Before children have an understanding of letters, they have often begun to “write” in their own unique way. By putting scribbles, lines, shapes, and drawings onto paper, they have taken the first steps towards recording their ideas and stories–an important step towards literacy. As they learn more about letters and words in print, their doodling becomes more deliberate and their shapes may begin to resemble letters. As a parent, you can help encourage your child to write by making drawing and writing materials–paper, crayons, pencils, and even sidewalk chalk–always available. It’s also a great idea to model writing when completing tasks such as writing a letter, jotting down a To-Do list, and making a list for the grocery store. The more you share your own writing samples and provide enriching opportunities for your kids to write, the easier the transition will be from scribbling and doodling to letters to words.
The following activities are great ways to bring out the writer in your child.
- Grocery Goodies List–Have your child join you in writing a grocery list, either by making her own list or “copying” what’s on your list. Allow her to “write” words using scribbles, shapes, lines, or if she can, with any letters she knows. She can also draw pictures of the items. Then, go shopping! “Read” your lists together when you get to the store. Try writing some other lists together like birthday wish lists or lists of favorite toys.
- Play Restaurant–Throw a menu-making playdate! Have kids create menus for their very own restaurant. Decide on the restaurant’s name and types of foods it will offer. You can help them write what foods the restaurant will offer, or kids can draw or use magazine pictures to help describe and decorate the menu. Then take turns playing customer and waiter/waitress.
- Pen Pals–Help set up a writing friendship for your child. Perhaps he has a friend who moved away, a cousin who lives nearby or maybe you know someone from another country. You can act as your child’s stenographer–let him write about anything he wants. The letters can include drawings, pictures, and stories–anything he wants to share. Review the letters together so he can follow along as you read it. Finally, ask him to help you address the envelope to get it ready to be mailed.
- Sentence Starters–Have fun writing silly sentences with your child. Start out by writing the beginning of a sentence for your child (e.g. “I saw a slithering snake…”) and encourage her to finish the sentence in an equally silly way. It can be as silly as she wants it to be. Then switch to having her start the sentence and you can finish it.