Before your little ones are ready to start writing, they begin to form understanding of writing awareness by advancing their fine motor skills and making marks on surfaces like paper, or if you're really lucky, furniture and walls (let's hope not!)!
For ways to incorporate more fine motor strengthening activities into your schedule, check out my blog post on this here!
Pre-writing is really the act of having your child practice putting writing utensil to paper. This might mean a beginner pencil, marker or crayon, or perhaps a paintbrush or finger with paint! These activities require complex hand-eye coordination and the more opportunities to practice, the better! The main idea? You can use a tool to make marks on a page. Eventually, those marks will become purposeful (such as letters, numbers or shapes), and after that, writing!
At this point in the game, "writing" is exploratory. It is fun, free and zero pressure! It's the act of getting a feel for making marks on surfaces and the practice of controlling those movements. Since in this phase there will be little control of the hand movements, I recommend creating an environment where it's okay to make a bit of a mess. Paint on the bathtub walls in a diaper, use Crayola's mess-free markers that only show up on their special paper, or put down garbage bags to ensure no stains on the carpets or hardwood! You can also put up a wall of mural paper/a doodle wall, use a chalkboard or chalkboard paint, or have your child sit in a large cardboard box and colour on the inside walls!
Here are some great resources to consider:
Crayola Stage 1 products are made for super beginners and feature products such as finger-painting kits and palmer grasp crayons!
Crayola Stage 2 products are made for the next stage for those with a touch more control and feature beginner tripod grip and mess-free products.
Here is a link to mess-free colouring, painting and stamping art kits.
Doodle Rolls are customizable and wipe clean with water when used with washable markers!! In addition, vertical surfaces are a great way to alternatively practice grip.
For beginners, I always love to suggest triangular shaped writing utensils. They make triangular pencils, markers and crayons. I like these because they a) don't roll off the tables and b) promote a healthy pencil grip!
Speaking of pencil grip...Here is how you can expect it to change over time.
The Tripod Grip is the grip to strive towards! Click the image above to read more about pencil grip and some awesome tips and tricks to help promote it at home. Some include holding a pom pom in the hand while writing, using a clothespin or purchasing specialized pencil grips if it's not coming so naturally.
Many parents ask me in the upper elementary grades about messy handwriting and correcting pencil grip through Occupational Therapy sessions. What I'll say about this is if your child is struggling with pencil grip, letter formation or marking on pages (too light, too much pressure, etc.), early intervention is key. There comes a point where habits are too deeply formed that no amount of OT will permanently correct the habit, particularly if the child is happily stuck in their ways and it doesn't cause any great discomfort.
Your best bet right now?
1) Work on those fine motor muscles. Activities that require pinching, kneading, pulling, twisting, threading, beading, lacing, cutting, squeezing and stretching are all amazing for working those important muscles in the hands and fingers.
2) Provide opportunities for creative and free exploration of making marks on a variety of surfaces with a combination of tools!
3) Don't push them beyond their stage of readiness. Pushing the grip too hard before their fine motor development is there will cause much unnecessary frustration! Take the time to focus on #1 and #2 and the rest will come in time.
Next week? Lil' Writers Series: Part Two - Early Writing: Hand Dominance, Letter and Number Formation, Reversals
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