Learning to write is an exciting milestone in children and many parents wonder when and how to teach a child to write. Learning to write begins with learning to scribble. The motor skills involved in writing will develop over time. Most likely your child will read or recognize letters before they can actually write them. Typically between the ages of 3-5 children will develop the motor skills to hold crayon or pencil with enough control to make shapes or color and stay mostly between the lines. Once they are doing that they will move on to writing letters. It is important to remember that there is a wide range in time period of this development, each child is an individual. Be proud of what your child can do and encourage them. Reading and writing are related skills so be sure to visit Learning to Read & How to Encourage Reading. Writing involves many of the same skills as reading plus gross and fine motor skills so it will develop gradually. Teaching a child to write involves patience. As with reading you want to encourage them but don't push them too hard.
Pen and paper or keyboard and printer the skill of writing must be learned. The ability to put thought to paper will gradually develop. From single letters to individual words, from short sentences to long stories and essays, you can help your child. Encourage them to draw from an early age. Provide them with plenty of paper and crayons. Use activity sheets and showcase their work. Whether it is simply hung on the refrigerator or framed and hung on the living room wall, praise your child. Let them know you are proud of what they have created. The road from their early scribbles to their college entrance might seem like a long journey but it will happen quicker than you think.
As your preschooler progresses from scribbles to simple pictures provide them with other materials. When they are ready try letters. Wide lined pages work well, even if you make your own. We also love the wipe off boards for practicing the alphabet and numbers. Visit ABC Home Preschool for a good selection. There are many toys that teach writing and reinforce skills. We have placed some excellent sources in the listings below. In the beginning your child may find it easier to grasp thicker crayons, pencils or markers, others prefer thinner writing tools. Some children need pillows or grip cushions for their pencils. Experiment to find what your child prefers. Try to teach them to hold the pencil in a natural easy grip. Too tight and they will tire easily and their hand may cramp. By letting the skill develop gradually they will be more relaxed and the grip will likely be just right. Start by tracing letters. There are several sources for practice sheets or you can simply make your own. First have the child trace a fully printed letter, than progress to having them write over dashed or dotted letters and next fade away the dots or dashes.
Work on your child's writing skill each day but keep it fun. The goal is to have them practice the skill of writing and make it a daily habit. This is very easy to do. Coloring counts! Gradually add in practicing letters then, words, sentences and so on. Fifteen minutes or so on this activity is plenty and a young preschooler might only spend 5 minutes at coloring or practicing writing the alphabet. Consistently praise your child and don't dwell on the mistakes. As your child matures and is writing sentences let them have a notebook in which they can keep a journal. An important note is if they have a problem with motor skills and cannot write on paper or hold pencil, it is fine to use keyboard. There are several programs that will teach children typing. Teaching a child to type is made fun and easy by using programs geared towards children. Children's typing programs are fun, educational and effective tools for adults and children.
Help them to develop the habit of writing and schoolwork will probably be dealt with a little easier. Communicating thru the written word is a part of everyday life, again whether it is with paper and pen or keyboard and computer. Show them how writing is a part of your everyday life. Whether it's writing for work, writing an email or making a grocery list writing is important. In this section we have spoke mostly about learning to write the letters of the alphabet. In our next section we discuss teaching and encouraging writing in the older child; essays, reports and stories.