I’ve seen a lot of people new to homeschool preschool asking about how to teach writing lately, which makes a lot of sense because writing is a super important skill that we all want our kids to have! The answer to teaching preschoolers how to write though, is a little bit longer!
Preschooler hands are not nearly as developed as school-aged children or adults. Check out these x-rays:
Look especially close at the wrists and joints. The wrist bones in a 3-year old are not nearly formed! Many of them are still cartilage! Also notice the spaces where muscle and connective tissues will grow.
And just like learning to use the toilet or walk, children’s bones do not all develop at the exact same time. Some preschoolers are truly not ready to write a lot. Others love it, and write happily (even as young toddlers). Your preschoolers will let you know if they want to write or not!
If they are not ready to write, you can still develop those bones, muscles, and joints with “writing” activities that don’t actually require writing during your homeschool preschool. These activities strengthen the same parts of the hand that children use for writing, so encouraging them to engage in these activities actually counts as “school” work! It also prepares them so that they are physically ready to begin writing.
* Painting, drawing, and coloring! You can use blank paper, coloring books, butcher paper, or more! Paint cardboard boxes, egg cartons, paper towel or toilet paper rolls, or anything else! Crafts and art projects fit in this category too!
* Playdough play is wonderful fine-motor exercise! Just think about all that squeezing, pinching, and rolling those little hand muscles do when they use playdough!
* Tearing and cutting — let them use their fingers, hands, and scissors! Tear strips and cut lines! Shred newspapers, junk mail, or anything else that you don’t need! Kids can do amazing things with scissors!
* Poking holes in things! Offer to let your child make “stars” on a piece of construction paper by poking it with a toothpick. Notice how they have to pinch the toothpick–just like holding a pencil. This is actually an incredible fine-motor exercise!
* Digging in dirt! Again, we’re strengthening the muscles, bones, and connective tissues in the hands. Dig with a shovel, without a shovel, with gloves, and without gloves! Hide “treasures,” find them, make holes to plant flowers, or dig “fairy homes!”
* Squeezing! You can squeeze water with a sponge — give your preschooler a few bowls and put water in one of them. Add in some pipettes, spoons, and food coloring bottles. Now you have fine motor exercise, writing skills, a science experiment, and STEM discovery!
* Building! Try building with LEGOS, and notice the way the muscles in your fingers have to work! You can use other interlocking blocks, marble runs, wooden blocks, foam blocks, or any other small object that can be stacked or built with!
* Playing with toys! It might seem like it’s just imaginary play, but when your kids are picking up marbles, action figures, cars, train tracks, or any other small toy they are strengthening the muscles in their hands. And they are having a great time doing it too!
* Beading, puzzles, and gluing all accomplish the same thing: exercising the small muscles and connective tissues in hands that need to be strong enough to write letters, words, and sentences. It might seem like a game or craft, but skills important for writing are being built!
Finally, actually writing! I know I told you this was a list of things that didn’t require writing, but it never hurts to have paper and pencils out and available. I’ve especially noticed that my preschoolers like writing more when I am writing. 😉 They also like to write with fancy pens more than boring pencils. Of course, I can’t really blame them for that because I love to write with fancy pens too!
Anyway, it happens soon (oh, so soon!)… suddenly, those little hands will be ready to grab a pencil and write for 5 minutes. Then 10 minutes, and then more.