When kids are first learning to hold a pencil, write, and draw, the more practice they get, the better. Just like exercise, repetition is the key. It’s actually a pretty hard task for kids to develop the motor control to accurately hold a pencil and re-create letters and numbers as they see them on a page. Beyond just learning all those phonological symbols, there is also the matter of fine motor control. Boys, in particular, often develop this fine control a little later than girls. I don’t worry a whole bunch about the exact ages my kids develop skills like this, but I do try to encourage constant progress in their development. Grown-ups work, but kids play. Play is the way they develop. So make their development tasks into fun activities and games and you’ll see them blossom before your very eyes. Kids who love to draw and color often pick up the physical act of writing much more easily. Anytime I can come up with reasons for my little ones to put pen to paper, I encourage it. Extra credit for mom if they are having so much fun that they keep at for awhile!
Tracing around cookie cutters is great practice for emergent writers. Kids can pretty easily hold the cookie cutters and outline around either the outside or inside edge like a stencil. Cookie cutter tracing really develops control and concentration because it involves both hands. One hand is holding the cookie cutter still while the other is doing the writing.
We have a big box of lots of cookie cutters that cover all the holidays and seasons, cars, dinosaurs, animals, flowers, hearts, and even the alphabet. New things to trace for every month, occasion, or whatever is fancying them at the time! They all cheer when I get it out. Even the older kids still love making cool overlapping cookie cutter tracing art.
Often, once they’ve finished their tracing, they continue writing by decorating their outlines.
I just love those awesome eyebrows on this girl! And the buttons on the gingerbread girl are quite fine too! Cookie cutter tracing becomes cookie cutter art.
Other good activities to practice with a pencil:
- Tracing over a yellow highlighter pen (you write a message in highlighter, and they trace over your lines with a pencil.
- Pathways (like you draw roads and pathways -some straight, some curvy, some zigzag- and tell the kids to stay between the lines with the pencil! My kids loved these, especially when I made some rivers, some trails, etc. and drew little cars, boats, and stick people around them).
- Coloring in coloring books
*A note on coloring books – A lot of people think coloring books are evil because they are discouraging creativity by asking them to stay in the lines. I say that from a child development standpoint though, creativity and control are two different skills. Both are important. Staying within the lines develops control. And who says you have to stay in the lines all the time anyway? I’ve been known to draw a mustache on Cinderella. Hopefully your kids have many, many projects that encourage creativity and “outside the lines” thinking. If coloring books are all they ever do it could be problematic, but including it as one of their many artistic endeavors is terrific for little ones.