Firstly, children need to develop physically in order to hold and control a pen. These physical skills develop through physical play; crawling, rolling, wrestling, climbing, and swinging; and through tasks which promote fine motor skills; painting, drawing, stirring, pouring, spooning, cutting, brushing, sewing, threading, peeling, spreading, chopping and kneading.
Secondly, children’s brains need to develop to understand the purpose of writing for communication. A child will need to understand that we can use a symbol to represent an object. For example, for a young child, a box may represent a boat; an older child is able to write the word ‘boat’ to convey this meaning to others. We call this ‘symbolic representation’ .They need to want to share their ideas through writing, and they need to be able to organize these ideas.
Looking at letters
Children become curious about letters as they begin to understand their significance. They often start to recognise the initial letter of their name first and may begin to look for that letter.
As they learn more, children begin to recognise more of the letters in their name, and the initial letters of their family and friends’ names. They start to talk about letters these letters in the environment and name them.
We talk to the children about letters. We tell them the name of the letter and talk about the sound (or sounds) it makes.
Many children begin to recognise whole words, particularly familiar ones, like Tesco, and McDonalds. They may also recognise familiar symbols, such as the underground sign.
The best way to support children’s brains to develop understanding of writing is through play.
In fact, by making children sit down to practice handwriting when their bodies and brains are not yet ready, can actually delay their development.
From when they are babies, children are interested in the marks they make. They are interested in smearing food on their highchair tray, in dribbling on the floor as they crawl, on steamy window panes. As they get older, this fascination continues, as they begin to use pens, crayons and paint.
“Scribbles are products of a systematic investigation, rather than haphazard actions.” John Matthews (1999)