Whether your child is just beginning to explore letters or is on the way to writing sentences, here are some ideas to help encourage a love of writing.
When children are learning how to form letters, they can begin by simply using their index finger. Model how to make the letters in the air or on someone’s back. Use language to help them remember how to make the letters, like “around and down” to make an “a.” For more practice, and more fun, provide children with a variety of materials to make letters. They can practice in the sand, on salt trays, or with hair gel in a sealed baggie. There are also many tablet apps that focus on printing, with some specifically supporting correct directionality when forming letters.
When children are learning to recognize and print letters, you can introduce them to lots of different writing tools, aside from the traditional paper and pencil. Get out water and paintbrushes and let them “paint” letters outside on the driveway. Sidewalk chalk is another great option for writing outside. Mini whiteboards and markers are also a fun way for kids to practice writing. And if they’re finding some letters tricky, try printing them with a highlighter then letting your child trace over them with a pencil or marker.
Magnetic letters are a fun way for children to explore letters and can be used to practice a variety of skills. Have your child sort the letters in different ways, according to where he’s at in his development. For example, you could ask him to find all the ‘t’s, to look for the first letter in his name, or to locate all the uppercase letters. If he’s just beginning to recognize a few letters, start with a small group of them so he doesn’t become overwhelmed.
For children who are ready to start writing words, ask them to use the magnetic letters to make their name or other words they are familiar with like “mom,” “dad,” or a sibling’s name. If they can make a few simple three-letter words, start introducing them to rhyming. For example, ask them to make “cat,” then model how changing just the first letter to an “h” makes “hat.” See if they can come up with some more rhyming words.
In addition to the act of playing, the letters will feel different in his hands. The letter ‘x’ isn’t going to feel exactly the same as the letter ‘a’. While he may not start out knowing what the letters are, his senses will be cataloging what he sees and feels.
A great way to help cultivate a love of writing is to show your child how to make books. It doesn’t have to be complicated and can simply be a few blank pages stapled together. Beginning writers can draw pictures to tell a story, demonstrating a growing understanding of beginning, middle, and end. As they develop their writing skills, they can label their pictures and eventually move on to writing a sentence on each page to help tell their story. You can even give them sentence stems to use in their books like “I like to…” or “I can…”
To provide real-life writing opportunities, let your child fill out her birthday invitations or Valentine’s cards. Maybe she can add a few items to your grocery list. He might enjoy writing letters to a family member, and it’s even better if he receives a response! Encourage her to make cards for family or friends to celebrate special occasions. Kids can even make name cards for each spot at the dinner table. Participating in these authentic activities let kids practice their writing skills as they take on an important “helper” role.
As your child is developing her writing skills, take note of how she holds her pencil. Using Noggins is the perfect way to help her develop a proper grip and to have even more fun with her writing. While other grips only fit certain pencils, Noggins can be used on a variety of writing tools, including markers and crayons. They may even inspire your child to write her first book about her favorite Noggin! If you’re interested in learning more, the Nogginsland Team can come out to your facility, store, or event to demonstrate and play! Visit www.facebook.com/nogginslandOT/services for more information.
Brought to you by: NOGGINSLAND
Written by: Erin Agnello
Edited & Designed by: Jamie Schmalenberger
Images & Graphics by: Brgfx / Freepik
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.