“Ideally, the first materials used are not markers and pencils but materials that allow children to strengthen the muscles in their hands needed to properly hold writing implements," says Mara Guckian, early childhood specialist and managing editor for Teacher Created Resources. "We add a tactile (kinesthetic) component when we practice shaping the letters with different materials. Shaping letters with dough, tracing them on textured paper cutouts, and writing in the sand or salt trays all help children internalize the shape of the letter, while developing their fine motor skills.”
Young children learn best when they are taught using a multisensory approach, involving as many senses as possible. Try a few of these hands-on letter formation and name writing activities for beginning writers and your child will have all the skills she needs as a beginning writer.
Try a few of these fun activities to help your beginning writer learn the correct strokes when writing the letters of the alphabet:
- Air Writing.
Have your child write letters in the air first. These large muscle movements will help your child process what she is writing and make it more likely to stick. As she writes the letter, have her say the letter name or the directions for writing the letter. For example, for the letter T, she might say, “Start at the top, go straight down. Pick up your pencil and cross it.”
- Foamy Fun.
While your child is in the tub, spray a bit of shaving cream on the side of the tub or wall. On a hot day this is also fun to do outside, and your patio table will sparkle when you're done! Allow your child to practice writing letters, and then erase and try another set. A playful challenge will get your child even more excited to write.
- Kitchen Tracing.
Pour a small amount of sand or salt in a cake pan or baking dish. Allow your child to practice tracing letters without the pressure of more permanent writing utensils such as markers and crayons. If she makes a mistake, she can simply erase what she wrote and try again.
- Paint Practice.
For a non-messy alternative to fingerpaint, put a bit of fingerpaint inside a quart or gallon zipper bag. Remove the air, seal the bag and double the seal with some masking or duct tape. Your child can practice tracing letters on the outside of the bag, manipulating the paint with no mess or cleanup!
- Learn Your Letters.
When she is ready to move to paper, give her large sheets of paper and show her the strokes to make different letters. If you can give the letters human characteristics, it will be even more fun! (For example, a letter E is a straight line with a hat, a belt and a shoe.)
The exciting journey of reading and writing begins with the alphabet. Give your child a great start to a lifetime of writing by providing hands-on experiences with writing. These playful interactions will go a long way in creating a positive attitude about writing for your child!