Writing activities to help your child

In the right hands, language can be a powerful and awe-inspiring instrument, and these writing activities for kids are a great first step to understanding the limitless possibilities of the written word. Specifically, young children can begin to learn that oral communication can change form, be recorded as symbols, and it can convey information and feelings.

Starting Small: The early steps in the mechanics of writing begin with learning to grasp and control writing tools. Bigger items such as thick crayons and pencils are good tools to use. Children will find it easier to grasp and write with thinner crayons as their skills improve. With supplies suggested (details listed in this post), create the opportunity for your child to record a story of his/her own. At first, perhaps the storybooks your child will create will be made up of pictures rather than words, but this is a great starting point. Another possibility is to create stories with a few words and pictures clipped from magazines.

Writing His/Her Own Name: Using patience and repetition, show your child how to write her/his own name. Help your child print her/his own name, placing it on the stories she/he creates or the cards your family sends out. Start with very small steps. Associate letters with sounds and work on learning to write the letters one at a time. Respect and encourage any attempts your child makes at recording speech in the form of symbols and letters. For instance, when a child understands that letters make up words and words make up a message he/she may write a string of letters across the top of a picture. The child may insist on “reading” the message (her/his “reading” is not actual reading but playacting). Try to respond with something like,“What a good job to use letters to create words and a special message! You are really learning about writing!”

Children often begin writing by first learning how to print their own names; they may begin with just the first letters (or couple of letters) of their names. Help your child to label all his/her projects and artwork. This gives your child lots of meaningful practice with printing letters. When children are exploring writing, their early attempts can reflect how they actually speak. They may even use the first letter(s) of a word as an abbreviation. For instance, as a child is beginning to draw pictures for grandparents, the child might place “GR” on the top of the page as a symbol for the word “Grandma.” Just remember these are small steps toward writing and should be expected and encouraged when children are beginning to explore the process.

Along the same lines, it is not unusual for a child to string together letters she/he just learned or symbols the child has invented at the top of a page. If asked, a child can probably “read” the line of letters or symbols.This tells us a number of good things. First notice if your child is reading the line from left to right and the page from top to bottom.Both of these are correct usages! Secondly, your child is trying out role-play behaviors (writing and reading) that the child has seen. Your child is applying them to her/his own work. This is the best kind of practice, since it is meaningful as opposed to “out of context” or on worksheets.

Labels, Directions, Recipes: Read and interpret all the signs you encounter with your child, such as those indicating handicap accessibility, restrooms, no smoking, or no riding on carts. Together, make your own signs to use in your home, such as “Hold onto the railing.” The sign could have a picture of a hand holding the stairway railing. With your child, place it on the stairwell wall leading to your basement. Together, create a “Stop” sign to post on the garage wall next to where you drive up and park when returning home. When the two of you reorganize the toys, let your child print the letters on sticky labels to place on the boxes, baskets, or containers of toys. Let your child become an “expert” at preparing a certain food, such as salad or burritos.

The next time she/he works on it in the kitchen, you can take dictation in order to record the steps for the “recipe.”Your child will enjoy sharing it with friends and family members.

Sharing a Writing Project: If a birthday of someone your child knows is coming up, make a “book” or “card”with your child. Within the week prior to the celebration, sit at a table with your child for 10 minutes or so and add something different each day. Your child can write the first letter of his/her name on the front page and then draw a picture. On the second page you can help your child write the numeral 2 and then do something different such as trace a hand or whatever your child would like to do. Keep the support and encouragement positive. Make it fun to spend this time together.

Simple Words and Fun: Write simple words like “Mom,”“Dad,”“dog,” and “cat.” Use words that provide practice at different letters. You and your child can draw pictures to accompany the words. Keep in mind that children often will begin with printing uppercase letters before lowercase. They are acquiring information and practicing it in small steps; do not impose grammatical rules and punctuation and lowercase letters at first. As their physical skills of writing improve, they will be ready to attempt lowercase letters. We have to be sure they will find success as well as challenge.

Creating a Story: When your child is first exploring writing, the two of you can create a story together. Your child can create all the artwork and you can write down all the dictation. The process of creating concrete, real paper stories does not have to wait until your child can print all the words. In fact, the process of creating stories will actually be teaching your child about concepts such as the beginning and end of a story. It makes the retelling and sharing of your child’s own story possible.

Sounds with Letters: When you spell words at your child’s request and write your child’s name, sound out each letter. Create an association between the sound of the letter and the sight of the letter. Letter practice can take place anytime the two of you are working on writing words that are meaningful to your child. Talk about the letters and their sounds.

A Special Area in Which To Write: Make a space for your child to write whenever she/he chooses. This is very important, hopefully, this will encourage your child to take an interest in communicating through her/his writings. Gather some writing materials for your child to use. For example: miscellaneous paper supplies such as blank name and price tags, a pad of empty receipts, food order forms, blank cards and envelopes, blank bank withdrawal and deposit slips (without your account numbers), purchase order forms, recipe cards, sticky notes, and so on.

Select a few tools for writing, such as colorful pencils, markers, or crayons. The materials can be organized in a shoe box that has been decorated with wrapping paper and covered with clear adhesive plastic, or you can purchase a clear plastic box for storing the items. Encourage your child to use this special area. Make certain that your child will be able to access the materials at the writing station. Through discussion, introduce your child to the purpose of the layout of the supplies and the concept that this is an activity to use frequently, whenever he/she likes. Ask your child,“What projects do you have to work on here?” Help your child think of some examples of when to use the writing station, such as creating notes, reminders, messages for relatives and friends. Your child can create cards for birthdays, holidays, and to say thank you.Encourage your child to use the “writing station” as frequently as possible.

E-mail or Social Media Pals: Does your child see you checking your e-mail or Social Media on the home computer? Finding a way to involve your child in this form of communication is a great opportunity to expose him/her to a computer keyboard, word processing functions, written communication online, dictation, and the recording of it. If you have someone online whom you trust and who already has a relationship with your child (a grandparent or a relative) and who is willing to be a pal to your child, they can send messages back and forth. Begin just by reading the messages to your child off the computer screen and printing out the messages to keep (if you have a printer).

Let your child dictate messages back to the online pal, with you at the keyboard; you will need to type the message just as your child speaks. Forewarn the pen pal and muster up a bit of patience as you encourage your child to say out loud what she/he would like you to type. Eventually, as your child becomes more comfortable with the process, she/he can learn where the first letter to her/his name is and eventually the location of the keys for the entire name. The “X” and “O”buttons are handy, too, if your child likes to send hugs and kisses. Checking the e-E-mail or Social Media can become a fun part of your daily or weekend routine.

Exploration of Desktop Publishing: If you create your own cards, stationery, and address labels at home, you can let your child help you pick out the graphics or family pictures to include. If you have a scanner you can scan in your child’s artwork and use it as a screen-saver, as a graphic for a family newsletter or calendar, or shrink it to fit as a decoration on your return address labels. Your child will get great pleasure and a sense of pride from seeing his/her artwork used in a variety of formats.

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