How Do I Help my Preschooler Write Letters?
Has your toddler or preschooler ever drawn a picture that they are so proud of, but you are unable to identify the image? But if you ask your child to tell you what they drew they quickly spout out each detail of the picture. This has happened to me too. Did you know that these images or symbols are their developing writing skills?
How do I help my preschooler’s scribbles turn into letters?
There are two important foundations to handwriting—pencil grasp and letter formation. In order for a young child to be successful at handwriting they must first develop their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills involve using the small muscles of your body, like the ones in your hands that you use for grasping, writing, and buttoning.
I offer some fun, low-prep fine motor skill activities in my book, The Ultimate Toddler Activity Guide. Some other activities to help develop the muscles to grasp a pencil correctly are:
· Draw monsters on the sidewalk with chalk, and ask your preschooler to use a spray bottle to melt them away
· Let your preschooler use tweezers to transfer pom poms
· String a necklace using string and beads
As the muscles in the hand get stronger you can begin to teach your preschooler the proper way to hold a pencil. Most children start by holding a pencil in a closed fist grasp, but this is not correct because it requires more work for the hand and arm making your child tire easily. (If your child is more comfortable with the fist grasp continue to work on developing their fine motor skills.) You want to encourage your preschooler to hold their pencil in a pencil grasp where they pinch the pencil between their thumb and index finger, or between their thumb, index, and middle finger.
Now that your preschooler is ready to form letters, you need to decide how you want to teach your preschooler to form those letters. There are two popular fonts to teach letter formation—print and precursive.
What is the difference between print and precursive font?
Print font is the “ball and stick” letter formation that many of us currently use in our daily writing. Print is what is used in books and everyday life. This style of writing might require a child to pick up their pencil during the formation of letters. When forming print letters children might have a hard time remembering where their pencil needs to go next after they pick it up (This is not always the case.).
Precursive font is singular letters that will help a child eventually learn to write in cursive. Precursive writing is a “one-stroke” form of writing where a child will often retrace a line instead of picking up their pencil to form a new part of the letter. Many argue that precursive writing is more about muscle memory for a child instead of remembering how the letter is formed. Many schools have moved away from precursive and cursive form of writing.
How do I know which font is best for my child?
Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question for you. You know your child best, and you will be the best judge as to which font is best for them to learn to write.
I have actually taught my children both forms of writing. I began with the print font because that is what I was taught in school and most schools have moved away from teaching cursive. My oldest picked up on the print letters without a problem, but my middle child had a hard time remembering the next “step” after he picked up his pencil.
The school we chose for my kindergartener to attend uses precursive and cursive writing, so I began to teach my kindergartener and preschooler to form letters using the precursive letter formations. My oldest caught on very quickly since he already had a knowledge of letter formation. I will say, his penmanship is very neat and legible when writing in precursive font. My preschooler has had a much easier time forming letters using precursive since he doesn’t have to pick up his pencil and can just retrace his steps.