Guiding your child to write authentically (3-5 years old)

A while ago, I posted something on Instagram regarding purposeful and meaningful writing that I thought I should elaborate on in a blogpost.

I wrote:

From Age 3 until now, Kai did many kinds of writing that reflected his interests and need. After all, writing is not only the act of making marks on the page, but also the way we can communicate to others through written words. All of what Kai has written serves a specific purpose that he sees and understands. That is why he is keen to write.”

Writing with my 5 year old

Most of the written sessions with my 5-year old are impromptu and unplanned. Some are initiated by me, and some by Kai. It is important children have many opportunities to write. We did a lot of authentic writing tasks between the age of 4.5 until now.

As parents, we can create opportunities for children to “write” from an early age and help children see that writing isn’t only for the completion of “homework” or “worksheets”. There are plenty of reasons, many practical ones, for our children to write :

Below are examples of authentic writing tasks that I documented as I was working with both Kai and Kei!

1. Stories and journals

At home, I try to incorporate writing in authentic ways. Kai does a lot of journal writing, and understands that journals help him remember “fun things that he did.” My Instagram account (HERE) documents all the journals that he has written over the past year. I also wrote a previous blogpost on Ways to encourage your toddler to write stories at home at the time when Kai was obsessed with pirates and Octonauts. He wrote many wonderful tales from his imagination, and understands that writing stories helps him “describe his pictures.”

Recent Journal

2. Letter to a friend

During COVID-time, when relatives and friends are living in a different country, letters give a practical reason for your child to write. This can be done in any languages too!

Kai’s good friend, Mirei, left Singapore with her family, and so I suggested to Kai that letter writing is one way we can communicate with her. He was motivated and quickly set off to draw a picture. On the back, he wrote her a letter, and added captions on a few of the photos.

Writing with my 3 year old

With Kei who is turning 4 years old in 2 months, he has not developed any preconceived notion of writing and associates writing with very practical tasks.

Here are some mini-projects that we have done together:

1. Planning Kei’s own birthday party

Kei’s birthday is in 2 months so I told him we could start planning for his birthday party.

I asked Kei to help me:

  • Make a list of the friends he wants to invite
  • Create a birthday banner
  • Make and label the food he wants to eat
  • Design his own birthday card

I managed to capture the moments when Kei was sounding out his words while party planning!

2. Creating a Watch List on Netflix

I let Kei take mini-breaks while working on reading or writing, and sometimes his breaks involve technology. I realize this was a great opportunity to encourage writing. Just like a To-Do list, Kei tries to list out the top cartoons that he wants to watch in order. There is huge incentive for him to write down the names of the cartoon so that I’d follow the “playlist.” He is very eager to write. The video below shows him sounding out the Octonaut’s latest movie “The Ring of FIre.” :

3. Writing a restaurant menu

This writing tasks, again, captures Kei’s interest because we were opening a “new” restaurant! I asked him to create a menu for us! Kei really loves his play kitchen, and he gladly wrote down the food that he wanted to serve.

4. Shopping from a Toys Catalogue

Store catalogue is a great resource for teaching reading, writing and math. I used to keep stacks of IKEA catalogues in the classroom. When I picked up a Toys R Us Catalogue, I thought, “Why not turn this into a mini writing task for Kai and Kei?”

The idea is quite simple:

  1. Discuss what a catalogue is and its purpose
  2. Read through the catalogue and explain vocabulary of toys that interest your child
  3. Ask your child to CIRCLE the items that they want
  4. Print out/ draw an order from (template here)
  5. Encourage your child to fill out the form with items that they want
  6. Invite your child to read out their order

My kids had so much fun with this activity that I had to remind them again and again we were only “pretending”.

When writing is relevant for children, they will understand the value in it and enjoy the process. According to literacy expert Regie Routman, writing done for real purposes produces good writers. I can see my own children enjoying writing because it is through stories, cards and journals that they can express themselves, and through lists, recipes and maps that they communicate their interests. .

The possibility of fun authentic writing tasks is ENDLESS! If you have any other ideas that you have tried, please comment bellow!

You may be interested in reading this blogpost as well:

Ways to encourage your toddler to write stories at home

Published by Ms Claudia L. Kimura

Apple Distinguished Educator, Class of 2015 Primary school teacher, technology coordinator Not just a regular mom, but a teacher-mom Mom of 2 boys, stepmom of 3 boys

9 thoughts on “Guiding your child to write authentically (3-5 years old)

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