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Tips for Teaching Preschoolers to Write

Tips for Teaching Preschoolers to Write

My 8-year-old daughter was born with a pencil in her hand. From a very young age, she was naturally drawn to writing, drawing, and other creative arts that use writing instruments. My 3-year-old son, however, is not particularly interested in picking up a marker, crayon, or pencil. Where his preschool classmates are starting to create meaningful marks, his drawings are mostly scribbles done in a few seconds before moving onto a preferred preschool activity such as building and pretend play. Although I try not to compare, there is a tiny bit of me that fears how this disinterest in writing will be a challenge once he is off to Kindergarten. Luckily, I learned through some research, especially this article on Blue Mango, that there are ways to prepare kids for writing that have nothing to do with actually picking up a writing instrument. Better yet, I’m actually doing some of these already – phew!

(Nontraditional) Tips for Teaching Preschoolers to Write

Give kids opportunity to do things for themselves. Self-help skills are great in so many ways but I never considered the benefits from a writing perspective. Activities such as spreading butter on bread, peeling clementines, opening and filling water bottles, and putting on socks help kids to strengthen muscles and build the dexterity that aids in writing.

Stock up on all kinds of creative supplies – not just writing instruments. I’m relieved to learn that hole punching, using scissors, and playing with playdough also help kids to build the fine motor skills and strength they’ll need to write. Other suggestions I’ve found include: sculpting with clay, making jewelry or beading, cardboard box activities, painting and using chalk.

Building with Legos, Lincoln Logs, and other building toys. Like above, building toys help children improve their fine motor skills as they maneuver the pieces into place. Unstructured building toys also foster creativity which kids can tap into later when they start drawing and writing on their own. In fact, my school-age daughter loves to write and illustrate her own books and I attribute that to many hours of unstructured play.

Unstructured outdoor play. I’ve been following some occupational therapists on social media recently and their reports about the benefits of playgrounds and unstructured outdoor play. I never made the connection to writing until I read this quote from Angela Hanscom, founder of TimberNook, “In order to have good fine motor skills, you really need a strong sense of body awareness and overall strength in order to support more fine motor work.” There’s nothing better than the great outdoors and free-form play for building strength and body awareness. I’m so glad to learn that sending my son outside to play is helping with his ability to write.

I’m also lucky to have a team of preschool teachers who have the patience to guide Owen on his journey towards becoming a writer. In fact, I’m seeing a lot more interest from Owen recently in using traditional writing instruments and even making more structured marks. I would love to hear more ideas for encouraging and teaching preschoolers to write.

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6 comments

  1. marisol March 12, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Thanks for the info. Really useful. I am in the exactly same situation by having an older daughter and smaller son with the same situation. He loves doing all the other activities you have mention but in the end…I am concerned on knowing when he is going to start writing?? Any suggestion?

  2. Amy

    Amy March 20, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    I’m glad the information is useful. To answer your question on “when”, every child really is unique and have their own timelines. Some kids will progressively start writing a little bit here and there. Others will not pick up a writing instrument and then, one day, just do it. Like many other things (ahem – potty training for us), you can’t really force it if the child is not ready. Maybe offer frequent opportunities to do fine motor activities and writing will come. A cool idea that my son’s preschool teacher did recently was write a letter on a full-size piece of paper and, then, had the kids use scissors to cut them. Let us know how he progresses!

  3. Stephan Bashkir April 24, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    These are some great ideas for teaching little ones how to write. Creativity is in abundance in small children, so it’s important to capture that in any way possible. By doing so, you can divert that energy into writing with some very gentle instruction.

  4. Long Island preschool June 25, 2015 at 1:42 am

    Various different activities are very important for kids intellectual development. They learn many new things like when they are in art , children try to be creative and discover new things.Playing with play-dough helping kids to build fine motor skills.Other activities like painting, sculpting improves their concentration.

  5. Avery Grey December 16, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    My two twin boys are going to be starting preschool in the fall and they both have taken a liking to painting and making shapes. I have been working with them and they both know how to write their names now! I am really excited to see how much they excel in school and see what else they can learn. I think that introducing creativity into a child’s life can be really beneficial to their learning process!

  6. Aria Wellington February 18, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I really love your tip about getting kids out on the playgrounds more! My nephew will be starting preschool in the fall and I am always looking for excuses to babysit. My sister is looking at different places and is doing a lot of research to find a good preschool. My nephew is a really bright kid and I think he will really enjoy school and reading!

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