Much of preschoolers' early writing skills are developed through the many arts and crafts projects they do throughout the day. As preschoolers paint, draw, cut, stick, and glue they build strength in their hands and develop their fine motor skills, building the strength and skills required to hold and use pencils and pens. Additionally, preschoolers need lots of opportunities to express their ideas in writing and drawing because these activities build their early literacy and pre-reading skills. And writing, especially during the preschool years, needs to be playful and FUN.
Here are 6 drawing, doodling, writing, and crafting activities you can do at home that build writing, early literacy, and fine motor skills.
1. Lots of drawing and scribbling: Those first pictures and scrawls across the page are an important first step in the writing process. When your child draws a picture or makes those adorable lines and squiggles, he is telling a story! Have your child talk to you about what he is drawing –he will be practicing putting his drawing into words, a first step to writing. Write down on a piece of paper what he tells you about his drawing and attach it to the bottom of the drawing when he is done. Read his story back to him and proudly display it on the refrigerator or in another prominent place in the house. Let him know he has written and published a story!
2. Keep lots of different paper materials, notebooks, drawing pads, and drawing materials in an area where your little one can easily access them: Colored pencils, markers, pens, chalk, pastels – all different writing tools let little ones experiment as they begin to draw and write. For "greener options," try Magna Doodle or similar magnet writing/drawing boards and dry erase boards -- or make your own!
3. Try unexpected materials for writing fun: Squirt a small dollop of shaving cream onto your kitchen table or a vinyl placemat, and allow your child to practice her name, letters, numbers, etc. Make a mistake? No problem with shaving cream! Simply show your child how to smooth away the writing surface and start again! This is a great bathtub activity too! Finger paints let children combine art with writing practice. While your child won't gain practice with grip, she has the opportunity to work on letter formation and the ability to copy shapes and lines. Sidewalk chalk is an excellent medium for writing practice. As you and your child decorate the driveway, not only can you talk about colors and shapes, but you can also encourage your child to practice name writing, as well as letter and number recognition.
4. Arts and crafts: The more your child draws, glues and paints, the stronger her hands will be. Preschoolers love to glue and cut anything from googly eyes and shapes to pictures from magazines. Here's a fun cut-and-paste activity that's all about animals!
5. Write letters and cards: Your child can help you write a letter or card to someone. He can decorate it and help you decide what to write. He can even hold your hand as you write some of the words (particularly, his name) or add his own "note" or picture to a card you write. Or set up a pretend post-office at home with shoebox mailboxes for each family member!
6. Cut things! Guide your child in cutting out different shapes from paper, felt, or other materials. He can also cut objects such as plastic straws or lines on wrapping paper or pictures from a magazine. The cutting doesn't have to be perfect -- it's just exercise for her hand!