By: Rose Gonzaga-Tacang
In these modern times where young children have access to gadgets like smartphones, tablets or laptops, it may be difficult to get them started on writing on a piece of paper. Some may even find it easier to memorize the QWERTY keyboard rather than holding a pen!
Here are some mom-tried-and-tested tips that can help you prepare your young child and teach him how to write:
1. Exercise finger and hand muscles.
At age 2 or 3, your child is still developing fine motor skills so you need to focus on building up muscle strength and dexterity. This will improve your child’s grip and help him feel more comfortable when holding a pencil, crayon or any writing instrument.
Some activities that you can do to help exercise his muscles may include playing with soft, squeezable toys like clay, Play-Doh or stress balls, buildable toys like Lego blocks, or peeling off stickers and sticking them on a piece of paper (not your walls!). You can also let him join you while you’re doing house chores, like watering the plants or wiping the dust off furniture.
2. Show him how it’s done!
Don’t just give your child a pencil, demonstrate the proper pencil grip. Also, make sure that he isn’t applying too much pressure – you can notice this when his knuckles turn white or when the paper gets crumpled as he writes. It may take a while for him to get comfortable and he may even get frustrated along the way. You just need to be patient, show him your support, and eventually, he’ll grow accustomed to it.
Getting the right grip is one obstacle to overcome but the most burning question is, how do you get your child to hold a pencil in the first place? I was able to get my toddler to show interest in writing when I let him watch a Youtube video of a child who was writing the alphabet on a piece of paper. This probably sparked his curiosity because from then, it became easier for me to get his attention when it’s time to practice writing. Try it!
3. Don’t rush him into writing letters right away.
As parents, seeing our child achieve another learning milestone is very exciting. But we should always keep in mind that every kid learns at his own pace and we cannot pressure him into writing the alphabet right away.
Children write what they can see or read so you should familiarize your toddler with the alphabet first. Teach him letters by using popsicle sticks or toothpicks, Flashcards, letter blocks, or comparing everyday objects to letters (e.g. a donut looks like an “O,” a string or ribbon can form letters like “S”, “C,” or “U”).
If your child can already identify letters, writing them will come more easily. You should first start with scribbling lines and waves, then transition into drawing other shapes likes squares, triangles, and circles.
4. Write together, first.
Children learn faster by copying so tracing letters is the easiest way to teach your kid to practice writing. Let him trace a letter with his fingers, then after a few tries, let him trace it with a pencil. It’s best to guide your child’s hand at first, then when you feel that he’s ready, let him do it on his own.
Next, you can move up to connecting dots to form letters and numbers. Start by writing your child’s names in dots or light lines and ask him to connect the dots or trace the lines. After this, you can try letting him write his name without tracing but by copying his name.
When you feel that your child can already write letters without copying, try a simple test. Show him a picture, let’s say of a dog, and ask him to write down what letter it starts with. Keep practicing by adding the next letters until you are able to spell out the whole word.
5. Make your home conducive to learning.
Kids find more motivation when surrounded by bright colors and cute writing supplies. Create a spot in your home that will encourage him to write. A nice set of writing table and chair, washable crayons, colored pencils, a magic slate/magnetic drawing board, coloring and tracing books can be some items that you can invest in. You can also buy a set of washable chalk if you would like to take your writing/drawing practice outside your home.
6. Always keep a schedule.
You can have your writing sessions done after TV time. Since kids find it easy to remember names, characters, and other information from watching their favorite TV shows, cartoons or animated movies, it would be much easier to keep their attention and interest in writing down what they have just seen.
Sticking to a definite learning schedule is encouraged as it helps instill good study habits and discipline at an early age. However, you should also allow room for adjustment and flexibility since disruptions or changes in your learning time cannot be avoided.
Teaching your toddler the basics of writing can be challenging so be prepared to have a lot of patience in doing so. You must also think of creative ways to keep him engaged so he wouldn’t reach out for that iPad any time soon during your writing lessons!
Some kids will embrace writing with enthusiasm and excitement while others may be more resistant to even hold that small pencil! At the end of the day, relying on your parental instincts will help you judge whether your child is ready to write or if you should wait a bit more and focus on improving other skills.
Rose Gonzaga-Tacang is a loving mom and wife to two of the most rowdy and hot-headed but most precious males in her life – her son, Luke and her husband, Chris. She has been in the HR profession for more than 10 years and is fondly called as Mommy T by her colleagues. She loves to read and watch movies and is a closet-gamer.