Writing is an essential skill for all children, even in this age of email and SMS. Children learn to write at different ages with the capabilities varying anywhere from writing capital letters at 4 years to full cursive writing at 6, 7 or 8 years of age. Writing is the third of the three communication skills - talking, reading and writing - which essentially develop themselves in that order. Each of these skills helps build the next one.
Even before children begin the actual process of writing, the foundation is being laid for writing skills. This article focuses on helping parents understand the foundational skills for writing. Focusing on these skills early on, even in the toddler years, will help make it easier for the child to learn writing also.
Physical readiness - fine motor skills
Writing needs good fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are those that allow children to use their hands and fingers to manipulate small objects with precision. It also allows them to make the precise movements required in writing. Helping children develop their fine motor skills will make it easy for them to manipulate their pens and pencils.
Here are some tips to develop their fine motor skills:
- Modeling with play dough (clay)
- Painting with brushes
- Colouring with crayons
- Stencils to trace
- Diagrams where children connect dots
Gross motor skills are also essential to develop fine motor skills. Gross motor skills use large muscle groups like those that are used to throw and catch a ball. See this article on how to develop gross motor skills in children.
Mental awareness - Understanding the need for writing
Parents often run into resistance from children when they try to get them to write. Often this resistance is mental rather than physical. Children always question why they are asked to do something. This also applies to writing. Parents can help them learn early why writing is important.
Here are some tips to help children learn the importance of writing:
- Read them letters you get (if you don't get any, write an occasional one to them)
- If you work, talk to them about your work and show them your notebook or anything you take notes in
- Send them emails when you travel. If they can't read, have someone read it to them
- When you fill out forms, have your child next to you and explain to them what you are doing
- Hand write some greeting cards with your child next to you
- If you are going on a trip, write out a checklist and have your child keep track of what has been packed and what has not
- Have your child draw a picture (or a series of pictures) of a story. Ask them to tell you the story they have drawn and write it on the page(s).
Of course, in addition to these, teaching children to read will also help them with their writing.
By working on the physical and mental readiness of the child, parents will find it easier to teach them how to write when the time comes.