Early Literacy Skills are skills that children need before they being to learn to read.  There are 5 simple practices that you can do to help your child develop these skills.

writeBefore children can learn how to write, they must build up their strength and muscles and work on their fine motor skills.  Children must also make the connection that marks that are made on paper represent something, that writing has meaning and is important.

baby chewing book

For BABIES, working on writing skills is all about building strength in fingers and developing muscles that will assist with writing.  Things you can do with babies include:

  • Gently stroke the back of your baby’s hand with a toy and he will naturally open his hand.  When you then place the toy in his hand, he should try to grasp for it.  Try this with other objects that have different shapes and textures.
  • It is important for babies to have Tummy Time throughout their day.  This helps build back, arm and hand strength.
  • Have board books within your baby’s reach so they can explore them anytime they want.  Board books are perfect for little hands and help babies build their grasping muscles.

Mom daughter reading

For TODDLERS, provide them with a space and materials (markers, crayons, stickers) to scribble, draw and “write”.  Working more on the fine motor skills of grasping is also important at this age. Some activities to do with your toddler are:

  • Provide your child with paper to tear, play-dough or clay to shape, and toys or sponges to squeeze in the bathtub.  All of these activities will help build strength in little fingers.
  • Picking items up and putting them in place helps children learn the important skill of intentional grasp and release. Stacking toys are good for working on this skill or give your child a small box and an object that fits inside and let him practice putting it in and taking it out.
  • Involve your child when making shopping lists, chore lists or a reminder for another family member.  This will help her learn that writing is useful.  Encourage her also to draw or “write” something on your list or have her make a list of her own.

Preschool boy with bookFor PRESCHOOLERS, early writing combines drawing, “made-up” spelling, copying and repeating patterns.  Some preschoolers are even beginning to write their own name and invent their own version of how to spell words.  Early writing activities that you can do with your preschooler include:

  • Pour some rice or sand into a shallow container and let your child trace letters.  This is an easy way to start “writing”.
  • Continue to supply your child with the materials he needs to “write” and create, paying attention to materials that match your child’s interests.  Sparkly stickers, special paper, glue and paint can all be used with preschoolers and make sure there is space to get messy!
  • Introduce letter writing to your child by having them send notes to loved ones.  Children can add a picture to your writing or they can “write” themselves.  Take your letter to the post office together and talk about how the address will help the letter get to where it belongs.

For more info and ideas: Center for Early Literacy Learning Parent Guide