Dr Richard C. Woolfson
Although your three-year-old child won’t begin writing 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 its not as easy as you might think.
Keep it fun
Your three-year-old learns best when he has fun, so make sure that the activities designed to develop his pre-writing skills are enjoyable.
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.
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 linr 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.
There are also specific pre-writing activities that stimulate many aspects of formal writing. For example, you can encourage your four-year-old 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.
Writing also involves sitting at a table, tacing 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.
(Photo: Stefano Clemente/123RF.com)
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