Any marks that your toddler makes is the start of the writing process. Through play children can explore, develop and represent their experiences. For example, when creating a role play cafe, they can be encouraged to write their own menus, recipes or order lists and use these in their play. This shows children that writing is for a purpose and that it has meaning. As an adult, when you are writing, explain to your child what you are writing about and show them.

Note that, as a toddler, they will not hold the pencil, crayon or pen in the correct way as their finger muscles are not strong enough.


Setting Up a Writing Area

Set up a writing area for your child to use. We have used a letter holder but placing pencils, pens etc in cups and then placing them in a box would work just as well.

For the writing area we have: pens, crayons, pencils, post it notes, stickers, glue, paper, old birthday cards, my daughter’s name written on a piece of card and numbers to ten written on card so that she can see them.

Stage One

At this stage your child will just makes marks. Whatever they write or draw, ask them what they have done, as it gives them meaning to their marks.

Stage Two

Encourage your child to attempt to write their name, by following their dot to dot name or copying it underneath.

Stage Three

Include in the writing area invitations, paper for lists and pictures of their favourite toy to label.

Mark Making and Writing

Young children have a natural desire to explore and experiment. Mark making is much more than just a scribble. It is the creation of different patterns, shapes and lines and is a start towards writing. Mark making doesn’t just have to involve paper. Encourage your child to draw in the sand or in mud, to make marks on play dough or on their hands.

John Matthews states:

“Scribbles are products of systematic investigation, rather than haphazard actions.”

Stage One

Encourage your child to draw lines that go across, up and down or round and round.

Stage Two

Your child may be able to make distinct marks that look like letters and are separated from each other.

They may draw wavy lines across their paper which is their writing!

If you write their name in big letters, they may be able to copy some of those letters.

Stage Three

They might begin to use letters in their writing.

Your child may write for different purposes – a letter, card, list or labelling a picture

Salt Writing

This is an easy way to practise letter formation. All you need is a tray, salt and flashcards. I would recommend using the Read Write Inc letter formation rhymes.

Rainbow Rice Writing

This is such a quick activity to set up to help with letter formation. Rice or rice with food colouring on it placed in a baking tray and a paintbrush and off you go. Have the letters in front of your child, so that they can copy them and say the Read Write Inc writing rhymes as they write.

Stage One

Start with patterns using salt, sand, rice, flour, water, sugar or paint.

Stage Two

If you would like to start having a go at letter formation, start with salt, sugar, sand, flour, paint or rice. Show your child the letter and say the Read Write Inc Rhyme. Next show them how to write it and then let them have a go.

Start in this order:

  • Curly Caterpillar Letters: o, c, a, d, s, g, q, e, f
  • Long Ladder Letters: l, i, t, u, j, y
  • One-Armed Robot Letters: r, b, n, h, m, k, p
  • The Zig-Zag Letters: z, v, z, x
Stage Three

Write the letters in the air, on their hand and on your back. Then get the paper and pencil ready and write the letters down! Remember to have the correct handwriting posture – back straight and feet on the floor.

Duplo Letter Shapes

This simple activity helps your child with their letter shapes. You can use duplo or any toy that they are interested in.

  1. Write a large letter ‘c’ on a piece of paper or card.
  2. Give your child the duplo and ask them to place it over the letter ‘c’ that you have drawn.
  3. Repeat with other letters.
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