Support Your Preschooler’s Language Development - Part 3 - Emergent Writing

28 February 2018

preschool language development stages emergent writing

Learning to write is another part of your preschooler’s emerging literacy. Emergent writing begins when a young child first becomes interested in making their own marks. It continues to be a part of their everyday world as part of their total language experience.  During their early childhood, your little one must develop the physical skills needed to write later in school. Simply put, a child has to master their hand-eye coordination and small motor skills before learning to write.

As a preschool teacher, I believed it was not a realistic goal to have preschoolers “practice” letters and words. Instead, I knew then and now that very young children need to be provided opportunities to practice-- and enjoy-- the fine-motor-control skills needed to develop the ability write. This is why we designed so many of our Skilly-do activities to provide your child fun and creative ways practice these skills. In addition to our Hand-eye Coordination Activities and Small Motor Skills Activities, here are 4 more ways you can encourage your child’s emerging writing skills everyday:

  1. Encourage your child to tell you about and to title their creations. Write their description down for them either on its front or the back. This is a pre-writing experience, relating written symbols to words as well as their creative experience. Doing so helps your child associate her creations to words that a have specific and purposeful meaning. For more helpful tips about how to talk with your child about her artwork, read our article, Talking with Young Children About Their Creations. And if you’d like to dig deeper into the importance of these first marks, check out Part 1 of our series, A Child’s History of Scribbling - Why Scribbles are Important.
  2. Use images to tell stories. Collect images from earlier times from your photo books, mobile phone images or videos. Look at and talk about them with your child. What events they reflect? What happened next? Then, have your preschooler tell to you a story about the photo. Write it down for them in a place where the can see and come back to it. It could be just a one sentence story, but this is another early form of relating ideas into written words, a key part of writing lessons later on in school.
  3. Set up a mini-writing station. When your preschooler shows an interest in scribbling, it’s important to provide materials and space to express their pre-writing skills. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. Simply set aside separate place, a small table or even a mat on the floor in your child’s bedroom, for this purpose. Keep a your variety of writing tools and paper there. Include different shapes, sizes and colors of paper. Add preschool-sized crayons and markers-- our Materials page has specific suggestions. You could also include other kinds of writing surfaces like chalk boards, dry-erase boards in a preschool friendly size like this or magnetic boards with letters like this one found on Amazon. Or, display your child’s name in large letters on their board or on a wall with large piece of paper. You can also encourage early literacy with a poster-sized alphabet chart like this one.

As your child gets ready for kindergarten or primary school, you must encourage their emergent literacy skills like pre-reading and pre-writing, to help them transition successfully to formal schooling. For more easy ideas about how to encourage these skills, read on in Get Ready for Big School - 8 Parenting Tips. And in case you missed it, here’s where our 4 part series, Support Your Preschooler’s Language Development series began. What did you find most helpful about preschool emergent writing skills? We're always happy to get your feedback right here.

+ Inspiration/photo credit goes to a Sumerian Cuneiform capturing an account of silver on clay tablet from Iraq, circa 2,500 BC. You can learn more about cuneiform script, a form of proto-writing that began in the late 4th millennium BC, here on Wikipedia.