use one as a starting point and the other as an end point. Be sure to be consistent in which color means what! I’m cheating a bit here and basically laying out the activities that were in the wipe-off book we used; the methods were great, and if you can find a copy of Before I Print by Trend Enterprises, it is well worth grabbing!
As mentioned earlier, before moving on to the alphabet it is important for your child to be able to recognize letters so he has a purpose in his writing. As there are 26 letters to choose from, plus their lowercase counterparts, there are a number of ways to go about introducing the alphabet. I decided to start at the beginning with regard to both numbers and letters. Our first few weeks, we tackled upper- and lowercase A and the number 1 and incorporated these into our daily “school time” lessons. Now, my son is four years old and this is how I’ve actively introduced writing to him. Beforehand, over the past two years or so, he has had worksheets and coloring books and casual exposure to writing but I never formally sat with him and showed him how to construct letters. This is my tactic that I began employing once I felt he was ready and he expressed an interest. Starting with a blank piece of paper, I drew a couple of large As with solid lines, followed by As with dotted lines. Below I repeated the same pattern with a lowercase a and the number one. Each day, I drew the figures a little smaller. I also switched to a single solid form and a single dotted form followed by dots (think connect-the-dot style). Once he was able to write each letter and number freestyle, without lines or dots, we moved on. Each week would include review of the previous, building upon past lessons.
Over the past month, something has “clicked” in his brain and he has started to draw distinct figures (like stick people and animals) and has started writing with ease. We have found that if I write something for him, he can copy the letters fairly accurately. We are continuing with our formal lessons so he learns the proper construction of the letters, and I’ve found that as we make progress each letter requires a little less time for mastery. I believe that repetition and consistency have been keys here, along with the sheer pleasure he gains from the accomplishment of forming recognizable letters.
Hopefully you find something in all this that you can employ with your own child. Fit it to his learning style and incorporate activities that he enjoys and he will be eager to work with you on writing!