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Alphabet Writing Exercises for Toddlers

by Erica Loop

As your ever-curious toddler constantly explores her world, she's also becoming more interested and aware of words she sees adults print and how she can try to make them. Although your toddler doesn't yet have the fine motor skills to pen the entire alphabet, she can get a jump start on pre-writing by scribbling and engaging in artistically playful activities with markers, crayons or paints.

Exploring and Experimenting

Instead of handing a plain old No. 2 pencil over to your toddler -- he can wait until the grade school years to stick to the less creative ways of letter writing -- give him an artsy array of utensils and tools to try out. The education experts at the national early childhood organization Zero to Three suggest encouraging your child to explore with different art materials as means to develop alphabet writing skills. For example, give him thick crayons, markers or finger paints and help him to create drawings that will later -- as he develops better motor control and the ability to create real letters during the preschool years -- turn into alphabet-style writing. Avoid telling your toddler that he is wrong or forcing him to use one specific writing tool. Allow him to explore the different utensils and experiment with the ways in which he can make marks.

Scribbling to Lines

Take advantage of the toddler-time transition from random scribbling -- which typically goes from 15- to 30-months-old -- more controlled scribbles and making lines and patterns, helping your little learner to set the stage for writing the alphabet. Although your toddler may not have the ability to write actual letters, by 30-months, according to Zero to Three, she should have the skill-set to create lines, curves and other components of letters. Have her write repeated lines, trying to connect them with curves or dashes. Compare them to real letters that you write to start her on the road to writing the alphabet.

Keeping Control

Writing the alphabet takes fine motor control that young toddlers don't always have. That said, by the end of the toddler years -- roughly age 3 -- most kids, according to the pediatric pros at PBS Parents, can make simple letters such as X's and O's. Get your toddler ready to make these types of purposeful marks by helping him to develop fine motor control. Practice holding a crayon or pencil with an index finger and thumb grip or holding the paper tight underneath his writing utensil. Even if your child doesn't make a "real letter," he can hold the writing tool to get the practice that he needs to build up his hand muscles.

Tracing Texts

Inspire your toddler to write a letter or two by giving her a real one to trace. Write out the alphabet on a large-sized piece of poster board in pencil, Give your toddler a crayon or a pencil and have her trace over them. Don't worry if she doesn't make perfect lines, the motion of going over the letters is all that she needs to do. Another option is to write one letter on an index card, repeating the process for the entire alphabet. Laminate the letter cards or cover them with plastic wrap. Encourage your tot to trace the letters with a dry erase marker, wiping off her marks when she's done. You can reuse the cards for as long as she needs to get the hang of writing the alphabet.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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