One of my daughters is quite the perfectionist. She also wants to know all of the things, be capable of everything and be as independent as she possibly can be. This can be quite tricky at times with a dual diagnosis of Cerebral palsy and autism. Her body doesn’t cooperate and her ASD perfectionist mind means nothing is ever good enough. I remember oh too well at around 4 years of age the meltdowns that happened because she simply wasn’t impressed that she automatically didn’t know how to just write sentences. She wanted to skip the prewriting development and was ready for the real thing
Writing development is an important early learning tool to ensure competent and successful writers in the future. So, does this mean we should be sitting our 3yr olds down and getting them to trace stencil after stencil while ensuring they have appropriate pencil grip?
This age is more about finding playful activities to begin to engage the children in pre-writing skills. It's not so much about what lines or shapes they can draw but rather building up fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, concentration and introducing the concept that symbols on a page have meaning.
Here are 6 fun, developmentally suitable and age appropriate activities to assist in engaging your child in pre writing.
Simply giving multiple opportunities to scribble is probably one of the most beneficial activities to provide children with as it indirectly prepares them for writing. At this age scribbling may start to become more controlled and purposeful and what we see as random markings on a page may in fact be a sun or a tree. It doesn’t matter if it looks like a sun or a tree or if it is the right colour, there is no right or wrong way to scribble and draw at this age..
Offering writing and drawing equipment so it's easily accessible is a great way to give children the freedom and flexibility to use writing tools in their own time. This can help in providing a feeling of independence.
Another tip for this age is to offer crayons and pencils rather than markers as it requires children to press down harder to make their drawings, this assists in building muscle strength in the fingers and hand.
Scribbling doesn’t have to be done purely pencil to paper; there are endless opportunities and activities to encourage this important pre-writing skill. Each child has different interests and scribbling should be a reflection of that. Think chalk drawing on the concrete or covering the dining table with butcher’s paper to be added to throughout the day.
When thinking of engaging and fun ways to entice children to practice pre writing skills you can't go past dot markers. They are such a fun and motivating tool that offers many opportunities for development and always seem to be a hit with the kiddies.
By using dot markers children can practice:
- Bimanual skills by taking the lids on and off
- Hand eye coordination
- One to one correspondence
- Creativity, colour awareness and patterns
- Fine motor skills
- Building up hand and muscle strength
Children can simply make markings and patterns across their page, dot along a line or shape or dot across their name (a great name recognition activity). Another huge plus is they are relatively mess free, what’s not to love!
Fine motor threading
Fine motor activities are essential for pre-writing! They assist in fine motor muscle development and coordination which is crucial for successful writers in the future. While pencil grip and hand control at this age isn’t super important the development of fine motor skills is. It will ensure that your child develops the necessary skills for an age appropriate grip at a later age.
Threading activities are a great way to work on all these skills as it promotes concentration, hand eye coordination and bilateral skills. It’s a wonderful early learning activity as it can be adapted to suit different ages and abilities.
-Pasta spirals onto pipe cleaners or string
- Fruit loops onto pipe cleaners or string
-Large beads on a paintbrush
-Bracelet and necklace designing
-Small beads onto feathers
If bimanual coordination is lacking or not yet a developed skill fine motor development can still be practiced through threading. Simply place a pipe cleaner, skewer or thin paintbrush into playdough to hold the threading tool so the more dominant hand is free to thread the beads on.
I am such a playdough enthusiast! The opportunities for creative play are endless, plus the long list of benefits it provides for developing early learning skills are immeasurable. But what is also amazing is that it is super cost effective and can simply be made from everyday ingredients at home. If you have a little can of cream of tartar in your cupboard then you have the base and recipe for playdough!
I have not come across a child that doesn’t enjoy playing with playdough, the texture, the playful ideas, the open-ended play opportunities. Here are just a FEW ideas to entice (not that they will need it) your child to play with playdough.
-Add playdough tools eg, rolling pin, cutters
-Cupcakes paddies and candles for some cake making
-Toothpicks and paddle pop sticks
-Craft materials to make crazy creatures
-Plastic scissors for cutting
-Plastic animals to make small worlds
-Items to hide inside
-Letter cards to manipulate the playdough to form letters
Playdough is fantastic for developing fine motor skills. Squishing it down, rolling and flattening it works on hand strength, while adding objects and manipulating it with both hands works on hand eye coordination and pincer grasp.
Other benefits include its sensory and calming effects, imaginative and creative opportunities along with developing social play and language skills.
Sensory play is such an enticing and calming activity for children to engage with. Offering a sensory base such as sand, paint, rice or shaving foam is a motivating way to encourage pre-writing skills as the child isolates their index finger to scribble and draw throughout the base. Learning new skills can be stressful and this offers a fun and engaging approach to practicing fine motor skills and visual perception that are crucial for writing development.
Line and shape patterning
At this age children may be in the beginning stages of learning to draw a line or recognising some shapes. By giving young learners an opportunity to engage in a variety of line and patterning activities we can build on their ability to form distinct symbols, which in turn will assist in learning about the structure of letters.
As mentioned throughout, the development of fine motor skills is crucial in writing development and activities that work on patterns and lines also develop hand eye coordination and concentration skills.
Simply draw some lines on a page (curvy, straight, zigzag) and have child place materials (beads, pasta, stones, shells ect) over the top to replicate the line.
At this age there is no rush for handwriting and activities need to be fun and age appropriate to eliminate any frustration. Any activity that works on fine motor skills, control, hand strength and coordination will be setting your 3 year old up for writing development in the future.