As summer holidays draw to a close and you start thinking about a return to school or perhaps school for the first time, you may wonder how your active, bouncy, lively child will ever sit down, hold a pencil and write. Not to mention construct coherent sentences on paper. My little girl is getting to that age and I have started making a conscious effort to encourage & nurture in her the love of writing and storytelling. 

There is so much for a child to think about when learning to write - the formation and spacing of letters on the page,  grammar and spelling, thinking of interesting words and then putting them together in sentences that flow. It’s no wonder we don’t find it easy. 

But there are lots of things you can do to prepare your child for writing without even picking up a pencil or pen - reading, talking, sharing stories all help as well as arts and crafts activities.

  Here’s how:

1. Share books with your child. Don’t just read the words. Talk about the pictures, what’s over the page, ask questions. Mention favourite books or stories when you’re not looking at them, so they're part of your child’s world and life. 

2. Tell stories and listen to their stories. Ask for details about the characters - what are their names? How old are they? Encourage the development of their imaginative worlds. Ask what happened next and what happened in the end. 

3. Give them fiddly things to do, such as playing with small bricks or magnets, cutting and sticking, threading and other craft activities. They all help with fine motor skills, which in turn will make holding a pencil easier when they are ready. Activities which help strengthen finger grip are good too such as squeezing pegs to hang out washing or using tweezers in a sorting game.

Rainbow Sorting Game

4. Write for them. When they come up with ideas, say “that would make a brilliant story, let’s write it down.” Or “I must write that down so we can remember it.” Be their scribe and you’ll be amazed at the words, worlds and wonders they invent. 

5. Value their writing. This starts with their very first attempts at conscious mark making - whether they tell you it’s writing or a picture, find a space on your wall to display their work. And when they start writing stories, offer to type them up. They’ll see their words valued and soon want to add more.

6. Write with purpose. Ask them to write a shopping list or a recipe for a concoction they’re making in the mud kitchen; ‘keep out’ signs for their room or labels for a rock collection; a wish list or a letter to the fairy that lives at the bottom of the garden. If they know their writing isn’t going to be read by a person, it may take the pressure off. 

7. Have the tools they need. Give them a notebook and tell them they can write whatever they like in there - no one will see, read or judge it. It is theirs to experiment. Pencils that are easy to hold will help too, such as the Lyra range which are triangular shaped. Have plenty of sharpeners and rubbers available too. 

Lyra Pencils

8. Notice words and their uses. Talk about printed words in your child’s environment - instructions for games, signs when out and about, recipes or ingredients on food packaging. Cut up words from newspapers and magazines and get your child to put them together in funny phrases and sentences.

9. Create a writing toolbox so that children can take everything they need out and about or into the garden or wherever they need to write. Put little notebooks and pencils with their toys and always have them handy in your bag. Let them write on different sizes of paper or card and with different types of pens as well as pencils.

10. Make a book. Fold up some paper and staple. Keep it simple with not too many pages. Your child will enjoy creating a cover, numbering the pages, drawing and writing in it. When it’s done, put it on the bookshelf with your child’s favourite books. 

Find out more
Book Trust 
National Literacy Trust
Making Their Mark - Children’s Early Writing 
Ministry of Stories Resources for Teachers  

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