I was concerned that my four year old son was struggling with fine motor coordination and was showing very little interest in early writing activities. He has been reluctant to go to preschool and shared that he did not like working in his handwriting book. Handwriting books in preschool? Hmm, not the best motivation for developing a love of writing. I want my kids to be excited about writing and reading and not view it as a chore. I went into preschool teacher mode and came up with a few ideas of how to make it happen. I taught preschool for several years before leaving to stay home with my own children. I learned some great strategies working with children and from other teachers. Even before your child is writing, you can teach them that words have meaning by writing down what they say. Ask them to tell you about their drawings and write down their words. This shows them that their words are important and that written words have meaning.
When children are just learning to write letters, they are often interested in writing their names and the names of people they love. If they are making a card for a grandparent or friend, you can give them a word card with the name of the person on it to copy. Folding an index card horizontally makes a great word card. My son loved writing his grandfather’s name on a Valentine card he made.
Word cards that contain other words of interest are also a great motivator.
My oldest son got it on the action when I gave him a card with his favorite thing written on it.
We also brought math and number recognition into the writing practice by writing numerals on cards and drawing the corresponding number of lines underneath, a skill my oldest son has been working on at school.
One of the best tricks I learned to motivate preschoolers is to use what already motivates them. For my four year old son right now, that is Star Wars Legos.
Writing random letters in a work book was definitely not appealing, but writing the names of all his favorite Star War Lego figures was something he was eager to begin. I took pictures of many of his figures and wrote their names on lined paper that I printed from the internet. I then offered him blank lined paper to write the names. In retrospect, I should have skipped the lines as he was not ready for them. Learning to make recognizable letters is where he is at right now.
He was so proud of his work and so ready to put in the effort to be able to say he wrote the names. We did a few the first day and every day since he has come to me on his own and asked which character names he can write that day. So, he is actually initiating the writing practice himself! I hang each picture on the wall so he can admire the pictures and writing and show them off to dad after work each night.
It cost me about $6 to develop the pictures at the instant kiosk at the local drug store. I always have index cards on hand and had purchased the dry erase markers a while ago and the dry erase boards for $1 each. This is a fairly inexpensive project and can be changed as your child’s interests change. Another fun activity would be to take pictures of all the members of your family and have your child write each person’s name under the picture. If your child is into taking their own pictures, he could take pictures of some of his favorite things and label those pictures. Another idea is to take books out of the library about a subject your child is interested in and have him pick a few words from each book that he would like to write. The possibilities are endless. The most important thing is to start with what your child is already motivated by and before you know it a reluctant writer may be asking to write!
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