Young children just learning fine motor skills can begin to practice writing their names and other short words long before they can formally read. Teaching your child to write his name and other fun words can be a fun activity to enjoy together as well as a firm foundation for future learning.
The Most Important Letters
There are twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, but any child can tell you that the most important letters are the ones in his name. So when you are teaching your child to write, start with those important ones. You can add additional letters over time as you practice writing new words.
Create a Template
For the most formal lesson, you would do well to purchase lined writing paper available for young children just learning. Then, carefully write your child’s name in the center of the paper on one of the lines. Use a light marker or pencil when you write and then give your child a darker color or pencil to practice with.
Encourage him to carefully draw over your lines. As he follows the first lines, show him how to write from left to write and tell him what letter he is currently tracing. When he finishes the first letter, no matter what it looks like, praise his efforts and results lavishly. Then encourage him to write the next letter and so on. When he reaches the final letter, lavish even more praise on your child and let him know how huge an accomplishment he’s reached – with your help, he’s written his own name!
Build on the Foundation
With the first round of success, it’s extremely likely that you won’t be able to read a letter that your child wrote, even with a template underneath in the form of your own handwriting. If this is the case, don’t worry too much about the handwriting at this point – it will come in time as his fine motor skills continue to develop.
Simply let him know that he should always try to stay on the lines on the writing paper, but that it’s okay to sometimes go outside of the lines. Then, if he’s willing, let him try writing his name again. He might want to try fifteen more times that day or he might not make it past the first letter. If his attention span is less than yours, be patient and remind yourself that there is no time limit on early writing. There are no prizes for writing before preschool or kindergarten.
Ask your child periodically if he wants to try writing something such as his name or another favorite word. When he is interested, write the word first telling him what letters you are doing and how you are making them. For example, “First we draw the M – we go up and down, and then up and down again.”
Then as your child is attempting the M on his own, you can remind him that he needs to “go up and down and then up and down again.” Soon he will be able to write a handful of letters in him name. Once the skill is established however, it is only a matter of learning and practice to master all the letters and then start on other words until you can proudly claim you’ve raised a writer.