For children to successfully learn the vital skill of writing, they first need to develop some essential pre-writing skills. They then need to practice these skills with “pretend” writing, which is more accurately termed emergent writing.
Children need to develop many pre-writing skills. These include developing the strength and dexterity required to use and manipulate a pencil, as well as sensory awareness and good hand-eye coordination.
These skills will generally develop naturally as the child enjoys fun preschool activities. Climbing on playground equipment, for example, will develop shoulder, arm and wrist strength. Playing catch with balls or balloons, playing with finger puppets, easy bead stringing activities, or even putting pennies into a piggy bank are all activities which develop hand-eye coordination.
Fine muscle development and dexterity develop as preschool children paint, draw and scribble, play with puzzles and Play-Doh, pour and ladle soapy water, and sing action songs such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” In addition, finger painting with paint or water, and finger drawing in sand will allow the child to practice making lines and shapes before he or she begins to use a pencil.
Emergent writing is an essential part of how children learn to write, and will naturally appear when the child is ready.
The process of learning to write can be divided into several stages. At first, preschool children playing with writing materials will produce random scribbling. This then develops into mock handwriting which does not contain any identifiable letters. Then before producing recognizable conventional letters, children will go through a stage when they write pretend or mock letters.
Once children are able to write their letters, they will then proceed from invented spelling through guessed or phonetic spelling before they learn conventional spelling. The website accessed from this link provides lots of examples of emergent writing.
Emergent writing is a crucial stage in how children learn to write, and it is extremely important to encourage emergent writing in preschoolers by giving them lots of opportunities to play with writing materials such as crayons, pencils and paper. Emergent writing gives young children the opportunity to practice, in a relaxed, free play situation, the pencil control and ability to draw the lines, circles and patterns they will need to produce accurate letters later on when they actually learn to write.
At the emergent writing stage, many children will become interested in writing their own name. This can provide a welcome opportunity to help a child to begin forming letters correctly, and the ability to write their own name is a skill of which young children can be justly proud.
A child who is forced to write properly before he or she is ready could actually become quite stressed, and even resistant to learning. Therefore, since each child develops at his or her own speed, it important not to expect a child to produce accurate letters before they have developed the necessary pre-writing skills to do so, and have had ample time to practice emergent writing in a free and unstructured way.