Children can begin to start writing letters as young as three years old. Their first attempts at writing letters can be seen when they are drawing and often appear as different shapes such as circles and curves and lines. Since letters are made up of these shapes and lines, once parents notice that their children are making these types of marks in their drawings, they can start teaching them how to write letters. However, as tempting as it may be to try to teach as many letters as possible, it is essential that parents start slowly and give children ample time to practice independently and through free play. Every child develops at their own pace and will eventually learn all of their letters.
When children are first beginning to write, they often start by learning the letters in their names or the names of those close to them such as family and friends. Therefore, it is important to give them many opportunities to practice writing their names with a variety of materials and fun activities. At Neighborhood Lit, children practice writing their names using materials such as crayons (rainbow writing), dot markers, paint, Play-Doh, and chalk. One of their favorite ways to write letters is in “The Messy Room” where they can practice writing their names in sand and shaving cream. As children practice writing their letters, it is important to teach them to start at the top of the letter and pull down as it is easier to pull their writing tool down from the top of the letter rather than pushing it up from the bottom. Putting a dot at the place where children should start to write the letter is a helpful way to encourage them to do this.
As children get older and begin to learn more lowercase and uppercase letters, we introduce how to use writing lines as guidelines for correct letter formation. Writing lines have a top line, middle (dotted) line and bottom line. We use sentence strips and special lined paper in many of our writing activities. Parents interested in purchasing these materials for the home can find them online or at specialty stores. We also classify letters at tall, short or below depending on where they fall on the writing lines. For example, a tall letter starts at the top line and goes to the bottom line (l), a short letter starts at the dotted line and goes to the bottom line (o) and a below letter starts at the dotted line and goes below the bottom line (y). Reminding children to start at the top and to use the writing lines correctly helps them learn to write their letters legibly.
Learning to write letters should be fun and can be a part of at-home daily life. Children can trace or copy the letters that make up a shopping list; write notes on fun paper and mail them to friends and family; write letters in shaving cream on the bathroom wall while taking a bath, or copy the magnet letters found on the refrigerator in the kitchen while you are cooking dinner. Once you introduce fun and creative ways for the kids to write, they will be asking you for more time to practice letter writing.
Any questions? Please email us at Janice@Neighborhoodlit.com. Taylor Burke is a teacher and Director of Communications at Neighborhood Lit. and works closely with Janice Migliazza, a Reading Specialist and owner of Neighborhood Lit, Route 34, Colts Neck to bring you this information.