When is a Good Time for Preschool Children To Learn How to Write?
If you asked me if my young clients (preschool children) should be learning how to write their names by the age of 3? I would say, PLEASE! No, thank you!
When it comes to writing, earlier doesn't always mean "better". The truth is that while society pushes our kids to start writing their names at a very early age, preschool children are simply not psychologically or physically ready to be able to do so.
One of the reasons why early writing skills are not advisable is because they rely heavily on fine motor skills. Unfortunately, we push our children to do a task that their bodies are NOT able to do because the parts of their bodies are not yet fully developed. Essentially, the muscles in their hands and fingers are not yet strong enough to produce neat and legible letters.
This is why many preschoolers struggle with writing tasks - their handwriting is often messy and difficult to read. In some cases, it can even be hard for them to hold a pencil correctly! During the process, this can lead to frustration or in some cases, pain in their hands or fingers.
In order to develop good writing skills, children need to have strong gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and cognitive development.
What is the first skill to help them with writing? Gross Motor Skills?
Gross motor skills are great options to start because children generally love to do them. These are the bigger movements that we use our whole body to perform a task.
Some activities that can help develop gross motor skills:
Jumping on a trampoline or simply jumping up and down.
Dancing to songs.
Running on the field.
Riding a bike, scooter, or any other moving toy.
Rolling a ball back and forth.
Climbing on the jungle gym or any other type of playground equipment.
These activities will help develop the muscles in the arms and legs, which can be beneficial for writing.
What about fine motor skills?
Fine Motor Skills are the skills we use to do things with our hands. They are skills to do activities like writing, drawing, and using tools.
These skills can be improved through natural play activities like coloring, drawing, and playing with puzzles and blocks. So before pushing your child to start writing, make sure that they have a strong foundation in their fine motor skills as that will translate to writing.
Other activities to develop strong fine motor skills:
Playing with play dough as that will strengthen their arms and fingers.
Getting dressed by themselves.
Playing with small items that require control, and eye-hand coordination.
Beads to string or similar movements.
Reading (or simply turning the pages of a book) as the task requires finger manipulation.
Folding paper or pasting items on the paper.
Holding small foods and eventually eating those foods.
Building with blocks or any other small objects.
Fine motor is all about using the small muscle groups in order to carry out specific activities. Developmentally, it's about finding age-appropriate activities that will allow the child to strengthen those muscles.
Other skills that can help with writing - Cognitive skills?
In addition to motor skills, cognitive skills are also important for writing. These actions include attention span, memory, and focus.
Cognitive skills can be improved through activities like:
Puzzles that will get the attention of the child.
Matching games will get them to think about what items to match.
Memory games allow them to focus on specific items.
"Simon Says" makes them focus on the task at hand.
"I Spy" makes them curious and pay attention to the world around them.
These activities will help improve their attention span and focus, both of which are important for writing.
Where do you start?
Start with gross motor skills because they are the bigger movements that use our whole body to perform a task. That means letting children be children and supporting their development.
Let children be free and support them in playing on the playground as this has huge advantages to writing. For example, the monkey bars strengthen the child's hands.
Then, move on to fine motor skills because they are the skills we use to do things with our hands and fingers.
Be creative! You don't need a pen and paper to teach a child to read or write. Use finger paint, shaving cream, sand, or other resources to teach!
Writing will come in time, but imagine how much ground you can cover by being creative and "playing" with your child when it comes to academic work, specifically by teaching the child about letters without having to write letters with pencil and paper.
Remember, learning is not always done in the classroom and children imitate and play. That's how they learn. Therefore, take advantage of their imagination and movement and use it to your advantage. Writing will develop at the right time and you can play an integral part in that development! Just wait until they're ready, and in the meantime, play, have fun, and do informal learning, the best way to learn!