Fun activities to promote writing skills

Here are 11 ways you can encourage your child to write. Because children learn in different ways, they are arranged by learning style. But any child can benefit from the suggestions in all three categories. Written by Holly Hanke.

For physical learners

Write together. Whenever you sit down to write a letter or a shopping list, or to pay bills or fill out an order form, ask your child to join you. Give him some writing paper, a blank check or a deposit slip, or an order form of his own to scribble on while you take care of business. Your child will learn that writing is an essential part of everyday life.

Use sand to “write” words. Help your child make letters and words out of materials like sand, glitter, or cake sprinkles. Cookie dough and pancake batter work too — and you get to eat the results!

Use modeling clay or Play-Doh to form words. First, make large flashcards with letters of the alphabet or simple words. (Laminate the cards if you can.) Then roll out thin ropes of clay. Ask your child to trace the words or letters on the cards using the ropes of clay. Not only will he learn to recognize words, but playing with the clay will help build the muscles in his fingers and hone the fine motor skills he’ll need to write.

Keep a travel log. When you’re on a trip together — a vacation, a visit to Grandma’s, a trip to the beach or the zoo — have your child bring along a notebook in which he can write down what he sees and does, even if it’s nothing but scribbles.

For auditory learners

Take dictation. Have your child dictate a story to you while you write it down. Need a good subject? Try his last birthday party or a recent trip to Grandma’s. Even though your child isn’t actually doing the writing himself, he’s watching you write down what he says. This is a great way to reinforce the connection between the written and spoken word. As your child learns to write on his own, you can switch roles.

Describe pictures. Look at pictures together in magazines, catalogs, or storybooks. Ask your child to tell you what he thinks the people are doing or thinking, and write down what he says as a caption. Or ask him to narrate a conversation he thinks two people may be having.

“Publish” a book together. Find drawings that your child did in previous years. Paste them on construction paper, and ask your child to explain each one. Using heavy cardboard, make a cover for the pages and have your child decorate it. Ask him to write a title page listing himself as the author. Punch holes in the pages and bind them together with yarn or ribbon. Treat it like a real book by storing it on the bookshelf with your child’s other books.

For visual learners

Make a photographic journal. Take snapshots of your child with friends and relatives. Paste them in a journal or scrapbook that you make together or buy. Have your child tell you who is in the picture and where it was taken, and write down what he says as a caption. This will be a wonderful keepsake for him when he is older.

Keep a diary. Children love to talk about themselves. By keeping a diary, your child learns to “talk” about himself in writing. Even if your preschooler is still struggling with letters, get him in the habit of writing a word or two in a special notebook on a daily basis, using crayons or markers. Make diary writing a regular part of his routine (before bed is often a good time). If he has trouble getting started, you can:

•  Make specific suggestions. Encourage him to write about his visit with Grandma or a playdate he had, even if it’s nothing but scribbles.

•  Have him dictate to you what he’d like to record in the journal while you write it down. Most likely, he’ll soon get the urge to write it himself.

Play with alphabet refrigerator magnets. Playing with letter magnets on the fridge helps your child practice writing and spelling. He can also trace the letters (use colored pencils; crayons are too thick). For portability, you can attach the letters to a cookie tray.

Make an alphabet book. Fold a piece of construction paper in half, insert blank white pages, and staple the binding. Have your child write one letter per page, in upper and lower case, and draw a picture that starts with that letter.

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