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Friday 19 November 2010

Ask Sheryl: How can I Encourage my 4-year-old With Writing?

Dear Sheryl,
My four-year-old daughter is already starting to form letters and develop an interest in writing. They do a few things to work on this at her preschool, but is there anything I can do to help encourage this at home? Anna

Thanks for your question, Anna.

If your daughter is starting to form letters (maybe in her own name?) and she is keen to do it, then it’s a great time to encourage her interest in words, letters and sounds.

Here are some suggestions you could try at home:
  • Read aloud to her every day – it helps her recognise letters in a relaxed, joyful situation. When you’ve finished the story, ask, for example, if she can find any words beginning with the same letter as her name.
  • Nursery rhymes are great too because you can change a letter or a word to make it funnier – e.g. like Humpty Dumpty sat on a ball. Extend it by getting her to help change the words ... Humpty Dumpty jumped on a ball, Humpty Dumpty flew off the wall. Point out the changes, ball, jumped and flew. If you had an alphabet chart on the wall (to have fun with, not to use as a bible), you could point out letters and their sounds in context. You could even print out the new nursery rhyme in her scrap book.
  • Keep crayons, thick felt pens, thick chalk, paint and big sheets of butchers’ paper handy. The bigger space the better – good for the essential development of arm and shoulder movements.
  • Threading of beads, pasta and collage, finger puppets, finger plays – all great for eye-hand co-ordination and the tiny muscles in wrist, hand and fingers. Check out the Finger Play in my article, I have 10 little fingers, and they all belong to me.
  • Scissors, construction blocks, Lego, painting and gluing, play dough with cutting and rolling tools – all help strengthen those tiny finger muscles.
  • Having fun with musical instruments.
  • Write down your daughter’s stories in a scrap book for her and read them aloud with her – she can draw pictures on the opposite page. It won’t be long before your daughter will want to add her version of writing in her scrap book. Don’t worry about phonetic spelling – that’s an essential beginning stage of learning to spell.

I still have my son’s first attempts of writing in scrap books from when he was little – he’s now 23. In my upcoming KBR article on children and writing skills, entitled I Have 10 Little Fingers and They All Belong To Me, I’ll include an image of David’s phonetic writing when he was 6. Hilarious! [Ed: wonderful article coming to KBR soon!]
a family friend reads to Sheryl's son David, aged 3
Hope these suggestions help your daughter and you enjoy this wonderful learning time of her life.

All the best,


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