This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

One of the roles I am fortunate enough to get to play is facilitator for the parenting class READY! For Kindergarten. In this class we focus on skills that parents can teach their kids through fun, everyday activities and give each family new “tools” (aka awesome toys!) that they can take with them to encourage their child’s brain development. The great thing about this curriculum is that these activities can really improve a child’s development and kindergarten readiness in just ten minutes a day…and they are fun!

One of the skills that has stuck out to me the last few sessions is learning letter shapes and the beginning of handwriting and coloring. This is very important to early literacy as a child who knows how to write each letter in their name can also recognize those letters in other words and then begin to start reading more and more letters on their own. Here are a few things that I’ve learned that can really help children grow as they learn to write:

Writing doesn’t require a pencil: Kids love getting their hands dirty and playing with new toys and utensils. Why not have them practice their writing at the same time? Put shaving cream on a tray and have them use their fingers to write. Have them spell the letters in their name with gummy bears or use paint brushes and water on a piece of black paper. Art can be fun with any number of tools and the more ways they learn to write the more confident they will be.

Focus on lowercase letters and just a few at a time: The vast majority of the letters kids see are lowercase letters so the READY! curriculum focuses on encouraging parents to start with these and introduce capitals later as they learn names of people and places. Starting with just 10 or so letters at a time helps them focus more of their attention on a smaller group of words and if those 10 letters include their name it will be easier as kids often get excited about seeing or hearing their name.

Practice, practice, practice: The more children are encouraged and given the opportunity to write the more their skills will grow. Even kids as young as 1-2 years old like to start scribbling if given a writing utensil. Tape a piece of paper to the table so it doesn’t move and let them go to work. If you have to write yourself a note or a shopping list or a bill, sit your child next to you with a crayon or pencil of their own and let them write alongside of you.

Writing is an often overlooked skill when it comes to literacy and learning to read, but a child who knows how to write and is given lots of opportunity to practice builds their reading ability as well. Now, does anyone have any tips for getting pen marks off of the walls?

This is fatherhood…