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Steph, a childminder from Stone shares her thoughts on learning to write. 

I am often get asked to get children writing, from their own names to more words as they progress.

However learning to write is a long process and takes time.

A child needs to have learnt fine motor skills before writing comes, before fine motor they need the gross motor skills, (use of whole arm and shoulder etc).

Children can not write until they know how to mark make, draw and exploring with tools and media (paint, shaving foam etc.)

The process of mark making:

Early marks, 

6months plus; as soon as a baby is given crayon and paper a child even baby has the ability to mark make. This is the most fundamental stage.

First they learn how to grasp the crayon, then the hand eye co-ordination to get crayon to paper. Even learnt via putting toy to mouth or picking up toys. All these learning skills are developing the children's arm muscles for starting to scribble. Then the child learns cause and effect skill to around 2 years, knowing putting pen to paper will make marks, banging a toy makes a sound, all part this learning of cause and effect. This takes a long time but is concreating new learning.

Scribble to scribe, 2years plus

This is the process of children learning to scribble to scribing recognisable marks, e.g. lines, letters, shapes and even numbers. This is still a period of experimenting in cause and effects and imitating, the more children see others write and draw the more they will.

From around the age of three children start to grasp the symbolic process of writing, that drawing and marks can stand for objects and words. e.g. child appears to be scribbling but tells you that her, or you. Reading books together and pointing out the words, letters, numbers and more, helps to develop this meaning of writing and drawings.

Here is a sample of how children scribble goes from scribble to writing...  as you can see the first three boxes, children move from general scribbling all over, to then beginning to scribble left to right (as we would read) to then forming more recognisable e.g. shapes, number, some letter and more.

writing

As children learn through these stages they will experiment with different marks, and start to imitate writing e.g. may do up and down zig zag lines that may represent their name.

These early stages of drawing are all key to a child learning to write their name or even just letters from their name.

There are many ways in which you can help your child develop and grow through these stages to start the writing process, however please remember every child is different they all learn at different rate and even within the Early Years Framework which covers your child until age of 5, these documents are guideline not a set "criteria" e.g. there no criteria to stipulate that your child needs to be able to write their own name by the age of 4.

I was taught and always believed a child needs to be able to recognise, hear and see, print and letters before able to forms them within writing.

Here are some tips to help develop scribing and writing at home and other places. gross and fine motor skills too.

*Read to your child. They need to see letters before forming them.

*Sky writing - moving arms and finger around in the air to make shapes and letters

*Allow children to see you write on pen and paper, role modelling if a great influence.

*Make letter, shapes and numbers in variety of media e.g. damp sand, paint, shaving foam etc.

*Making coping letter, have their names written out on laminate and give a child a white board pen, then they can copy over the top of their name and feel what movements are needed and re copy.

*Talk while writing, giving key words like curly caterpillar as you go around a C or long ladder to go up the L, one armed robot for the r. These are the patterns that introduce children to formal writing. as I have read in gateway to writing - developing handwriting.

*Allow children to use a variety of shaped and sized mark making materials e.g. think paint brushes and fat outdoor chalk. different paper, lined small, large, plain etc

*Allow your child to explore and play with marks, letters, number shapes

Your child will start to learn the writing basics at school, however early starting is paramount, a interest in drawing and mark making from a early age will give the stepping stones to more progression.

You need to send a message to children early that learning to write is a fun thing to do. I am not a great believer that children will learn a lot via work books, sheets, although some do prefer these but not even mine did until later age. These can sometimes restrict children curiosity, weaking relationships with you and they need to be able to read to really get the most out of these.

Although you can print help sheets like pencil control, dot to dot letters etc, but you child needs the foundation mark making to gain from these.

Your child will have to be able to recognise their name in print before writing it. Let them have fun with marks and drawing, they will have years and years of writing their name at school.

Hopefully you have found this blog helpful. If you have any queries please comment.

Some useful links are here too. As well as links to formal guidelines schools and Early years setting read.

scribble to scribe

literacy trust

gateway to developing handwriting

what to expect when

To find out more about Steph's Childminding Services visit her wesbite

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