How To Develop Writing Skills In A Child

Wondering how you can spark your preschooler's interest in writing? Here are some tips you can use to develop his writing skills and make writing fun for him, and give him an edge over his peers.

By Ashwin Lobo  • 7 min read

How To Develop Writing Skills In A Child

Writing is an important part of our daily lives. From filling out forms and writing down notes to completing reports and sending out memos, writing is a skill many of us use multiple times a day. But, for preschoolers, learning to write is a very important milestone that plays a significant role in their academic and cognitive development. An article titled 'Preschool Through Grade 3 Understanding Writing Development: Catie’s Continuum' published in the National Association For The Education Of Young Children (2016) states that 'skills that children learn as young writers can impact their literacy development later in life'. 

In other words, early writing skills can be a predictor of academic performance and the overall literacy of a child. Therefore, teaching kids to write at a very young age becomes very crucial for their future success in life.

Tips to develop writing skills in a child (3 to 5-year-olds)

If you have a preschooler at home who is engrossed in scribbling all over the place, it’s time to channel his energy into developing his writing skills in a methodical manner. Between 3 and 5 years of age, he will be capable of writing distinct letters that are separate from each other and draw pictures and label them. You can use the tips given below to help your preschooler develop good handwriting skills.

Trace letters and words: You will find plenty of free kindergarten letter tracing worksheets on the web. Take a print-out of these alphabet worksheets and let your child practise tracing the large bold letters on them. It’s better to use crayons in the beginning as she will find it easier to hold them. With practice, she will learn to write capital letters and small letters perfectly using a pencil.

Write using different materials: Give your child a variety of options to practise her handwriting skills. She can try practising to write on a slate with a piece of chalk or use fingers or a twig to draw large letters in a sand tray. These activities are good for beginners to develop their pre-writing skills.

Learning apps: There are some awesome handwriting apps that can help with improving writing skills for preschoolers. If you have a tablet or an iPad at home, encourage your child to engage in various writing activities on it. He can practise tracing the letters of the alphabet (both upper and lower case) using a stylus or just the finger. There are also interactive games that help your child to master the 26 letters of the English alphabet and combine them to form words. With the tracking feature on, you can observe the progress your child makes.

Practise handwriting on walls: Kids enjoy writing on walls as it provides them a larger and wider area to explore their drawing and handwriting skills. It provides ample space for trying out larger strokes and greater hand movement when compared to writing on a notebook. Just buy some removable wallpaper for kids to protect your wall. Stick it on a designated area on the wall in your child’s bedroom and encourage her to practise her writing skills.

Writing practice for kids

Want your child to develop good handwriting skills? It depends entirely on how much practice goes into it. However, convincing your young child to practise writing is easier said than done. Many children want to play rather than sit down and write. Also, forcing them to write is likely to make them view the activity as repulsive.

Writing activities for kids

In order to teach a young child to write, or any other skill for the matter, it is important to make the activity seem fun and interesting. Here are some tips on how to make kids interested in writing.

  1. Start with his name: The best way to make the activity of writing interesting to your child is to begin with teaching him how to write his name. Tell him about the different letters that make up his name and the order he should put them in to spell it correctly. With a pencil, slowly write out the letters to show him how it’s done. Then, ask him to give it a shot. His first few attempts are not likely to be very successful but don’t be discouraged. Appreciate him for his efforts and tell him how proud you are of him. This should help motivate him to practise more.
  2. Use fingers: A lot of individuals think that children should learn to write only with an appropriate instrument such as a pencil or a pen. However, young children may face some difficulty in learning how to grip a pencil correctly. A great way to get them fascinated with writing in a hands-on manner is to get them to use their fingers for writing. Get your child to dip her fingers in paint and then write something. To make the activity more interesting, you can also ask her to write in sand. Think of other creative ways to make the activity more fun for her.
  3. Offer choices: Offer your little one crayons, colour pencils, markers, chalk or oil pastels and see what he likes best. A number of alternate writing canvases like blackboards, cardboard, plexiglass easels can be used for practising writing. You can even ask your little one to apply glue to a sheet of paper in the shape of a letter or words and then sprinkle glitter on top. Even clay can be used to form letters. Offer your child different materials and see which ones engage him best.
  4. Make it a game: Young children love playing games so making writing as fun as possible will do wonders for your child's interest in the activity. You can purchase a writing book where children learn how to write letters by connecting dots. Alternatively, you can make the dots yourself on a blank sheet of paper. This will help your little one practise letter formation which is a key aspect of learning how to write. Once she understands how different letters are shaped she can move on to working on entire words.   
  5. Set up a writing station: Find an empty table or desk and make it your child’s official writing station. A writing station has all the necessary materials to write including different types of paper, writing tools, glue, paint and stickers. Creating a specific zone in your house dedicated to writing will impress upon your children the importance of the activity. It is often best to just let your child sit at the writing station by himself and see how he expresses his creativity. Vary the materials at the writing station so that your little one is always interested in coming back.

Pre-writing activities for preschoolers

There are a whole range of pre-writing activities for preschoolers that help to develop their fine motor and writing skills. These also help in improving shoulder and hand strength, and the dexterity of the fingers. Some of these pre-writing activities are:

  • Scrunching paper into balls
  • Filling water in a glass using a dropper
  • Sliding beads onto a plastic straw or a cord
  • Playing with playdough
  • Practising cutting with child-friendly scissors
  • Tracing letters on sand or rice using the fingers
  • Transferring objects using tweezers or tongs
  • Forming shapes of the letters of the alphabet or numbers using building blocks
  • Belly crawling and walking like animals to improve arm strength
  • Tying and untying shoelaces

Also read: Pre-Writing Activities For Toddlers

Each child takes his own time to learn a particular skill. So don’t be disheartened if your little one isn’t learning as fast as his peers. Never criticise your child or compare his writing abilities to that of his friend’s. The mystery and magic of the written word can be easily destroyed if we make writing a frustrating and demanding exercise. So, remember, to support him in his efforts constantly.

About the author:

Written by Ashwin Lobo on 10 September 2018; updated on 24 November 2020 

Looking for fun ways to keep your preschooler engaged at home during the pandemic? Check out Little Learners at Home, a home learning programme specifically designed for 3 to 5 year olds by our team of experts.

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