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It may look like scribbles to us, but from a very early age, the marks that children make on a page are an important step towards learning to write and communicating; through their marks children are communicating their ideas, showing us how they feel and developing their imagination. They are also being creative - however messy or scribbly their picture or words look. Having lots of opportunities to make marks is fundamental and every child should have the chance to draw, scribble, make lines and pictures when ever they want.
From the moment a baby holds a crayon and makes their very first mark on a page, their journey towards writing has begun. But it needn't be a conventional pencil they write with first on a clean sheet of paper. There are all sorts of other ways to get babies and toddlers used to the idea of mark making.
By a year old, a child can grasp and reach for objects by choice and at this age it is good to introduce all sorts of media to their world in order for them to be confident when using different materials. They can grip objects with the palm of their hand, use a pincer movement with thumb and finger and point. So once they can do this, they can begin mark making using things other than pencils.
Babies start mark making by:
- Making patterns in food (using a spoon to squash mash potato and make lines and curves)
- Putting their fingers in spilled baked beans and making patterns with their finger (messy, but it's a start!)
- Smearing jam over their arm and making interesting marks
Early stages of writing:
- Holding a pencil or crayon in the palm of the hand
- Making lots of random marks on the paper (scribbles!)
- Holding crayons more securely
- Making specific marks
- Making circles that they draw closed (ie a round circle that joins up)
- Combining circles and lines
- Copying adult's drawings
- Making lines of zig-zags or little circles more like lines of writing
Although it is only scribbling, those early marks made by a toddlers are the first steps towards writing... and its a long journey. The best way is to encourage and praise at every stage - even when you are presented with a mass of scribbles and you are told its a giraffe! To the little ones its clearly a giraffe. To us, its a smudged, messy page of lines and circles. So, try and be enthusiastic and encourage at every step.
Beginning legible Writing
- The child then begins to copy letters from their name - the first letter is usually their first one to choose.
- They understand that drawing and writing is different
- They are aware that words communicate a message
- They then form symbols and letters that they recognise (favourite letters they know well)
- They become aware of the left to right nature of writing
- They then begin to want to "read" their words and other words
Beginning to write Words
- They then are able with practice to start writing their name with upper and lower case letters
- They write sentences
- They use upper case letter at the beginning of the sentence and add a full stop at the end
- Start using words in play such as writing a list or playing schools and writing lists of names