October 2023 Newsletter – Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood: Prewriting Activities for Preschoolers

Prewriting Activities for Preschoolers

As children mature, they continue to enjoy many of the same materials and activities that are included on the list of suggested activities for infants and toddlers.  In many cases, the materials can be adapted to meet the developmental needs of the children.  For example, in a preschool classroom, various sizes of interlocking blocks should be available to ensure that children can practice building with materials that match their abilities.

Teachers may choose to add firmer clay to the play dough options made available to children.  Teachers can introduce more advanced dance moves, finger plays, and games that promote the refinement of motor skills.

Here are some activity ideas that can be incorporated into a preschool environment.

  • Class chores – Chores require specific fine motor skills while they build a sense of community and responsibility. Children can squeeze sponges before wiping tables with soapy water. They can strengthen coordination skills when they sweep around the sensory table. They can build hand strength by opening clothes pins to hang up smocks.
  • Threading and lacing – Older children may show interest in lacing cards or threading beads. Both activities promote fine motor development and hand-eye coordination.
  • Stress balls – Early learning environments can become stressful, especially if children are not given strategies to relieve their stress. Squeezing stress balls is an outlet for stress and a great way to strengthen hand muscles.
  • Infinity sign games– The infinity sign resembles the number 8 laid on its side. Teachers can create a poster or file folder game that encourages children to trace the shape of the infinity sign with a marker or toy vehicle.  The goal is to make the sign large enough that the children must cross the midline of their body while tracing the shape.  Teachers can also create large, simple mazes that children can solve.
  • Novel materials – To promote interest in writing, introduce a variety of materials that can be used for writing. Chalk, glitter markers, neon crayons, and safely-scented finger paint can draw children’s interest better than a standard pencil.
  • Sandpaper and other textures – When children begin to recognize shapes, letters, and numbers, teachers can create homemade sets using textured materials. For example, teachers could post the alphabet made out of sandpaper on the back of a shelf.  Children can be encouraged to trace the letters with their fingers.  They could also match letters made out of felt to the letters made out of sandpaper, sticking them to the back of the shelf once they find a match.  Store the felt letters in a zip-sealed bag to give children another opportunity to practice fine motor skills when they open and close the bag.

Again, there is no shortage of ideas that build prewriting skills available on the internet or in published curriculum products.  Know that it is not necessary to purchase a special handwriting curriculum, especially if you have created a print-rich environment and support spontaneous writing opportunities.

Most children are interested in writing the letters of their name first, so be sure to customize your instruction to reflect this fact.  Capitalize on the interests of the children and expose them to lots of opportunities to make their mark.

Recognize effort, not perfection.  Provide models for children to follow, but know that they do not have the skills to copy words exactly as you can.  That will come with practice. You will need to adjust your expectations based on the developmental levels of the children in your care.  And in many cases – you will need to help children adjust their expectations – writing is a skill that takes time to develop so help children recognize how far they have come in their writing efforts.

To learn more, consider this resource.

 

For the main article Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood, CLICK HERE

For the article The Development of Writing Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Infants and Toddlers, CLICK HERE

October 2023 Newsletter – Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood: Prewriting Activities for Infants and Toddlers

Prewriting Activities for Infants and Toddlers

In the early years, caregivers should be filling the learning environment with opportunities for children to explore materials with their hands.  This will ensure that they are developing the fine motor skills required to grasp and manipulate writing tools when the appropriate time arises.  Writing instruction is not developmentally appropriate for children of this age, however, there are many engaging activities children can try.  Here are just a few:

  • Encourage scribbling – It may seem wasteful, but having access to crayons and paper is extremely important for the development of writing skills.
  • Provide finger foods – Picking up finger food is a motivating way to strengthen hand grip!
  • Playdough activities – Encourage children to squeeze, pound, roll, and pinch dough to strengthen muscle coordination.
  • Dancing – Dancing increases core strength and promotes crossing the midline of the body. Add ribbons and model new moves for children to try.
  • Finger-plays – Games and songs that encourage children to move their fingers in specific ways can build strength and coordination.
  • Cutting practice – Younger children are probably not ready to cut full sheets of paper but they can snip small pieces of paper, straws, dough, and other materials that are suitable for their small fingers. Adaptive scissors that spring open may make this task easier for young learners.
  • Building blocks and manipulatives – There’s a wide variety of blocks and manipulatives on the market, including puzzles, sorting/stacking items, and interlocking blocks.
  • Dress up – Providing clothes for dolls and for the children to wear promotes self-help skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Novel materials – Introduce interesting materials that promote fine motor development such as tongs, clothes pins, and tweezers. Many of these products have been redesigned for little hands, and in some cases, the actual items will be appropriate for young children to use.
  • Sensory table activities – Be sure to include tools for stirring, scooping, pouring, and sifting.

There are endless ideas for promoting fine motor development available online and likely in the curriculum used by your program.  Regardless of the activity or materials used, be sure to incorporate and honor children’s interests. Children should not be forced to participate in these activities.  Instead, follow the child’s lead.  Uncover the items or topics that the child is interested in and design engaging activities that incorporate fine motor skills practice.

For the main article Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood, CLICK HERE

For the article The Development of Writing Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Preschoolers, CLICK HERE

October 2023 Newsletter – Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood: Prewriting Skills

Prewriting Skills

There are several skills children need to acquire to be ready to write.  To be able to copy the common lines and shapes that form letters and numbers, children must have the following skills:

  • Trunk strength – The ability to hold one’s head and chest in an upright position so that the arms, wrists, and fingers can move unencumbered.
  • Visual skills – The ability of the eyes to see and the brain to process visual stimuli.
  • Grasping – the ability to hold and manipulate objects with their hands. Here is a great resource to learn more about grasp development.
  • Hand dominance – Identifying hand preference as demonstrated with consistent use for tasks such as drawing and using utensils.
  • Muscle strength – The ability to push on a writing tool with enough force to make a mark.
  • Crossing the midline of the body – The ability to move one’s hand across the imaginary line that runs down the body, creating the left and right sides.
  • Hand-eye coordination – The ability to move the hands where desired based on the visual stimuli entering the brain.
  • Alphabet knowledge – Familiarity with the shapes and sounds of letters.
  • Self-regulation – Writing requires children to focus attention and manage frustration, which requires a level of self-regulation or executive function.
  • Self-confidence and persistence – If a child feels insecure about their work, they may be less likely to engage in writing activities.

 

For the main article Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood, CLICK HERE

For the article The Development of Writing Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Infants and Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Preschoolers, CLICK HERE

October 2023 Newsletter – Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood: The Development of Writing Skills

The Development of Writing Skills

As with other areas of child development, the ability to write builds over time.  Writing is a skill that each child learns at their own pace. Some children show interest in writing earlier than others, which could be influenced by older siblings or being around other children who are writing. Some children are developmentally more mature than other children.  In some cases, children are just more interested and motivated to write than other children.

There are also a number of factors that contribute to writing readiness, which we cover in the section entitled Prewriting Skills.  The information that follows describes the general path of the development of writing skills, specifically.

A child’s scribbling is the very first step in the development of writing skills.  These seemingly unimportant marks on paper are the beginning of an important journey.  To scribble, a child needs to be able to grasp a crayon and move their arm in different directions.  As the child’s grasp strengthens and matures, they will gain better control of the crayon and be able to make more intentional marks.  The same is true when you consider the slow transition from whole-arm scribbles to scribbles made with controlled hand and wrist movements.

By the age of three, adults should notice that children’s scribbles and drawings include horizontal and vertical lines, as well as circles.  As children’s strength and coordination develop, they begin to add new strokes and shapes to their repertoire, including diagonal lines, plus signs, and squares.

By the time a child is 4-6 years old, they should be able to copy straight lines, diagonal lines, circular lines, intersecting lines (X and +), and connect lines to form shapes (squares and triangles).  The ability to create and copy these lines and shapes is an indication that they are ready to create the shapes of letters and numbers.

Indications that a child is not ready to write include:

  • The inability to form the shapes and lines described above.
  • Avoiding or refusing to write or draw.
  • Immature hand grasp.
  • Difficulty with other fine motor skills, such as manipulating small toys and utensils.

When this is the case, adults can take a step back and provide the child with learning opportunities that strengthen hand coordination and strength, which are covered in the activity sections of this newsletter.

 

For the main article Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Infants and Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Preschoolers, CLICK HERE

October 2023 Newsletter – Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood

Prewriting Skills in Early Childhood

It is safe to say that most young children are fascinated with the power that comes from wielding a crayon and making their mark on the world (and tables, walls, etc.).  The ability to communicate ideas, feelings, and knowledge through the written word is both challenging and extremely rewarding for young children.

When most people think about how children learn to write, they might imagine children sitting at tables with freshly sharpened pencils and paper, maybe even tracing worksheets or handwriting workbooks.  The truth is, from the first scribble a child makes on paper, they are building a foundation upon which future writing skills will be built.

In early learning environments, we recognize that being ready to learn to write requires strength and coordination that begin to develop years before children write discernable letters and words. It is a given that children need to know the letters of the alphabet in order to write, but before children even have an understanding of what a letter is, they are practicing the other skills required to be successful writers.  These skills are called prewriting skills and in this month’s newsletter, we will focus our attention on what early learning programs can do to strengthen prewriting skills to ensure children are ready to write when the appropriate time comes.

 

For the article The Development of Writing Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Skills, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Infants and Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Prewriting Activities for Preschoolers, CLICK HERE