Writing is a uniquely human activity; and therefore, a wonder to watch develop.

For your child to write, he or she must develop a sophisticated collection of cognitive, fine and gross motor, and language skills. While reading is an important means of understanding other people’s ideas, writing becomes an important way for children to understand what they think. Surprisingly, writing is not generally encouraged in young children as much as reading. Friends and family give gifts of books more often than gifts of writing supplies. As a result, your role in encouraging good written communication skills is crucial.

Make a conscious decision to provide your child with the materials, time, and encouragement to become an effective writer. Here are some typical developmental patterns in written language development and some ways to foster its growth:

Age Writing Milestones Ways to Participate
Toddler Developing the fine and gross motor skills to draw circles.

Developing the cognitive skills to attach symbols (letters and words) to objects.

Around 24 months may recognize their name in writing.

Encourage your child to draw large circles.

Provide materials such as fat crayons, chubby paint brushes, and large pieces of paper when your child draws.

Display your child’s scribbles and circles.

Begin to collect samples of your child’s writing in a portfolio.

3-4 year olds Composes unique circular scribbles to represent their name.

Repeats the same marks over and over.

Scribbles and attempts to write.

Scribbles and tells what was written.

Label some of your child’s things (such as books, cups, coats and toys) with his name.

Continue to display and collect artifacts of your child’s drawing.

4-5 year olds Realizes that marks look different and can have different meanings.

Begins writing letters of sorts and developing the ability to write their name.

Tries to copy words.

“Reads” his/her own writing.

Give your child lots of notebooks to mark.

Teach your child to write words that include the letters of his or her name.

Do not worry about the direction or grouping letters. As your child nears mastery in name writing, you will see advances in the areas of spacing, letter order, and speed of writing.

As your child nears his/her first day of school, bring out his/her drawing/writing portfolio and help him to see just how much he/she has accomplished to become a writer.

Keep in mind that language develops in various ways and at various speeds. Therefore, if other children the same age show signs of more advanced development, you do not need to be overly concerned. However, be sure to discuss any observations about possible delays with your pediatrician to be sure that an intervention is not needed.

Re-posted/printed with permission by Anne Oxenreider writing for Sixty Second Parent. Sixty Second Parent website provides early childhood information for busy parents and educators.


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