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Pre-Writing Skills – The development stages in the early years

Prewriting skills are the fundamental skills children need to develop before they can write. These skills contribute to a child’s ability to hold and use a pencil, as well as their ability to write. Pre-writing skills are necessary to master in the early years for many important reasons. Just like children need to walk before they can run, they also need to develop pre-writing skills before they can write!

Writing requires well-developed gross and fine motor skills. It is with the correct development of fine motor skills that children improve their ability to control precise movements with the fingers, wrists and hands. Working with resources including playdough, scribbling, pretend writing or drawing on surfaces such as chalkboards can help to strengthen a child’s ability to write. By using tweezers and tongs children strengthen their pincer grip making pencil gripping easer. These are two simple examples of activities that are geared towards fine motor and pre-writing development. Pre-writing skill development has shown a direct and positive link to many areas of a child’s development.

Pre-Writing Skills also encourages Speaking and Reading

Most pre-schoolers love talking about what they have drawn, scribbled or even attempted to write. This comes very naturally to them. Providing such opportunities develops a child’s speaking skills and gives them the confidence to express themselves. The more children mark-make and write, the more connections they make between the various forms of Language – vocabulary, speaking, reading, and writing.

Always remember ‘Scribbling’ is to writing as ‘Babbling’ is to Speaking!

There are many stages of writing and most children typically go through the following stages when developing their pre-writing and writing skills.

  • Scribbling: Although these can often be illegible, these marks are children’s first act or feel of writing.
  • Representational drawings: During this stage, scribbles give way to circles, lines, or other shapes. At this stage, children will often tell stories about these drawings and what they represent.
  • Writing is separate from drawing: During this stage, children learn about the letters of the alphabet and recognize that letters are different than drawings. They also begin to associate letters with specific sounds and begin to make marks on paper, both legible and illegible, to represent letters.
  • Mock letters: Children “write” from left to right, imitating the form of phrases and sentences.
  • Writing words: During this stage, children begin to write two and three letter words. They may use invented spellings for words or spell words the way they sound.
  • Conventional writing and spelling: This is final stage of writing development in which children understand the spacing between letters and words, write them legibly on paper and understand and differentiate between uppercase and lowercase letters. This typically happens when a child has reached Year 1 and 2.

It is important for us to support these pre-writing skills in early years nursery and preschool and we can do this in so many effortless ways!

  • Provide children with a wide variety of materials to explore writing – crayons, chalk, pencils, paintbrushes, various types of papers.
  • Invite children to tell you about their drawings and writings. Listen without interruption!
  • Encourage children to be creative when drawing and writing. Don’t force children to “colour within lines” or to stick to conventions. If a child wants to colour in a sun purple, they can, by all means, do so!
  • Explore a variety of creative ways to develop their mark making and prewriting skills, such as writing with twigs and sticks in sand or dipping paint brushes in water and writing on chalkboards.

Pre-writing in nursery and preschools settings is all about providing children with strong foundations from which children can develop their writing skills. It is not about teaching them the act of writing – That is a developmental bonus

To find out more about how The Windsor supports Pre-Writing skills check out our website Gallery and Instagram page where we have shared so many exciting activities that support child development in a British Curriculum nursery and pre-school setting.