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Developing Writing Skills in the Early Years

How young children develop their writing skills, and the different ways in which we can support them with their emergent writing in the early years

What is emergent writing?

Emergent writing is when children use mark-making, as a means of communication. Children as young as 2 years old will start making marks for many reasons; for pure physical enjoyment as they delight in the opportunity to explore and experiment using their senses, and to communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings to us. Before they can even use words to express themselves, they use mark-making to make their thinking visible to us.

What can we do to support children in their journey to writing?

Physical activities

The first thing we can do is provide children with lots of physical activities. When children are physically active, they develop their core strength, dexterity and hand-to-eye coordination. Therefore, providing children with lots activities to develop their fine-motor and gross-motor skills will help children to become physically ready for the demands of writing at a later stage.

With fine-motor skills, this involves using smaller movements of the body, such as our hands and fingers. Activities to develop these skills can include threading beads through a piece of yarn, or using tongs to transfer objects from one container to another. With gross-motor skills we are using controlled movements of our whole body, such as our arms and legs. Children enjoy playing games such as ‘throw and catch’ using a ball, which makes use of their whole body as they move and adjust their bodies to catch the ball.

Mark-making through multi-sensory activities

It is important that we provide children with plenty of opportunities to engage in mark-making through multi-sensory activities. Children who engage in these types of activities are less likely to form bad habits in writing at a later stage. Providing children with a range of tools and materials will make these sessions engaging and fun for them. This can include providing children with different coloured paper with different textures, or even interesting mark-making tools to experiment with, such as corks, straws and sponges.

Adult participation and encouragement

Children enjoy the participation of adults, so invite your child to join you with every-day tasks and activities. For example, when you are writing a shopping list or doing other daily writing tasks, encourage your child to watch you write so you are modelling the writing, and ask your child to give you suggestions as to what you should write.

Children are more inclined to think creatively in a secure and trusting environment. By praising children for their efforts and showing an interest in what they are doing, this will encourage them to feel more confident and excited to continue with similar activities.

By providing children with strong foundations during the early years, we are enabling children to develop into confident and able writers. So, let’s celebrate their achievements along the way and help them to develop into independent writers, who write with purpose and joy.

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