In this article, our early years buyer Nicola provides top tips for supporting children as they develop early handwriting skills.
When children realise that marks can be used to communicate, in the same way as the spoken word, they begin to use them as tools to make their ideas and emotions clear. Through mark making, they are developing imagination and creativity, while testing their understanding of the world.
Plan your resources carefully
There are so many different ways that children can explore early handwriting. Make sure that resources are carefully planned across all areas of play, so children can engage in spontaneous mark making both indoors and outside.
Create a secure emotional environment
Mark making allows children to express feelings, tell stories and build self-awareness, but in order to do this they need to be in an environment where they feel secure. It is hugely important to sensitively provide support that enables children to grow and develop at their own pace.
Listen to their narratives
The marks that you see on paper may only tell half the story. By listening to a child, you will quickly see that it’s not always the most technically accurate marks that show the greatest development in understanding.
Celebrate mark making
By celebrating a child’s attempts at mark making, you immediately place value on the activity, which is likely to make children more interested in persevering with it, helping them to develop skills. It also builds their self-esteem and encourages them to take pride in what they create.
Don’t put the pressure on
Children need support with new skills, but they also need space and freedom to make mistakes and learn in their own way. You may want to consider providing whiteboards where children can easily change what they are doing and correct mistakes, stopping them from getting frustrated and disheartened.
Allow children to focus on their interests
With early handwriting, a child’s name is a great place to start. It is something that they really feel belongs to them and is a fantastic form of self-expression. They can use it on almost anything they create!
Work with parents
Build a close relationship with parents and share the mark making journey – it’s important that children are being challenged to develop in this area of learning at the right level both in childcare and at home. Give children a sense of pride in showcasing their skills.
Show how it’s done
There is a huge focus on the importance of self-expression and independence when it comes to early mark making. But, much like when children learn to talk, they need to be surrounded by examples of writing to flourish. This can be through books or simple demonstrations.
Let them take control
Have the confidence to make resources easy to access, giving children the responsibility to select their own materials. You can also allow children to create their own displays so they can choose their favourite creations to showcase.
Make it social
Encourage them to share their work with others or work on things together – building on their communication and social skills. You could even set up ways for them to send notes and drawings to each other.
Click here to see some handpicked resources we recommend using to help with early handwriting skills.