Many parents have come and talked to me about their chid’s writing, “How can they be a better writer?” Apart from lessons at school, I think the other 50% of the “how” can be and SHOULD be done at home. Just like reading which can be encouraged, writing can be too. Children can only be better writers if they write. If we expect children to read, we should also expect them to write. However, the importance of writing at home is often overlooked because there are always other priorities: Kumon, Spelling homework, tennis lesson, piano practice… and writing often requires ‘more effort’ on the parents’ part. Parents find it difficult to motivate their child to write, unlike reading that it is more pleasantly associated with bedtime stories and parent-child bonding. Simply put, you cannot outsource writing to anyone.
One question you may already have is, “What if my toddler can’t write yet”? There are still many ways you can help them develop the habit of writing. For my 4 year old, as soon as he started showing an interest in drawing pictures, we started “writing” together.
Does it matter if your child can’t write? No. Just look at some of our earlier “stories”. Initially, I dictated Kai’s stories in order to model what a story looks like with capital letters, finger space and period, etc. Eventually, Kai started writing a word here and there. Then, when he started writing the full story, I sat beside him to guide him.
There is no easy solution to having your toddler write, especially when your child is just starting to learn how to write. It DOES require effort from you. But writing at home will help strengthen your child’s skills, and with time, writing will develop into a habit and hobby.
Below are 9 tips on how to raise a toddler who does love to write at home:
Even experienced writers sometimes need beautiful scenery, a song or a photo for inspiration. This could be true for a 4 year old. I find that books and toys are concrete objects that really motivate Kai to write. To encourage, I always ask, “Wow this is so cool! Do you want to write a story about it?” Then, we’d take our writing supplies out and start hatching out some ideas … in the form of drawing (Tip #2).
I find this extremely helpful as Kai can first express his ideas in pictures, and while he is drawing, he is also thinking of details and processing what the picture ‘is about’. This helps him come up with ideas later when writing. A common theme in Kai’s writing is “ocean” and “pirates”. We spend a significant amount of time drawing and discussing his ideas, and so when it comes to the ‘story’, he already knows what to write about.
Have basic supplies which as pencil that is not too sharp nor dull, good quality eraser… and I find having crayons with different shades of the same colours help add details in the drawing.
I also keep felt pens standing up, and crayons in a long wooden box (which comes from an IKEA arts & craft storage box (link here)
I like hearing Kai’s story first, then discussing how the ‘story’ goes before proceeding to the writing part. You can also give suggestions on better word choice, or transition words like “first, then, next” during this time
If the focus of the writing is for them to express creativity and their ideas, then I find it helpful that the child doesn’t sit for 10 minutes trying to figure out how to spell a word, and then forgetting what to write next. I like using the word book or a word wall because it provides reference support during the writing process. The more they use the word, the better they will be able to remember it (along with phonics practice, of course to reinforce the spelling pattern)
I love that Kai can practice his drawing first on the whiteboard before he puts his ideas down in his sketchbook. We also use the whiteboard for Kai to sound out difficult words, or for me to grasp any teachable moments to point out spelling pattern or tricky words.
I love using this IKEA bed tray (link here)because it is less formal than using a desk, and we can move the tray anywhere in the room. For now at his height, Kai is able to sit comfortably on the floor while using it. He also has a separate desk that can be adjusted to his height as he grows taller.
It is a huge accomplishment whenever a child completes a story! Take the opportunity to celebrate and share! Encourage them to present the work that they have done. We often do this during at the dining table where his brothers all look at Kai’s picture and listen to his story.
I find that this gives Kai a sense of ownership to have a book that stores all his work. Adding a date also helps to track progress.
Children will flourish and develop an interest in writing when parents are heavily involved such as by creating a conducive writing environment. This entails organising writing supplies and learning tools. Most importantly, by being there and listening to their ideas, you are encouraging them to express their creativity. it will just be a matter of time before your child starts enjoying the writing experience.