The step following mark-making is letter writing, creating symbols that are recognizable to you and to your child. Young children often make the most progress writing the letters in their name before writing any others. As mentioned in the section on name recognition, a young child is interested in writing her own name because it has meaning to her and she feels a great sense of pride when she can write her name all by herself.
What Your Child Should Know
Once your prekindergarten-age child has a good grasp of name recognition and mark-making, she should:
- Start to show interest in writing the letters in her name
- Be able to identify each of the letters in her name
- Begin to try writing each of the letters in her name, particularly the first letter
How You Can Help
Name writing can and should happen at the child's pace, but there are things you can do to help foster it.
- Keep your child's printed name visible around the house and invite her to notice the letters in her name. Your child may even ask how to spell her name. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate and encourage her to try and write her name.
- As mentioned earlier, create a writing center (a designated place for coloring and writing and creating) for your child. Keep a variety of writing tools and paper there. Add a card with your child's name clearly printed on it to the writing center for quick reference. Anytime she needs a little help remembering what the letters in her name look like, remind her to take out the name card and look it over.
- Be a model for name writing. Let your child see you writing her name and invite her to help you with it on things such as birthday cards, Valentine's Day cards, and thank-you notes. Remember to model your child's name in the correct form: a capital letter followed by all lowercase letters.
- Encourage your child to print her name on drawings, paintings, pictures, and other things she has made before putting them up on the refrigerator or away in a folder. Don't be surprised if she asks you to do it for her—just encourage her to write at least the first letter of her name and gradually add a few more letters over time.
Finally, always look for ways to make the writing process more interesting and creative. For example, try pouring a small amount of salt in a shoebox lid or placing a small amount of paint on a tray and then invite your child to use her pointer finger to write in the salt or a cotton swab to write in the paint. See these two links for additional information on Salt Tray Writing ( www.teachpreschool.org/2012/03/writing-in-salt) or Paint Tray Writing ( www.teachpreschool.org/2011/09/paint-and-write-boards-for-preschoolers).
Reflect, Revise, Revisit
If you have already started a portfolio for your child's mark-makings, you can now add samples of your child's name writing. Review the samples over time and make note of the progress you see. Don't expect significant progress in a short time, but do look for consistency in effort over time. Although you should continue to model the child's printed name correctly, don't be alarmed if she prints the letters of her name in random order, backward, or prints each letter in random places around the paper. At this stage of the name-writing process, you are looking for evidence that your child knows what letters are in her name and is attempting to put them in print—no matter which direction the name ends up going.