It may look like scribbles, but from a very early age, the marks that children make on a page are an important step towards learning to write and communicate. Through their marks children are communicating their ideas, showing us how they feel and developing their own imagination. They are also being creative no matter how messy or scribbly their picture or words look to us when they have finished.
Give your child regular opportunities to make marks, draw, scribble, make lines and create pictures - at home, in the garden, in the park, at the restaurant, in the car. There are lots of times you can settle them down to draw and write and keep themselves entertained at the same time!
From the moment a baby holds a crayon and makes their very first mark on a page, their journey towards writing had begun. It may not be a conventional pencil used to write on a clean sheet of paper, but there are all sorts of other ways to get babies and toddlers used to the idea of mark making. Here are a few ideas to begin with:
It's a nightmare scenario - finding that your creative toddler has taken a turn at home improvements by scribbling all over the wall in your front room! While it's important to instill the discipline that crayons, pencils and pens are for use on paper only, why not give your little one's a wall that they can scribble and draw on with chalks?
Blackboard paint can turn almost any surface into a blackboard. You can create a blackboard in your toddler's bedroom, or paint cupboard doors or the side of a cabinet or wardrobe. Even inset panels in a door can be turned into a blackboard. If you're nervous about having chalks used inside, you can create a blackboard outside using any available flat surface.
Blackboard paint can be purchased from most hardware stores. Traditionally, as its name implies, it comes in black! Other colors are available from more specialist stores, or online - look for 'chalkwall paint'. You'll need to prime your surface first if it is at all glossy or an oil based finished (such as a glossed door, laminate furniture or over vinyl wallpaper). Apply a coat of primer, then when that's dry, start applying your blackboard paint. You'll need several coats - we'd recommend at least three, but read the paint tin for the manufacturer's own recommendation as paints vary in their consistency. It will take two or three days from start to the point where everything is dry and ready to use, but once installed, your kids will have a canvas that they can be creative with whenever they wish!
When it gets really stained with light chalk dust, wash it down, apply another coat of paint, and it'll look as good as new again.
Chalks are inexpensive, safe for toddlers to handle and can be used for a variety of toddler craft ideas. Chalks come in a variety of vibrant colours and the fact that it is composed from solid particles makes it one of the few writing materials that works really well on black paper. You can create night pictures, stunning firework scenes and many other patterns and pictures on black and other dark coloured papers.
Chalk can be used to make rubbings, just like wax crayons. Find a textured surface, inside or out, such as a textured lino floor, a piece of wood, tree bark or patio stones. Lay a sheet of paper over your surface and rub across the texture. You will create an image of the texture on the paper. That in itself is fun, but you can go further and have your little ones use that as a background to draw another picture on top.
Chalks can be used safely outdoors to draw on patios or pavements. Make road layouts, games, obstacle tracks, mazes or other large scale pictures for your little ones to play with. It might look messy for a few days after, but the pictures will quickly disappear with a bit of rain.
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