For most young children, learning to write their name is one of the very first literary milestones they will achieve.
Your toddler’s journey of reading and writing begins when they learn to write their very first word. It’s an exciting and very special moment for parents and young learners. So how can parents ensure their child reaches this important milestone with ease, enthusiasm, and a sense of accomplishment and pride in their new abilities?
Here are eight easy tips to help your child take their first steps at writing their name.
1. Start with capitals – Capital letters are the first letters your child will learn. Young children find them easier to distinguish, remember, and write. Once your child has mastered writing capital letters, you can slowly introduce lower-case letters, or wait until they have started school. Remember that most young children are yet to develop the fine motor skills needed to write lower-case letters, and trying to get them to do it when they’re not ready can quickly lead to frustration.
2. Tracing over dotted lines – Before your child learns to write their name, they need to have some basic motor skills to write letters. A great way to develop this is by helping them trace over the dotted lines that form each of the letters in their name. This will help your child hone their motor skills while learning letter formation at the same time.
Note: It’s important to encourage your child to follow the one basic rule for both reading and writing English: start from the top working down to the bottom, always left to right. When your child begins forming letters, either using dotted lines or working independently, always encourage them to start at the top.
3. Gripping the pencil properly – Teach your child to grip their pencil properly in order to develop good handwriting skills. If they start off learning to write with poor grip, they may encounter a great deal of frustration when they start school and are forced to change their habit. The ideal way to hold a pencil is with the thumb, index and middle fingers. This is sometimes known as the ‘tripod grasp’. Holding a pencil this way ensures fluid movement and allows the hand to remain stable.
Note: Your child will be watching you make letters and words, and how you hold a pencil. Remember to be a good model; most adults are more accustomed to typing on a keyboard nowadays, so you may need to make a special effort to hold a pencil correctly.
4. Cheer on attempts at early writing – Celebrate your child’s earliest attempts at writing by displaying their scribbles on the wall alongside their artwork. This will give them a sense of pride in their abilities, and encourage them to improve.
5. Display their name on posters and labels – Help your child grow accustomed to seeing their name printed in their bedroom and around the house. Label their lunch containers, toy boxes and books, and hang posters on the walls which display their name printed in both capitals and using lower case.
6. Have fun with letter formation – Children respond well to a multisensory and hands-on approach to learning. Learning to form the letters in their name doesn’t always have to be done with a pencil and paper. Experiment with different materials such as clay, paints, and even pieces of candy or dried fruit to help your child form letters. Take turns writing invisible letters in the air or on each other’s backs, tracing letters in the sand with a stick, or writing letters on the bathroom mirror when it gets fogged up!
7. Create your own name puzzle – Before your child learns to write their name, they will need to be able to identify each letter and arrange them in the correct order. This can be achieved using fridge magnets, alphabet blocks, alphabet stamps, or even typing on a computer. You can also create your own name puzzle by writing each letter of their name on a separate piece of paper, and getting them to arrange the letters in the right order.
8. Provide verbal instructions – Encourage your child and try to avoid being too critical. Learning to write letters takes time and patience. Before they try their hand at writing, show them how it’s done while slowly explaining as you go. For example, ‘I start at the top. I go down to the bottom.’ Use words to describe the formation of different parts, such as ‘big’, ‘small’, ‘straight’ and ‘curvy’. For example, if you’re writing the letter G, explain, ‘I start at the top. I make a big curve. Now I make a small line.’
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