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.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published in 2015 and has since been updated.
More on Reading and Writing
- Writing is not only a practical skill that all children need to master to succeed in school, but it’s also an amazing way to express feelings and creativity. Here are some ways to encourage your child’s writing.
- Get recommended children’s books and reading activities to foster early literacy at home.
- Read more posts about reading, writing and language and posts about preschool from the Family Room bloggers.