According to historians, humans began to write more than 5000 years ago. We were able to learn about their lives and traditions through the pictorial symbols that they developed. Writing has taken many shapes since then. Now our children have to learn a far more complex system of writing to express themselves.
Writing is not just an academic activity, it also contributes to child’s self-development. Writing gives your child a way of expressing his thoughts, emotions, and life learnings. Writing helps the children in:
- becoming confident,
- expressing themselves,
- exploring their creativity and imagination,
- boosting their cognitive development and,
- polishing their rhetorical skills.
A child needs to become writing ready or has to develop different pre-writing skills before starting to write. These building blocks or pre-requisite skills precede the actual writing process. If you want to see your child become a proficient writer at a young age, work on the pre-writing skills early on.
Seven pre-writing activities to develop pre-writing skills
Pre-writing skills include soft skills or what I call “software-like” imagination, vocabulary, and comprehension. Pre-writing skills also include “hardware” or physical readiness of the child: fine motor skills, physical balance, and motor coordination. In order to facilitate your child’s writing acquisition, you have to work on both aspects. The following are a few easy pre-writing activities that can help your child develop pre-writing skills.
1. Read to them
I strongly believe that “words are tools of thinking.” These tools of thinking allow our children to dive into the sea of imagination. If you tell your children bedtime stories or if you read aloud to them from an early age, you are helping them to become good readers and writers in the future.
2. Nurture their imagination
Young children love to engage in make-believe play. These, role playing and role reversal activities help them with their imagination, creativity, communication skills, physical development, and problem solving. Try to make these activities more enriching by becoming a part of their imaginary kingdom of dwarfs or playing a role of friendly hobbit in their quest for gold.
3. Let them talk, talk, talk
Our toddlers are sweet bundles of joy. Enjoy your chatterboxes. Communicating helps them to learn to organize their thoughts, select appropriate words, and arrange those words into meaningful sentences.
These skills, on the one hand, will help them in writing in a cohesive manner in the future, and on the other hand, the urge to communicate their thoughts will encourage them to learn to write at an early age. Your toddler who is so excited to wish you Merry Christmas will be equally eager to learn to write his first Christmas card to you.
4. Work on physical readiness
Physical development of a child follows a certain pattern. These developmental milestones indicate that the child is learning to perform different age appropriate physical tasks. If you look at the development of your child, you should have noticed that sitting, crawling, standing, and supported walking gradually enable your child to learn to walk independently.
Similarly, there are different physical milestones, which help in learning to write. If we progress from gross motor to fine motor skills, physical milestones for writing include:
- body balance and upper body strength to sit straight
- two hand coordination
- eye-hand coordination
- strength in the fingers and hand
- pincer grip or proper grip for holding a pencil or crayon
The following activities are examples of how you can help make your child physically ready for writing:
- Catching and throwing a ball: Begin with a big lightweight ball. Play catch and throw with your child. Gradually, decrease the size of the ball and use a slightly heavier ball. This will help in strengthening the upper body, two hand coordination, and make the hands strong.
- Try to make your child independent in daily living skills. How will this help in writing? Well, just imagine, your child is learning to brush his teeth, button his shirt, and tie his shoes. He is developing a proper grip and eye-hand coordination. These abilities will help him in holding the pencil to scribble and write.
5. Identify his strong hand
You might be wondering what I mean by identifying the strong hand. Did you know that ambidextrous children, who use both hands to work, are more likely to face learning disabilities, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and language delays at a later age?
If your child uses both hands interchangeably to perform different tasks, help him in identifying his stronger hand at an early age. How? I use this simple trick with children and you can use it too. While you are talking to a child, suddenly ask him to catch a small ball or toy. The hand he spontaneously brings forward to catch that thing is his stronger hand.
A few other activities can help you determine the dominant hand, such as clapping; right-handed children usually clap their right hand to the left. You can also ask your child to scratch his back or tilt his head towards a shoulder. Guess what? He will be tilting to his dominant hand.
6. Work on spatial ability
Spatial ability is the capacity to understand and remember the spatial relations between objects. Playing with LEGOs, blocks, puzzles, and later on estimating sizes and measurements help children in developing their spatial ability.
Children who are good in understanding spatial relations find it easy to learn to write and understand the relationship of different writing strokes in forming an alphabet.
7. Pre-writing strokes
Now comes the actual writing process. Do you remember how happy you felt when you saw your toddler holding the crayon for the first time? Watching your child scribble on a page marked the beginning of a new phase of your child’s life.
Convert scribbling into a mindful activity of coloring. Coloring within lines will help your child in achieving better pencil control. Starting with one big object drawn on a piece of paper is the first step towards a complex drawing.
Have you ever noticed that the alphabet is a combination of different lines? If you want your child to write or compose the alphabet, you need to give these building blocks to him. We normally start with straight lines, i.e., horizontal, vertical, and slanting lines and a circle. Once the child learns to draw these lines, help him in drawing a square, triangle, rectangle, and plus sign, etc.
Now come the patterns. Many pre-writing worksheets are available online to download and use. These simple patterns help the child in mastering pencil control and also copying the given patterns independently. This is actually what is required to identify, learn, and write the alphabet.
A few last words on pre-writing skills
Help your children in actively exploring and manipulating their surroundings. Playing, story telling, coloring, all these activities facilitate writing acquisition for your child.