Early Writing Experiences for Young Children!

g. kirklandholmesStarred Page By g. kirklandholmes, 23rd Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Education

Do you really know when and how young children begin to write? When should we expose them to early writing experiences and opportunities? What materials and activities should we provide to enhance early writing and drawing experiences? What are some of the best places to motivate writers.

Early Writing Experiences

How many of us really recall our early writing days? It seems as though our early reading experiences often overshadow our thoughts on early writing.

It is very important that children are exposed to early writing opportunities As a parent or classroom teacher it is very important that w encourage and allow the children to write everyday. Therefore writing will become a meaningful and daily part of their lives. It's very important to date and keep samples of all of the children's work. This is critical for being able to see their growth and development in writing.

It is such a wonderful experience to maintain a portfolio of each child. Begin with samples of their first and earliest writing. Date the work and keep adding new samples.
Children and their families love to see these visible examples of progress and growth.

While many times children may be of the same age, their writing levels vary greatly.

Some of the children may be at the scribbling stage, but may be very descriptive in telling you about their work. Some are great at describing and verbally sharing about their pictures and creative art work.

Can Infants Write?

With daily writing experiences made available to the young infants, more and more evidence is being gathered on the great early literacy skills of infants. Allowing infants to explore through this process with a variety of materials.

Allowing the young early writer to begin by gripping a variety of writing utensils such as markers, crayons, will help all children move through different stages of writing development.

Of course there is a need to observe the infant to make sure that the materials are not placed in their mouths. They often will place the objects in their mouths, but should be guided to put the writing utensil on paper, cloth, smooth surfaces or provided writing area.

Often sensory materials are used with infants as early writing materials. Allowing the child to write in powder milk, dry or wet cereal, jar baby food, whip cream, or other soft materials. Pudding (various flavors) can be used on trays, plates, counters, lids,
paper, paper plates, etc.

Putting some writing materials on a desk or table also allows the infant to imitate others who were observed writing.

Yes infants can write despite some people feeling that they can't or are not quite ready!

Can Toddlers Write?

Yes toddlers can write! With the use of early exposure to writing opportunities and materials. Toddlers can freely demonstrate their ability to write. Toddlers have demonstrated that they can use writing materials in a creative way. Most often they use the materials in a scribbly way. Research has shown that the more often they are allowed to use the materials, the more control they gain.

As younger children are read to, they visibly begin to see words in print on the pages in books. They begin to make connections at a very age to verbally share about the pictures. Through their initial experiences in literacy, it is important that there are opportunities to help the young child begin to make the connections between words and illustrations.

The teacher can help young children progress in their writing development through varied writing activities. Although these toddlers are in the initial stages of writing, it is important that teachers them. Analyzing each child's beginning writing level will help the teacher begin to develop appropriate materials.

Yes toddlers can write! They are in the beginning stages of the writing process!

Some toddlers represent the beginnings of Stage 1in the writing process


During this process toddlers and young preschoolers begin drawing pictures, some of which may represent ideas, thoughts and feelings. However, it is very important to realize that these pictures are not recognizable. Also toddlers need materials that can be transported to different spaces and areas around their environment! They may become writers "on the go" or "on the move."

Can Preschoolers Really Write?

Preschoolers are key participants in the writing process. This is the age where children love having the freedom to explore the environment and use writing in natural ways. They are beginning to observe everyone around them and imitate real life situations. So it is recommended that we provide a variety of materials to encourage preschoolers to write. Learning centers as well as other play areas should have writing materials fully integrated throughout the classroom.

At this stage the child begins to begins to draw somewhat recognizable shapes and may tell about the picture. The child may try to imitate writing. It is very important the language of the child become a part of their writing. There are various stages of the scribbling process that may develop during this time. Many children may begin by scribbling the letters in the name or pictures of themselves.

There are some phases or stages of early writing experiences that preschoolers become very avid at using. Therefore as they move from the scribble stage they move to:

At this stage, the child begins to to draw strings of letters with his/her pictures. The child may also attempt to read the message, but it is probably still unrecognizable.This is a time when they often begin to attempt the letters in their first name. They initiate writing the letters. However, this is also a very important time to begin copying letters, numbers, shapes, words, patterns, etc.

Preschoolers move into Emergent writing. This is when they also write letters and words. They begin a very important process of realizing a skill of leaving spaces between words. They are now independently discovering that there are spaces between words and that they all do not run together.

I still remember when it was time to assess the preschoolers before writing our parent-conference reports. I would ask a child "what letter is this?" A child may respond by saying, "number 5." It immediately let me know that child was not yet at the stage of being able to differentiate between a letter and a number. Therefore literacy experiences were developing but there were still some discrimination concepts that the child was still learning. Or when I would ask a child about their address (house number and street), they would begin saying 234-5271. They immediately began to say a phone number. Very good, but the child still had not yet leaned to differentiate between a phone number and an address. Always remember the word address may seem like a big word for some preschoolers, so it is wise to break it down when possible--"What is the number on your house or building?" "What street do you live on?"

So as preschoolers begin to show more interests in writing, concept developmental experiences are very valuable to them. They are really exploring and learning what the cognitive world is all about. Therefore this is also when these children begin to understand what a word is.

Early childhood educators begin by pointing to the titles on the cover of each book read, often pointing to each word to help young children process and identify words as well as realizing that that there is a pause between reading and writing of various words. They also begin to recognize various punctuation marks. The period and question mark are the two they seem to recognize first. The exclamation point is a little more difficult to explain.

We all should be prepared for a child to write random letters like ATGC and then ask us what it says or to please read it back to them. This is a critical time because as adults we really do not know what it says. So it is important to say to the child, "Can you tell me about your writing or your drawing." It is a great learning experience for the child when we used the proper terms like. "Can you tell me about your writing."
Teachers often can tell a lot about a child's confidence by how they respond to these questions. The very confident child will share what they wrote without hesitating, even when we really do not know what they wrote!
They very often will ask us to tell them what they drew and or wrote. One trick I have learned from many years of teaching, never try to guess what a child drew. I remember we were studying the circus and a child drew what I thought was a monkey or circus animal. I guessed and the child said to me, "No that's a picture of my mama."
For some reason I felt so embarrassed, hoping that I didn't come off like I was a belittling teacher. So I learned from experience that the proper approach is to simply say to the child, "Please tell me about your picture of what you just wrote." The statement format seems to encourage the child to respond easier rather than the question format of "what did you draw?" They begin to develop their own self-confidence in their writing and drawing abilities and are now ready for the next tasks at hand!

Yes, yes, yes, preschoolers can write!

What Writing Experiences Should We Provide for Kindergartners?

As preschoolers move on to the kindergarten level, they become Emergent Early Learners because they have moved on to the level where there is a built foundation of them feeling successful and proud about their newly acquired knowledge in writing.
They are now ready for:

Here the child begins to use some letters to match sounds, often using a beginning letter to represent the whole word. They may begin to use left to right progression but letter writing reversals is still common. Because they are struggling with directionality at this age and stage, reversals may happen often. However it is still recommended that a visual assessment either happen in the classroom or by a professional to make sure the child is able to see properly. Here is what I have discovered about reversals that we all need to make sure that we share with families. This is critical because many children have bee misdiagnosed because there were some misunderstandings about reversals. There are somethings that I learned just from the real side of teaching that just helps to make you a better teacher. It helps you to better meet the needs of students in your class and communicate more effectively with their families.

One day during your spare time,write one of your favorite words, your name or a sentence- Then hold a mirror up to your written word. See if you can determine what happened to the letters. Well they automatically look reversed. This is called "mirror writing." If a young child starts writing a letter from the bottom up rather than top down, it is much easier for the child to reverse a letter. It is a good idea to put a marker or a sticker on the left hand side of the paper to help the child with directionality. This will help the child start writing from the left side of the paper and move toward the right. This definitely decreases reversals.


I also learned some very interesting facts about how and why some children frequently reversed numbers. I was very curious as to why they seem to reverse more numbers than letters, especially when they use the letters way more frequently.

So when they are asked to write some random numbers, there may be a few reversals, but if they are asked to write the numbers in sequential order like''
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

then we may see more reversals because the young child interprets that the numbers are like "family members and they should be looking at or facing each other.
At this stage children begin to write about topics that are meaningful to them. They begin by writing simple sentences and messages!
These children are also aware of and can identify most forms of punctuation marks. They realize that a question mark comes after a question. the discovery that a period comes at the end of a sentence is a rewarding experience for so many children.
Because of familiarity and confidence, many children begin to use repetitive sentences. These sentences may appear on most of their work. They are happy to share what they have learned with others. Because of feeling proud about their written accomplishments, repetition occurs until they discover new written knowledge.

Primary Grade Writing Experiences

This is a very important period in the lives of children as they move toward more advanced literacy skills. As they move into the primary grades, the expectations for their written and reading developmental skills are greater now. They are expected to demonstrate what they have been practicing in all of the previous years. So we are now at:


At this stage the children begin to write beginning and ending sounds. They also begin to spell some high frequency words accurately. Vowels may be inserted in words, but may not always be the right ones. These children are really exploring, discovering and finding approaches to help them move to more accuracy in their writing, spelling and reading.


At this stage, the children are writing words the way they sound. They are continuing to leave more organized spaces between words and spelling many high frequency words correctly. They begin to write one or more sentences. Now they are moving towards writing short stories with good sequencing of events.



At this level, this is where primary grade teachers desire to see the children move to this area. At this level, most of the children are now able to spell the words correctly. These children develop the use of a sound-symbol approach to help them learn how to spell and also to spell longer words. They begin to use capital and lower case letters in the proper and correct places!

Yes these children are really ready to write!

But I Don't Want to Write?

There are some approaches and strategies that need to be identified to help increase writing interest skills of some children. There are some children who show no interest in writing and therefore have to be encouraged to participate.

One of the ways of encouraging children who may appear not to be interested in writing is to allow them to find different and non-traditional spaces. For example,allowing children to lie down on the floor with materials on a different type of surface such as the floor or a tray. Instead of confining them to just a table or desk allow them to use other spaces such as writing at an easel or putting paper on a wall or outside of a building.

Also allowing children to write on the sidewalk with chalk or painting on window panes can help some children develop a new interest in writing.

Do stepping "out of the box" and using some unique and creative materials are key to beginning to motivate children who are not interested in writing. Adding a perfume, cologne or some smelling items to the paint or smelly markers may interest children into participating in the writing, drawing or art process!

Why Do I Need to Write?

One of the roles of those who work with children is to help them to understand some of the reasons why writing is significant in our lives. It is also helpful to help them find out about times and situations when knowing how to write is beneficial.

This is also a great time to share with them about careers and especially the ones that are applicable to those with good writing skills. This is a wonderful time to point out authors and illustrators of books that are used in the classroom. Or taking children to the library to check out books is another way to help them realize the importance of writing.

Motivating Writing Materials

Make sure there is a designated area for providing motivating writing materials for children. Help children create their own books, book covers and special class travel books.

Help children create books on the following motivating topics:

1. The Story of My Life

2. The Story of My Family

3. How to Become An Author

4. I Am An Author

5. My Book of Poems

6. My Book Silly Poems

7. My Book of Words

8. My Book of Spanish Words

9. My Book of Numbers

10. My Book of Names

11. My Book of Name Meanings

Interesting Writing Materials

Here are some writing materials to use with children to help keep them interested in writing:

Bird Collectors
1. Use feathers and write in whip cream

2. Use your fingers to write in bird seed

Elephant Collectors

1. Use different tubes (pretend trunks) and paint- try writing on construction paper!

2. Use cut-out sponge elephant feet- dip into tempera paint and try writing your name!

Sea Shell Collectors

1. Use q-tips and watercolors-paint words on sea shells

2. Use sea shells and trace around the shapes on newsprint paper- write words inside of the shells- use glitter pens.

Basket Collecting

1. Use paper or other materials to weave a basket- mark a letter on each part that is

2. Use pipe cleaners to create a basket design- Take a pipe cleaner and dip in pudding, and paint a picture with words.

Add your own!

Attempts at spelling unfamiliar words, matching sound-letter relationships and using simple spelling patterns are among the interest-related experiences for children!

Creative Writing Materials

There are many creative materials to use while encouraging children to participate in writing experiences.

Here are a few creative writing materials to use with children:

1. Glow and the dark pencils, pens and paper
2. Chalk and milk writing- dip chalk in milk and write on paper
3. Liquid ink and special old-fashioned ink pens
4. Skin tone markers
5. Skin tone crayons
6. Medicine bottles (cleaned) and lids- dip in paint
7. Q-tip writing- writ on paper with q-tips dipped in colored glue
8. Tongue depressors- write words on them
9. Popsicle sticks- build a creation with the sticks, glue and markers- provide paper and pencil and have the child write about it.
10. Yogurt container tracings- trace around them with charcoal- write about the experience.
11. Tissue paper flowers- create flowers of your choice- write a list of people that the children dictate as possible recipients of the list.
12.- String or yarn writing- Use string or yarn to write words on cardboard with them.
Use glue if you would like to stabilize the words!
13. Paper sack puppets- Create a puppet by using paper sacks, scissors, glue, construction paper and markers. Write a short story to go along with the puppet!
14. Use a big refrigerator box to create a stage for a puppet show- Use a variety of
paper to decorate and label the various parts of the puppet stage. The child can also use paper plates to create audience messages about upcoming shows and scenes!
15. Use a variety of creative writing materials like play dough, silly putty, goop, corn starch to have children explore with the formation of letters and words.
16. Have a collection of restaurant menus, waitress order pads, adding machines and writing tape to record orders and costs on! Set it up as a restaurant learning center and have fun!
17. Set up a newspaper center- Have a variety of newspapers, type writers, ipads, computers and pretend printing presses for children to create their own newspaper!
18. Telephone Book Collection Center- Have children look through various telephone books. Have them copy names, addresses and phone numbers. They can also copy ads in the books.
19. Baby Name Collection Books- Provide a variety of baby name books. Provide index cards, post cards,cardboard, construction paper, lined paper, etc. pens, pencils, markers and have children copy names and their meanings! Create a names list for other classmates to copy! Great fine-motor, visual discrimination activity!

Writing Is A Sharing Experience!

Having two or three children work together on a writing activity is a great way to help children value each other and their work!

When children write in pairs or ins small groups, it is great for them to learn how to sequence a small number of ideas together. Also having them practice putting together shot blending of their language is a great way to motivate children to share and to motivate each other.

Having children write together on the same sheet of paper or a long sheet of butcher paper are wonderful for shared writing. When the children are all done- encourage
them by hanging their writing on the wall or in the hallway in the educational setting!

Writing is much more appealing to children when they are able to share with each other. They appreciate each other's writing and also learn and gain new ideas from each other!

It is also a great idea to pair a child who may be very interested in writing with another who may need more motivating- great sharing experiences through writing activities!
This is a great time for partners to share a small number of ideas, short stories for different purposes and different audiences. Therefore they may pair up and write a story, a play or a poem!

Interest-Based Writing Experiences!

With many of the changes and challenges that are now before children and teachers, time for interests and use of imagination can add much to the writing program!

It is a great time for all children to use the computer for writing, drawing and editing experiences.
There are also some great writing websites for children. Many of them allow children to choose from a variety of graphics which often enhance their writing abilities! These can lead to more interest-based writing opportunities and experiences for children.

Some children are interested in writing certain types of stories. Some are interested in mystery, fiction, non-fiction, etc. This is a wonderful time for them to demonstrate their creativity and imagination through their writing experiences.

This is a great time to allow children to demonstrate their writing abilities through their interests!

If You Can Write- You Can Write!

Well, as we all back over our lives, we look back over our lives, we begin to think about our own early writing experiences. What are some of the things that motivated us to write and what were some that discouraged us?

We all need to think about those times and if there were any distractions or experiences that affected our interest or disinterest in writing. Then we must remember
to pass on the message to all children- "If you can write- yes, you can write!


Copying, Copying Words, Early Writing, Early Writing Experiences, Inventive Spelling, Inventive Writing, Letters, Numbers, Shapes, Writers, Writing, Writing Samples, Young Children

Meet the author

author avatar g. kirklandholmes
I am an early childhood educator and taught pre-school-kindergarten multi-age grouping classes and early childhood courses at the University of Northern Iowa. I also publish with expertscolumn.com

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