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Learning to write

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It's an exciting moment when your child begins to experiment with different-shaped scribbles and patterns. This is known as 'mark making'. It is the start of a journey towards being able to write and is a real developmental milestone. 

By providing your child with a variety of mark-making opportunities you can help them develop imaginatively, creatively and physically. 

Mark making is important for many reasons. It is a visible way for children to tell stories and express feelings, record what they have to say, solve problems and discover solutions - and sometimes it is just an outlet for pure physical enjoyment. 

Top tips for encouraging mark-making

  • Take your mark-making outside and have fun getting messy!
  • Get a big roll of old wallpaper, roll it out on the ground and secure the corners with something heavy. Experiment with different ways to make marks on the paper. Chalk on paving also works really well. 
  • Other things to try include hand and foot prints, rolling toy cars through paint then taking them for a drive across the paper or making prints using natural objects such as fir cones or leaves.
  • Don't forget to bring out some wipes to help clean yourselves up afterwards...and a camera to record your creation!

Developing writing skills

Children need to develop their motor skills (actions that involve the movements of muscles) in order to be able to mark-make effectively.

Give your child lots of opportunities to practise making big movements (gross motor skills); for example, by climbing, crawling, dancing, throwing and catching balls or carrying objects.

These activities will help develop the muscle control needed to move on to fine motor movements, such as being able to squeeze play dough into different shapes, grasp and manipulate building bricks and hold pencils or crayons for mark making.

Aim to be a good role model for your child. Children need to see adults writing so that they can pick up on how writers behave and understand that writing is a valuable activity. You could include them in writing the shopping list, for example.

In the beginning, mark-making is more about motivation than ability and we want to show children that writing is fun!

Recognising words and letters

As children get older they will start to recognise the shape of the letter that starts their name and later their whole name. Most children start learning to read this way. You can also encourage this by showing your child that there is an order that never changes – mummy is always written that way, for example. It helps them to build on the idea that written language is consistent and they often enjoy picking out letters they recognise on menus, street signs and so on. Talking about letters and words helps them to start on their journey to becoming proficient readers.