Should Pre-K Students Be Able to Write?

By Erica Loop
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Your little learner is ready for her first day of school, but you're still stressing over whether she's prepared for the preschool curriculum. If you're wondering if your 3- to 5-year-old should kick off her preschool career already knowing how to write or if she isn't old enough to master the task, understanding early literacy development can help you make sense of your child's penmanship skills.

Artful Writing

Your mini Monet is drawing another crayon picture of his favorite toy truck, and -- while it might not necessarily look like a real truck -- he is still making marks, lines, squiggles and some basic shapes. Although this artful activity seems to have more to do with his creative side than his writing skills, it's actually the building blocks of his later penmanship abilities. According to the child development pros at the national early childhood organization Zero to Three, a young child's skill set for early writing and art include the same abilities. When your preschooler makes seemingly random marks, abstract art, or pictures of people and places, he's also building the fine motor skills -- such as eye-hand coordination and dexterity -- that he needs to write.

Penmanship Practice

Zero to Three reports that most preschoolers start writing letters that are familiar to them, such as those in their first names. Your child is just beginning to understand that words are made up of different symbols -- or letters -- that vary based on what the writing says. You may notice your preschooler experimenting with her first letter, trying to copy what she sees you or her teacher write. For example, your little Annie may attempt the letter 'A' that she sees her teacher constantly writing at the top of her drawings.

Pretend Play Writing

The preschool years usher in an upswing in the amount of pretend play that your child will engage in. As he enters dramatic scenarios -- such as playing restaurant or grocery store -- he may incorporate a mock type of writing into his play. With the understanding that different words have varying numbers of letters, your child can start faux writing in a way that almost resembles the real thing. For example, he may scribble out a longer mark that he says means "ice cream," rather than a smaller word, like "cat."

All of the Alphabet

Don't expect your young child to write out all the alphabet before he starts kindergarten. While he will have the ability to pen some -- according to the experts at PBS Parents -- of the letters, he won't have the fine motor skills to master each and every one of them. Expect that your preschooler can write at least some uppercase letters and possibly a few lowercase ones. He may even put together a few different letters to create "words." Although he can't necessarily spell words correctly, he can use his own inventive spelling to string together his written letters.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.