Most parents agree that you’re never too young for books. Some parents begin to read to their children as young as six months.
However, the process of writing is a different ball game. When we think of writing, we tend to think of the child sitting at the table with a pencil and writing alphabets on a piece of paper. Writing also involves grasping a writing tool, holding the paper so that it does not move and applying enough pressure with the writing tool to form the alphabets. And all these have to be done at the same time! It would do us well to remember that writing, as we know it, begins waaaaay before that.
Writing Milestones are first described for babies from birth to six months old. Yes, from birth. This does not mean that your baby should be able to write with a pencil from birth. The writing milestone for babies describes grasping objects in his palm. Simple as it may seem, this is the very beginning of holding a pencil. It is usually only from twelve to eighteen months that babies develop the hand skills necessary for grasping a writing tool such as crayons and making marks on paper. We still have a long way to go yet.
By eighteen months, toddlers do normally develop the control in their hands needed for drawing. Drawing is important because it helps toddlers become writers. At this age, they may be able to make scribbles that may or may not look like letters – such as ‘O’ At this age, remember to give them chunky writing tools such as crayons and markers. Toddlers like to mimic what they see the adults doing e.g. writing a shopping list. At this age also, they begin to realise that written symbols represent real objects.
This is a good time to introduce the alphabets to your child through songs and rhymes. Some parents introduce word flashcards at this time. This has more to do with reading than writing – although there have been researches which encourages both to be taught at the same time – and that is a topic we will deal with at another time. For now, we will stick with writing.
At about 3 or 4 years of age, these preschoolers may begin to write real letters. Some may even begin to write their own names. This is the time when you will need to display their effort so that they have a sense of achievement. This is also the time when they may ask for help in learning to write letters. This is the time to teach them the proper sitting position and the correct pencil grip. NOW is the time for your child to learn to write the alphabets.
In the next blog, we will discuss whether we should teach manuscript or cursive writing to a beginner. In the meantime, don’t be in a hurry for your child to write. She will let you know when she is ready.