Surprising skills that your 3-year-old needs before learning to write

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — July 17, 2019
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    Although your three-year-old kid won’t be ready to write for at least another year, there is lots you can do to develop those vital pre-writing skills that will help prepare him for that next stage.

    Bear in mind, though, that writing involves hand-eye coordination, finger control, balance, vision, and coordinated movements of the shoulder, arm and wrist, so it’s not as easy as you might think.

     

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  • Keep it fun
    2 / 4 Keep it fun

    A child’s fine motor skills (his ability to use his fingers to lift and manipulate objects) usually improve spontaneously when he engages in play.

    This could include playing with a small ball – whether rolling, catching, throwing, or bouncing it – putting shares into a shape sorter, fitting the pieces of an inset board or jigsaw together, building a shape using small construction blocks, making objects from play dough, lacing a piece of strong through a hole, or simply crumpling up paper.

    Any action that entails the use of his hands contributes in some way to the development of his pre-writing skills.

    Likewise, nursery rhymes and poems that involve finger movements are also useful to get your kid ready to write. You can encourage him to act out songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider and This Little Piggy using his fingers.

    Other appropriate activities include pouring water from one container into another, while trying to spill as little as possible. This is a complicated task for a young child, so be patient with him. You can even line up a row of small wooden blocks and ask him to pick them up one at a time using just his thumb and index finger.

    Related: 10 activities that boost your child’s creativity

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  • Finger play
    3 / 4 Finger play

    There are also specific pre-writing activities that stimulate many aspects of formal writing. For example, you can encourage your kid to use his fingers to draw patterns in a sand tray or use finger-paints to create designs on paper.

    Wielding a paintbrush is also beneficial. Don’t worry about letter formation at this stage – it’s more important for him to get used to making marks and patterns rather than to concentrate on creating specific shapes.

    You can also draw a thick black outline of a simple shape, such as a circle, square or triangle, and ask your child to colour in the shape without going over within the lines.

    Related: 3 ways to teach your pre-schooler language, maths and science through everyday activities

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  • Table training
    4 / 4 Table training

    Writing also involves sitting at a table, facing the right way, and having good balance and posture. That’s why it also helps for your child to play with his toys while seated at a table, as this gets him used to being in a sitting position.

    Similarly, learning to use cutlery while eating meals or snacks at the table also contributes to this aspect of his development.

    Most of these activities are informal, unstructured and can be easily integrated into your child’s daily routine in fun ways. This approach is more helpful compared to forcing him to take part in a formal pre-writing programme, which may demoralise him with its structured learning.

    Have fun with your child as he picks up these new skills and resist any temptation to push him too quickly. He’ll only start to learn to write, when he’s ready, but it you engage him in some of the activities described above, he’ll be prepared for it when it comes.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

    Related:
    12 questions you must ask when choosing a preschool in Singapore
    10 mistakes to avoid when teaching your child to read
    How to give your child a strong foundation in learning

     

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