The beginning of writing for children comes with the understanding that what we are writing down are words and that words come from what we say. In effect a child starts to write the minute she understands that writing is talking on paper. Once this realization is in place, the writing can begin. However, the child is still a long way off from penning out a perfect sentence, there are many stages to explore before that happens.

Anyone who is a parent or guardian of a preschooler has probably had the privilege of a young interior designer re-decorating the walls, leather couch, cream curtains or any number of furnishings with crayon, pen, paint, you name it. To make you feel better these are the first stages of writing. Those wavy lines and bunched up scribbles are to be encouraged, just on paper and not the furniture. Never underestimate the importance of those squiggles.

The importance of squiggles: Adult squiggles are very interesting

Children watch and emulate. They think adult squiggles and very interesting. You may think writing down a shopping list, or a note to someone is just another chore, but your child will watch you and you will find yourself presented with drawings that contain “writing.” Your little one can get quite intolerant when you aren’t able to discern the difference between the picture and the writing, after all you should know what writing is. The squiggles turn into rows of favourite squiggles, some squiggles bigger, and others smaller. Your preschooler has noticed and is observing the methodology of writing. Encourage your preschooler to write and make a space for him to do so.

As you progress you can begin to make marks to define syllables of words. For example, ‘crocodile’ 3 marks would be drawn. The clapping method also works. Clapping out the syllables of your child’s name. Then comes the big step of learning her own name. It is probably the best word to start with and letters in her name will be learned quickly and then be identified in other words. One favourite is writing words down so your child can copy them. This may seem tedious because all of a sudden he has the attention span of a brain surgeon, and you are writing down words for the whole world for him to copy, but its is a fascinating time in the world of learning.

At this point you can also help your little one sound out the words, and allocate sounds to letters. Letter magnets on the fridge as well as chalk boards in areas of the house where you spend time are a good idea.

Early writing: Stages of writing development

The Texas center for reading and language arts has pioneered the following stages of writing development:

  • Begins with drawing
  • Scribbling where children learn the difference between writing and drawing. Children in this stage also try to mimic letters and words in their scribbles
  • They now produce forms that begin to look like letters
  • They write actual letters and string them together in sequences or strings
  • They begin to spell phonetically
  • They begin to spell conventionally