3 1/2 years old

Name Writing


I have been looking forward to teaching Ethan to read and write ever since he was born, but the last thing that I wanted to do is rush him into anything and make him dislike these things that are such an important part of his education and something that I hope he grows to love.  So I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed when he wasn't that interested in colouring as a toddler, as I knew that meant he wouldn't be an early writer.  But I backed off and waited until he was ready, and now he's been happily writing his name for the past few months and I couldn't be more proud!

Our first steps in preparation for writing were lots of fine motor activities for his hands like threading and playing with play dough, just trying to build up those muscles.  I encouraged him to colour and to do lots of scribbling activities with different materials, like mark making in the dirt with a stick or using finger crayons to draw rainbows.  Ethan absolutely loved activities like letter driving with his toy cars to trace over the letters of his name in a fun way or using a sensory writing tray to copy designs and the letters of his name.

All of this play dough play for building hand strength did inspire me to give Ethan a chance to spell out his name by making play dough letters.  I just wrote out his name on a piece of card and reminded him how to roll out the play dough into long strands, then he set off to make all the letters to spell out his name.

When it comes to actually picking up a pencil to write his name I've tried a few different techniques with Ethan to find which one suited him best.  All children learn differently, so no way is exactly right for everyone and I really wanted Ethan to be comfortable and confident about his writing.  The first way that I tried is the one that I always used with the children I taught in schools, which was to make dotted lines of the letters for Ethan to trace over.  I always draw a larger or different coloured dot at the starting point of the letter, but at this point I'm not correcting Ethan if he then goes the wrong way around as that's something we can work on later.

The next way that I tried was to write out Ethan's name on a separate piece of paper for him to be able to look at and copy.  This way he sees what the finished letters should look like and is able to imitate them.  This can also be done one letter at a time to not overwhelm a child when they are first learning to write.  I found that Ethan was often going back to the card and almost tracing it from above before writing it on his paper, then checking with me that he was getting it right.

The third way, and Ethan's preferred way to write his name is just by listening to me describe how he should write it and following instructions.  I say things like 'draw a straight line down and then three lines across' for writing a letter E and so on.  His name doesn't turn out as precise this way, but maybe it gives him more freedom to develop his writing in his own way.  

Some problems that we've encountered along the way have been that he doesn't have enough space to write (I often ask him to sign his name to a birthday card and he just can't fit it all in) so I do try to give him a large enough piece of paper and encourage him to start at the far left of the page.  He also gets quite frustrated and discouraged if he writes a letter incorrectly or starts wrong.  At this point I'm not correcting anything or giving him an eraser to rub out his mistakes as I think that he just needs to keep going and not be held back by his errors at this point.  If he gets frustrated we take a break and do some letter writing in the air, clap hands and wiggle fingers to get the muscles working or just change activities altogether.  He is going to love writing, but I know now that I can't rush things...maybe I'll have to wait until he's 4 before he writes his first masterpiece, ha ha!

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