The Right Start to Writing with Littles

Jess Wardell

As one’s precious little baby transitions from toddler into the precarious world of preschooler, many “educational” questions begin to arise in a parents mind. Does my child know all their letters? Should they know all their letters? Can they count? Do I read enough to them? The list is endless and you can simply drive yourself crazy. If you have felt personally victimized by the unknown of future learning expectations, raise your hand. Yup, me too. Even as a teacher, I have my moments of wondering if I am doing enough as a parent to prepare my child for the educational demands that lie ahead.

The good news is, if any of those questions have ever even crossed your mind, for even a millisecond, you’re good. (Go ahead and pat yourself on the back) The level of awareness it requires to even ask these questions means you are doing all.the.things your child needs.

Handwriting, in particular, seems to be a place that causes a great deal of anxiety for preschool parents. I am here to tell you, it’s all going to be ok! Your child will hold a pencil correctly (when they are ready). Their handwriting will be legible (enough). And they will figure out how to write letters, then words, then sentences, then paragraphs, and before you know it they will be writing pages that cause you to doubt your own intelligence. If these concerns are constantly rolling around in the back of your brain, there are a few fun things you can do with kids to help get them ready to write.

"I have my moments of wondering if I am doing enough as a parent to prepare my child for the educational demands that lie ahead."

First step, build those hand muscles! The muscle memory it takes to properly hold a pencil, leading to that picturesque handwriting we desire our littles to have, takes work. Occupational therapists suggest various isolated fine motor skill exercises that are fun and don’t require a pencil at all. Simple things like rolling play doh into small rolls between their fingers and thumb, crumpling up tiny pieces of paper with their fingers, squeezing lemons, or walking a ball up or down their legs using just their fingers are all ways to help build the muscle strength and stamina needed for writing. 

Next, start using the terminology. (And by terminology, I mean the basic words you already use everyday!) Whether you are walking, riding a bike, driving in the car, or playing with trains, discuss the types of lines you see that are also a part of writing letters. Straight lines, slanted lines, and curved lines make up the world around us and the letters in the words we read. Use the world your child is constantly curious about to hone in on the words that they will hear once they are in the stage of actually writing letters.

Make it fun! Use painters tape on the floor to form letters. Have kids walk the letters with their hands, drive Hotwheels cars over them, have Barbie walk them like a runway. Whatever piques your child’s interest, hone into that and just familiarize them with the various lines that make up the letters! “Look Norah, the “N” at the beginning of your name has two straight lines and one slanted line. I bet your train can drive on the N!”  

Don’t force anything, just be intentional when a teachable moment arises! These simple tasks are giving your kids all the tools they need to become confident and capable writers. (Added bonus, they are fun and don’t really require you to “teach” them anything new!) By providing them with the foundation they need, you can quiet the crazy that can creep into your mind. You are enough and you are doing enough! Write that down, in your best handwriting of course.

Jess Wardell
Jess Wardell is a 8 year veteran teacher in Cobb County. With a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and experience in both preschool and the elementary grades, Jess has a passion for helping children discover and cultivate their own innate love of learning. Her favorite job is being mom to her two girls, Norah and Emma. Drawing on her experiences within the classroom and her own home, Jess desires to help other families discover the joy of engaging in meaningful experiences that encourage both learning and creativity in simple and effortless ways.

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