Did you know that the stronger a child is in reading, the better writer they will be? Also the more children write, the better they become in reading.
Writing is a challenging skill, but one that we need in our daily lives. While you might think writing is something that a child begins in school, fostering the development of these skills at a young age before that can help your child’s success in school. It also helps develop skills as a writer, too.
Writing doesn’t need to be a chore or another huge task that you do each day. Instead make writing fun! If your child wants to do more, provide those opportunities. If your child gets discouraged, back off for a day or so. Take the lead from them.
Here are ways that will both encourage and develop writing skills.
- Writing Corner. Find in a place in your home to set up a table and chair for your child. Make a “writing bin” and fill it with things like:
- fat and thin pencils
- pens and markers of different sizes and colors
- different paper (e.g., plain, lined, construction, newsprint-size, index cards, etc.)
- dry erase board, marker and eraser
- scissors and glue
- ribbon and yarn
- Be a role model. Let your child see you write, whether it’s a grocery list, a thank you card or to-do list. While you are writing, tell them what you are doing.
- Make a book. This can be done with children of all ages. Children can design a book cover, write a story (or you take their dictation) and illustrate it. The book can be bound in soft or hard cover at places like Shutterfly.
- Make writing authentic.
- Write notes. Offer your child assistance he needs to thank someone for a gift or something special. For the very young child, he can dictate the note to you and sign it at the bottom. Or surprise your child with a sweet note in his lunch box. Don’t be surprised when he sends a note back to you.
- Make the grocery list. Get your child involved by asking her what she would like on your shopping trip and have her write it down. If your child is younger and can’t write words, ask her to draw a picture instead and you can write the word underneath it. For older children, they may be able to write the sounds they hear in the word. Tip: If your child takes the time to write something for the list, it is important that you purchas some or all of what she writes.
For younger children
- Name writing. Children love to write their names! For the very young child, write her name in big letters and have her decorate it with markers, ribbon, or something else you choose. As the child gets older, have her write her name in as many ways and colors as they can. Elementary school children can practice their name in printing, cursive, large and small letters.
- Window painting. Don’t worry parents, it’s fun and easy to clean up. You can either buy window crayons (Crayola makes them) or make your own paint. In a plastic cup, mix two parts washable tempera paint and one part dish soap. Put a drop cloth on the floor or do this activity outside. Children can practice letters, numbers, their name, words or illustrations. Clean up with water.
- Glue tracing. This is an excellent pre-writing activity. Using a bold marker, write letters or your child’s name on a sheet of construction paper. Use larger letters for younger children, decreasing size as they get older. Have the child trace the letter with colored glue. When it dries, children will see their writing in that color; it will also be raised so children use their fingers to trace over to feel the letter and how it is formed.
- Letter rubber stamps. Purchase letter stamps and stamp pads. Have your child stamp the letters, their name or a message to someone they love.
- Shaving cream. Forming letters and numbers is extra special with shaving cream.
- Salt/sand trays. Place salt or sand on a tray or cookie sheet and encourage your child to correctly form their letters and numbers. You can get colored sand to make it more fun. The best part about salt and sand: A little shake of the tray makes it ready to start again.
For older children
- Let’s pretend. On a piece of cardboard, have your child paint a sign for the name of a restaurant. On a folded sheet of large paper, have your child design a menu cover. Inside, write a list of the items that they will sell in the restaurant. To push it farther, give the items a price that they would see it for. You can even give your child a notepad and have them take orders from anyone willing to play along.
- Sentence formation. Start with five or six words. Write one word a piece on a small piece of paper, 3″ x 5″ card, or popsicle stick. Have your child read the words and use the words to make a sentence. You can increase the amount of words as their skills increase.
- Write from photos. Young writers are most comfortable writing about themselves and things that they’ve done. Print some of your vacation, holiday or special pictures and have them available for your child to write about. A young child can dictate their story and as they get older, they can write for themselves. Start with a sentence and as time goes by, encourage your children to add another. Little do they know, as children get better, they have more to say.
- Write a comic. Use dialog bubbles for the characters to speak. Comics are fun as the child writes a limited amount and gets to illustrate, too.
- Write a play or TV show. Starting with two characters, write a short script with a beginning, middle and end. This can be a difficult thing to ask of a child. One way to make it easier is to have your child write one sentence and you write the next. You can also do a family journal: Keep a spiral notebook out and have someone write in it each day. Starting at the beginning of a notebook and going to the next page each day is fun, but you and your child will see their progress in letter and size formation, as well as length and complexity of his writing.
– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.