How to help a child become a more confident writer

Teachers and parents need to recognise if a child is facing certain issues in the process of developing writing skills.

By Dr Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi

Writing is one of the most crucial forms of communication and a major part of education. It is, however, a difficult skill to master, especially for children. As writing is not an easy process, it needs to be cultivated in a child with a lot of love, patience and nurturing. It is a journey, just like speaking and walking, which happens gradually, improves incrementally and finally gets to a stage of confidence. This writing journey in a child starts at about 15 months of age and goes all the way to about 5-6 years. These milestones, however, are never hard and fast; some children get there faster, while some others are slower.

Following are the five well-defined stages that talk about a child’s writing journey:

Random Scribbling: 15 months to 2.5 years

During this period, toddlers start their writing journey with scribbles and lines. These scribbles are a result of large movement from the shoulder with the use of markers and crayons held in the fist. At this stage, the child needs to be given really thick crayons or markers which are sturdy.

Controlled Scribbling: 2.5 years to 3.5 years

At this stage, children have a better control over the muscles in their fingers and hands. Over a period of time, toddlers start holding the crayon between their pointer finger and thumb. Parents should avoid giving the child round and thin pencils and crayons. The thicker it is, the easier. Provide children with a pencil or crayon which has triangular or edgy faces as it helps to form a grip.

Line Introduction: 3 to 4 years

By this stage, children realise their drawing conveys meaning and that writing is a combination of lines, curves and repeated patterns. Toddlers also try to incorporate some of the components of letters in their drawings, such as a line, dot or curve. During this period, parents can introduce dot-to-dot joining activities to help the child take another step forward in the writing process.

Thought of Creation: 4 to 5 years

During this stage, children think and plan before drawing an image. The picture they draw will be more detailed and will have a controlled use of the crayon with a better use of colours. They also start differentiating between writing and pictures. When children come with their creation, don’t label it quickly; rather allow them to describe what they have made.

Advanced Writing and Drawing: 5 to 6 years

After the usage of letters in their own writing, children start experimenting with letters in their names by making ‘pretend letters’. They also make advanced levels of drawing and their number and picture formation become active.

What can parents do?

Pre-writing skills help children become confident writers. These skills advance the finger muscle strength, fine motor skills, dexterity and pincer grip (the grip between the index finger and thumb) in children. Variety of activities such as playing with dough, clay, kinetic sand, etc., can also improve the areas of building strength and controlling the child’s hands.

Tasks such as lacing and beading work in building focus, concentration and pincer grip control. Children can also use tongs, safety scissors and cutting activities to help build the required finger muscle strength. Writing is hard for children as their bone structure evolves with age. A simple sock with two holes for the thumb and index finger can also aid toddlers to develop the correct writing tripod grip.

Teachers and parents need to recognise if a child is facing certain issues in the process of developing writing skills. They should be on the lookout for a different slant during writing — a tight unnatural grip can cause a lot of pain. Issues such as these are called dysgraphia. There is no need to panic as dysgraphia can be corrected by using writing tools such as wide-lined notebooks and other tools guided by experts.

(The writer is the founder of ‘Get Set Parent with Pallavi’. She is also the vice president of the Early Childhood Association and a product designer of learning aids for young children)

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