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Activities to Teach Preschool Children How to Write

by Lucie Westminster

Not every child will grow up to be a famous writer like Ernest Hemingway or J. K. Rowling, but writing is a crucial developmental skill for a preschooler. Because of its complexity, it can be difficult for your youngster to master. Promote his writing skills and give your little tike a variety of writing activities that he can do at home. Don’t expect your child to write like Charles Dickens, but he will need to write in preschool and beyond. Prepare your child and set the tone for him to become the writing star of his future classroom.

Grocery Store List

While your toddler may not be able to run to the grocery store for you, she can help write your grocery list. Give her a sheet of paper and ask her to “write” the list to take to the store. When you begin this activity, you likely won’t be able to make out your preschooler’s letters for milk or bread, but over time, her writing skills will improve enough to help you out. It's alright if she starts out only writing the letter "B" for bread because at this age, that is considered "writing." An authentic writing activity like this provides your child with a real-life application for writing and helps her learning process. Added bonus? Because she has her own list to keep track of, she is less likely to have a tantrum in the candy aisle because she is distracted checking off items on her handwritten list.

Sandbox

Nearly every child loves to play in the sand, so use this to your teaching advantage. Take him to a sand box at the park or a give your preschooler a smaller box filled with sand and ask him to write letters or words using his fingers in the sand. Provide your pint-sized writer with a letter of the day, show her to form the letter by guiding his hand in the proper motion and work your way up to a full word as your child becomes more adept at writing. Before you know it, your preschooler will improve handwriting and learn valuable writing skills.

Cards and Letters

Save your own hand from cramping and ask your preschooler to help you write holiday, birthday or thank you cards. Next time grandma sends your child a gift, ask her to write a thank you note or card for the present. While you can't expect a long or well-formulated letter from a preschooler, the drawings, words and letters she incorporates into the note or card help develop her writing skills. Write simple phrases or words like "thank you" or "thanks" using a pencil and ask her to trace the words using a marker. As she traces each letter, repeat its sound to her and say, "That is the letter T. It makes a 'tuh' sound."

Journal

Give your child a chance to record valuable memories in a diary or journal. Purchase an inexpensive unlined notebook and have your preschooler write in her journal every single day. The diary may not contain his secrets or crushes at this age, but daily journal writing benefits your youngster in a variety of ways. Not only are you showing the value and importance of writing by requesting this on a daily basis, but you are improving your child's vocabulary, handwriting and even reading skills through this activity. Encourage your child to first illustrate his entries and further develop art and fine motor skills. Then, as journaling becomes part of your daily routine, ask him to write the initial letter that describes his entry. If he draws himself swimming the pool earlier that day, say, "Swimming starts with the letter S, so why don't you write the letter S for me at the bottom of the page?" If he is unable to do this without assistance, write the letter for him, and ask him to trace it. Before long, your preschooler will begin writing full words that describe his journal entries. Don't worry about spelling here, the point is to encourage letter formation and basic early writing skills.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Lucie Westminster has been a writer and researcher since 1975. Her work has been published in journals such as "Psychological Reports" and "Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior." Westminster's interests include developmental psychology, children, pets and crafting. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Miami University.

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