Teaching Writing

Writing Activities for Toddlers

Clay Pre-Writing

Most homes with toddlers have modeling clay sitting on the shelf or in the toy box. Dig it out to make a tactile writing activity. Roll out a ball of modeling clay to flatten it. Cut several colorful drinking straws until they're about two inches each. Decide on a letter of the day or study several letters at a time. Make holes in the clay with a straw to represent a letter and let your little one place straws into the holes to form the letter. The colorful straws will appeal to his sense of vision. Once he completes the letter, practice making its sound and brainstorm words beginning with that letter.

Drawing as Pre-Writing

Drawing may sound like a simple task, but it actually helps toddlers become writers. They learn to grasp pencils and crayons, hold the paper correctly and apply the proper pressure onto the paper. Even scribbling across the paper sparks a young child's interest in the writing process. Keep drawing materials nearby and count any time spent drawing as a mini-writing session. Your little one will remember these skills when he begins to form his first letters.

Shaving Cream Letters

Squirt a pile of foam shaving cream on the table and get ready for some writing fun. Roll up your child's sleeves and practice writing the letters of his name in the cream, using his fingers. After all, this is most likely the first word he'll recognize and actually write. Practice saying each letter so he can learn to memorize his name's spelling. Once done, clear off all the cream from the table and you'll notice a sparkling shine.

Create a Journal

Work with your child to create a personal journal. Use a blank notebook or bind some pages together and make a construction paper cover. Think of a weekly theme sentence to write on each page such as, "My favorite animals are..." Give your little one a chance to complete the sentence and illustrate it. Journaling allows small children to make a connection between reading and writing at an early age. Your toddler will feel pride in his work as the two of you read his thoughts over and over.

How to Teach a 4-Year-Old to Read & Write

Read to your child. Do this every night, or as often as you can. By reading to your child, you will help him develop an interest in literature at a young age. Avoid letting the television babysit your child; instead, try to provide every opportunity for him to get acquainted with books.

Create flash cards to gently teach your child with them. The more you use these cards with your child, the better he will become at recognizing words. Start with fun pictures on the flashcards to keep your child's attention focused and to add a bit of fun. As he builds his vocabulary, you can add new words to keep him interested in learning.

Read street signs, billboards and menus with your child. Teach the names of people they are familiar with. Anything the child can interact with is a tool to help teach. You can also point to household items and say the name of the item slowly, and have your child repeat it.

Work with your child on writing skills. As your child learns new words, work with her to practice writing them down on paper. Of course you should first start with the alphabet, but as she progresses you can add words to the writing exercises. You can also teach her how to recognize her name and learn how to write it. Be patient during this step because it may take awhile for her to grasp the concept of writing.

Give your child small books to begin reading. Sit with your child every day to read books with him. As he makes progress, give him books that are more advanced. Slowly increase the difficulty of the books and work with him to increase his ability. If he goes to preschool, work with his teacher to see what else he is exposed to that allows him to learn about reading and writing.

Celebrate milestones of progress with her. Give appropriate rewards for significant progress made during this process. This shows the child her that learning is rewarding because it is path to long-term success.

How to Motivate Children to Write in Preschool

Expose your child to a variety of print materials to get her familiar with and interested in written language. Visit the library. Read books as well as signs on the road, labels in the supermarket and words on television.

Help your child prepare physically for writing. In an article titled "Developing Handwriting Skills," Education.com recommends that parents engage children in exercises to strengthen their hand muscles. For example, try lacing activities, finger puppets, buttoning and snapping and games with tweezers.

Explore a variety of different writing tools such as colored pencils, markers, crayons and chalk. Model how to hold a writing tool properly. Encourage your child to shape his own hand like yours, but allow him to hold the tool in a way that feels comfortable at first.

Break up writing tools like crayons or chalk into smaller pieces to make them easier for her fingers. Use brightly colored pencil grips with pens or pencils, if needed. Provide finger paints if writing utensils are too challenging, or show her how to write with her finger in materials like rice or shaving cream.

Allow your child to make any kind of marks. In the article "How Children Learn to Write," Education.com explains that children learn to write through discovery. They try out different strategies and call their scribbles "writing."

Compliment your preschooler's work. In an article titled "10 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learn," Scholastic recommends that parents acknowledge and celebrate their children's achievements, no matter how small. Comment on the different marks he made on the page, however messy they might seem.

Things You Will Need

  • Finger puppets
  • Snaps or buttons
  • Tweezers
  • Laces
  • Paper or other writing surfaces
  • Writing utensils
  • Finger paints
  • Rice or shaving cream

How Parents Can Help Children Improve Writing at School

Buy a selection of writing materials for your child. Notebooks or blank journals, different colours or kinds of papers, and a selection of coloured pens or markers can all help to make writing seem fun and exciting, particularly for a younger child.

Set an example for your child by writing yourself. If your child sees you writing on a daily basis, whether it's a story, a letter, an e-mail or even something as simple as a grocery list, they will be more apt to follow in your footsteps.

Encourage your child to keep a daily journal. Whether she just records what she did for the day or writes about her thoughts and feelings, this will help her to get into the practice of writing something on a regular basis.

Write a story. Have your child tell you a story and then write the story down. This will help him learn about the parts of the story such as the beginning, the middle and the ending. It will also help him learn how to organise his thoughts and put them in writing. You can also have him illustrate the work and put it into book form to show and display. This will help him to take personal pride in an original work that he created.

Read a book. Depending on the age of your child, you can either read to her or you can encourage her to read independently. Reading not only exposes your child to different writing styles, but it also demonstrates proper grammar and sentence structure.

Tip

Keep any criticism constructive and focus more on content than grammar and spelling. Sometimes being overly critical can discourage your child from writing.

Pre-Writing Activities for Toddlers With Shape Themes

Tape Shapes

Since you toddler is likely always moving anyway, he should thoroughly enjoy the "tape shape" pre-writing activity. Help you little one learn to recognize shapes by taping masking tape on the floor in various shapes. Make the shapes large enough so that your child can crawl, walk and jump around them. Ask your tot to name the shape as he moves toward it. As he gets better at identifying basic shapes, like squares and triangles, try taping down letters, such as those in his name.

Shape Throwing

Another pre-writing activity is "shape throwing." Cut out large cardboard shapes for this activity -- and then spread them out on the floor. When you call out a shape, your toddler should try to throw a bean bag onto that shape. In addition to shape recognition, this activity helps children with the hand-eye coordination they need for writing.

Scribble Time

Your toddler likely loves scribbling with crayons -- and you should encourage this activity. To improve her crayon grip, tape paper to the wall or use an easel, so she can't rely on the flat surface of a table to support the crayon. To further encourage your tot to learn her shapes, cut her scribbling paper into shapes like circles and triangles. Once your tot is comfortable scribbling with crayons, show her how to make lines and circles. For toddlers who just love being outdoors, get some sidewalk chalk. Draw some shapes on the sidewalk or driveway -- and encourage your little one to scribble in the shape when you call it out.

Finger Painting

Finger painting is always a favorite among the toddling set. But you can get creative when it comes to the "paint." Encourage your tot to "paint" with shaving cream or whipped cream on a table or in a plastic tub. Ask her what shape she's making -- and then show her how to make a specific shape. Bath paints give toddlers yet another opportunity to practice fine motor skills and develop shape recognition. You might also encourage you toddler to use her finger to draw shapes in the sandbox.

Shapes Collage

You can also help your toddler create a shapes collage. First, you'll need to cut out a bunch of shapes in various colors and sizes ahead of time. You can then help your toddler glue down the shapes to create the collage, perhaps asking him to group shapes together such as by gluing some small stars onto a large star. The gluing will help with fine motor skills and using and talking about the shapes reinforces recognition.

Making Persuasive Writing Fun for Teenagers

Choose an Entertaining Topic

Teens have strong opinions when it comes to their entertainment choices, even though you may not always agree as to the value of your teen’s choice. Ask your teen to complete a persuasive writing piece that successfully convinces the reader that his favorite movie, television show, or band is one that is worth checking out. To make this more fun, you could have other family members prepare their own persuasive writing piece and let a neutral, third-party judge who best made the case for their favorite for their favorite movie, television show, or band.

Get Political

Even if your teen claims to have no interest in national politics, he is probably interested in local issues that will directly affect his life. Examples of these issues might include public schools requiring students to wear uniforms, high schools requiring community service in order for a student to graduate, states placing restrictions on teen drivers, or communities closing youth centers and canceling activities for young people due to budgetary concerns. Encourage your teen to write a persuasive editorial on one of these issues to submit to the school newspaper or a local news magazine.

Make It Personal

For older teens, deciding what to do when they graduate is one of the most challenging tasks they will face. Because of this, a great persuasive writing prompt is the topic of whether it is better to go to college directly after high school, take a few years off and then go to college, or simply skip college completely and enter the workforce. Ask your teen to take a stance on this issue and support it with specific examples. Suggest searching for research into college graduation rates as well as anecdotal evidence from people who made a decision that worked out well for them. When the paper is finished, be supportive of your teen's efforts no matter what his opinion on the issue is.

Make It Useful

A problem teens have with persuasive writing is that teens don't feel that it is a useful activity, to simply write an argument about an idea. Teens are focused on the here and now – rather than on what they need to do to establish their future career. The next time your teen wants to do something you're not sure you agree with, such as staying out past curfew to attend a party, ask him to write a persuasive letter for you so that you can make your decision. The prospect of a tangible reward works well as a motivator for a reluctant writer. Before you offer your ear, however, make sure you're committed to listening to your teen's thoughts.

Activities for Kids Who Have Poor Handwriting

Multisensory Activities

If your younger child has trouble with letter formation, sensory activities may help. Sensory activities bring the letters off the paper and into your child's hands in a sort of three-dimensional experience. Shaping letters out of clay or chenille sticks and writing them in sand with a finger are examples of sensory activities. Alternatively, give your child a bowl of mini-marshmallows or small candies and a letter guide, such as a flash card, and let him practice forming the letters with food.

Dry Erase Books, Cards and Boards

Dry erase markers and wipe off books are ingenious writing tools for kids suffering from sloppy handwriting. You can find them in manuscript and cursive, appropriate for all grade levels, although the graphics in the books and cards are almost always geared toward young kids. If your older child feels silly using a wipe-off book, invest in a white board and a nice set of colorful markers, hang it in his room and encourage him to write on it daily.

Journaling

Journals and diaries are inventive tools for older children who have questionable writing skills. They're more entertaining than worksheets, and they give him more freedom to write about things he actually finds interesting. Buy a journal and present it to him as a gift. If you take a low-pressure approach, he won't even pick up on the fact that you're giving him the gift of homework. Encourage him to write in it daily, about everyday events, but don't pressure him to show or share it with the family.

List-making

Lists are easy to write. They generally consist of single words in a line, and for a kid who hates to write, making a list can be much less overwhelming than sitting in front of a worksheet full of blank lines. Give your sloppiest writer the privilege of being the family list-maker. Grocery lists, movie-rental lists, birthday and Christmas lists -- the opportunities go on and on, and every list he makes gives him that much-needed penmanship practice.

How Can Parents Help Improve Writing?

Modeling

Computers and cell phones replace many opportunities for writing in your daily life, so your child might not see you pick up a pen often. Instead of making your grocery list on a phone app, pull out some paper and write it yourself. Hand write a letter to a friend you haven't seen for years. A note to your child makes her feel special and shows her the impact of writing. Your modeling shows your child that writing is more than a chore she has to do at school, according to the National Council of Teachers of English.

Real-Life Writing Opportunities

Engaging in her own real-life writing tasks outside of school is another way for your child to improve her skills. A journal is a tool to encourage her to write everyday. She gets to write however she wants inside the covers of the journal, unlike school writing where she has to follow guidelines. A letter to a friend or relative is another authentic writing experience for your child. Encourage her to write a thank you note for a gift she received. Another idea is list writing. Let her write a birthday wish list or her own grocery list.

Writing Center

A writing area in the home keeps all of the materials she needs handy. Whether she feels like scribbling or writing a detailed story, she has paper and pencils ready at all times. Envelopes in the area encourage her to write letters to family members or friends. Scholastic suggests adding other elements to the center, such as a chalkboard or a bulletin board. A mailbox made from a cardboard box lets your little one write letters and "send" them right at home.

Encouragement

Your reaction to your child's writing impacts her confidence in the area. If you criticize her for little mistakes or try to redo her work for her, she may feel her writing isn't up to par. Even if you're trying to motivate her to improve, your criticisms could have the opposite effect. Instead, point out where she excels in writing. Praise her for writing a complete sentence or writing her letters correctly. If you pick apart all the little details, writing isn't fun and she may do it less.