The first experiences children have with drawing and writing will shape their writing development as well as their interest and enthusiasm for writing. You can create a home literacy environment that will positively support your child’s early attempts and will help her successfully advance through the often difficult and complex process of beginning writing.
Beginning writing occurs in stages that should be respected and celebrated. Some of these stages include:
- shapes that resemble letters
- random letters written together to resemble a word
- labeling pictures with beginning sounds
- experimenting with different spellings of words
Parents can promote fun and enjoyable writing experiences for all stages of beginning writing with the following ten strategies.
- Create an Inviting Space for Drawing and Writing
Young children need a comfortable and inspiring space that allows them to experiment with drawing and writing. This may include appropriately sized tables and chairs as well as a sturdy work surface. If the lack of space or equipment is an issue, consider creating a cozy area with bean bags, throw pillows, and soft lighting.
- Provide a Variety of Writing Tools
Offer your child the opportunity to experiment with different writing tools such as pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils and chalk. Include magnetic writing surfaces and gel boards if your child has difficulties with the typical writing tools.
- Provide a Variety of Writing Surfaces
Provide an assortment of paper, including large and small sheets of paper, lined and unlined paper, note pads, stationery and envelopes. You might also consider providing other writing surfaces such as a chalkboard, easel, clip board or dry-erase board.
- Allow for Appropriate Drawing and Writing Opportunities
To help your child progress through the stages of writing, provide consistent and varied opportunities for her to draw and write each day or as often as possible.
- Teach by Example
It is very important for young children to see the adults in their lives writing. It sends the message that writing is a form of communication. For this reason, find every opportunity to include your child in the writing process. The next time you make a shopping list, write a letter or model a drawing, invite your child to participate.
- Allow Children the Freedom to Make Choices
Remember…young children should be able to express themselves freely through drawing and writing. Often, we lose sight of that goal and place pressure and high demands on young writers. Each child’s choice to express his or her thoughts, ideas and feelings should be accepted, acknowledged and praised.
- Provide Support and Guidance
Our role in the development of early writing is to provide encouragement and create confidence. Young children require support and guidance. Try these effective techniques:
- provide visual support (pictures or illustrations)
- provide verbal instructions to allow your child to construct an image in multiple steps
- Accept and Acknowledge ALL Attempts at Drawing and Writing
In an effort to create confidence, it is essential to praise your child for her attempts. Do not worry if she forms letters incorrectly or draws the same picture day after day. Your child will begin to expect more from herself and become more confident with increased exposure to writing. Remember… “It’s the process, not the product!”
- Provide Specific Feedback
Make an effort to tell your child what you enjoy about her pictures and stories. This continuous, positive feedback will create a sense of pride and promote her love of writing.
- Allow for Sharing
When she is ready, invite your child to share her work with other family members or friends as an opportunity to discuss her work.