As technology continues to make a bigger impact in our world, the way our children learn continues to change. Regardless of how much technology evolves, it is still our job to teach the value and importance of the timeless skills of reading and writing.
We may find our little ones typing and texting on cell phones and tablets, but our children still need to learn how to properly hold a pencil and form words. No high score on any video game will ever bring them the same pride and satisfaction as writing their letters or their name for the first time. Here are some ways to keep the excitement in writing, regardless of your child’s age.
Not Just Words and Pictures
We often want to separate the concepts of reading and writing, when, in reality, one could not exist without the other. The reason that we read to our children and expose them to a wide variety of texts, is so they may absorb thousands of new words to put in their brain’s vocabulary bank. These texts also model different sentence structures and teach children how to think critically and develop their own concepts and ideas for writing.
Younger ones: Read a picture book or storybook with your child, or have them “read” it independently. Have them “write” a story with crayons and paper based on what you have just read. Allow them to be as creative as they choose, spelling and drawing whatever their mind creates.
Older ones: Print off old family photos or unique images from the internet that your child can use to inspire story writing. Ask them to imagine their own story events based on the photo. If they choose a family photo, e.g. grandparents’ wedding day or a picture in uniform, encourage them to share their story with that family member.
Not Just Pen and Paper
It is important that children see writing as much more than painstaking sentences made using pencil and paper. By ensuring that there are a variety of different materials available, children can explore and discover their own writing style.
Younger ones: Create an indoor/outdoor writing supply area with play dough, paintbrushes with water, and sidewalk chalk. (Finger paint and shaving cream can also be used with supervision). Include letter flash cards, small picture books, etc. for children to use as guides to form letters. Ask them to create letters based on their favorite characters. Ex. What letter does Moana begin with?
Older ones: Construct a writing supply area with markers, colored pens, calligraphy pens, patterned papers, and sticky notes. Encourage your child to design their name, passions, and hobbies using different materials. (They can always use the internet for inspiration in different lettering styles and techniques.)
Not Just Fun and Games
Letter recognition is one of the key building blocks to reading and writing literacy. As children learn to recognize what letters look and sound like they begin to transfer those skills into writing. Board games are an excellent way to spend valuable time with your child while fostering important literacy skills.
Younger ones: Have them shake up the Boggle blocks and write down as many words as they can as fast as they can. These words can then easily be turned into verbal or written made-up stories. The next time you play Candyland, grab a stack of sticky notes or small scraps of paper that your child can use to create a new card deck by writing the names of the colors and places pictured (no points off for spelling).
Older ones: Make a list of all the words on the Scrabble board and use them to create raps, stories, or songs. When playing board games, such as Monopoly, have children write out their own Chance or Community Chest cards to add to the deck.
Not Just a To Do List
We have opportunities every day to model writing for our children without even realizing it. Think about how many times each day you jot down a To Do list, put something on the calendar, or write a short note to someone. The next time you start to write something down, consider enlisting little hands to help you.
Younger ones: Hand your little one a note pad and something to write with and ask them to be your assistant for the day. Have them write down household chores, errands that need to be run, and items needed from the grocery store. (Remember to praise and encourage writing effort, and not criticize imperfection).
Older ones: Remind your child that the art of thank you note and letter writing will always be appreciated. Print off or purchase fun stationary and note cards (or have them design their own) to thank a soldier for serving, or tell a friend that moved away how much they are missed.
Not Just an iDevice
While supporting the fundamentals of handwriting is essential, many of our children already have technology in their hands, why not use it as a vehicle for learning? Cell phones, iPads, and computers open up an endless world for little writing minds, when supported properly. There are many free apps that can teach younger children letter recognition, how to properly hold a pencil, or help your child to create their own stories. Challenge older children to compose a text message using proper grammar and correct spelling (no acronyms), or to compose an email to a long distance family member. Regardless of how you approach writing, make it fun and practical, as it is a skill they will need their entire lives!