I’m sure it’s no secret to you that children develop at different rates. One child possesses remarkable fine-motor skills, yet she struggles to speak a coherent sentence. Another talks circles around his siblings, but his handwriting leaves much to be desired.
This disparity is often more obvious during the primary years, when most children are either emerging writers with little or no ability to write or beginning writers who are developing early writing skills.
Let Go of Expectations . . . and Stress
Because fine-motor skills vary from child to child, don’t be distressed if your youngster has a hard time holding a pencil correctly, writing on a line, forming letters and words, or demonstrating neat penmanship.
These early elementary years—typically kindergarten through third grade—produce a great deal of growth in most children, but if your little one doesn’t seem to be following the pack, take a deep breath and accept that it’s okay.
Meanwhile, make sure your writing time is spent together, and that you build instruction from your child’s own efforts rather than from artificial expectations. For example, if he’s great at telling stories, but cries buckets if you make him write anything down himself, let him dictate to you as you write his words.
My youngest child definitely had his own timetable. He had the hardest time with any writing-related activity, so most of our “writing” time happened orally, with me doing the writing as he narrated. The good news is that with much mommy patience and perseverence, he eventually did “get” it.
Embrace Repetition and Routine
Have you ever noticed that your littles never tire of reading the same book or singing the same songs over and over and over again? It’s one of the main ways children absorb information, and the sooner we accept that, the more likely learning will take place.
Repetition, routine, and consistency play a major part in nurturing young writers. Since primary-age children thrive in this environment, you may have to sideline your own fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants tendencies as you devote yourself to keeping a schedule, building bit by bit on their emerging skills, and nurturing your young writers in the way they learn best. Someday you may be able to let spontaneity reign once again, but until then, routine is your friend!
Focus on Age-Appropriate K-2 Writing Skills
Too often, parents neglect teaching children how to think about and plan a story. They just assign it. Instead, give your young children tools to experience success as they develop the ability to write by teaching them to brainstorm; plan a beginning, middle, and end; and then write or dictate the story.
Take care not to jump into advanced writing too soon. Instead, watch for and encourage this progression in your youngsters:
- Writing a letter, word, or group of words on their project according to their ability.
- Writing a complete sentence.
- Understanding the concept of a paragraph.
How Much and How Often?
- At this age, it’s enough to devote 3 days a week to the writing process.
- Spend 15-30 minutes max per day on writing activities, depending on age and attention span.
- Expect your child to write 5- to 7-sentence stories. A more articulate child may show interest and inclination to write longer pieces—and that’s great. Just don’t force it. Make sure your children crawl before they walk!
Be an Involved Parent
Children cannot learn to write on their own. A parent who participates one-on-one with her child inspires success! To effectively develop basic writing skills, your child needs some important things from you:
- Your presence
- Your example
- Your encouragement
- Your daily guidance
Teaching your young child to love words and writing—or even the idea of writing—comes from purposeful instruction in a fairly structured environment. Your child may not absorb everything you say and do. He may not exhibit the skills your friends’ kids exhibit. And he may alternately drive you crazy and break your heart with his moans, groans, and tears.
Just remember that this is springtime for your little one, where you’ll see both subtle growth and explosions of learning. Take your time to nurture with patient care, and your budding writer will bloom and blossom in time.
Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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WriteShop Primary is the perfect way to gently introduce writing skills to young children using repetition, routine, pre-writing games and activities, crafts, and storybooks. Perfect for most children in grades K-3. For help choosing a starting level, visit this link.