Growing Readers is a monthly article offering parents and caregivers information on early childhood development and how to foster young readers and learners.
As adults we often take a skill, like writing, for granted, but for children, so much goes into the action of learning to write. Building pre-writing skills as toddlers and preschoolers is important for success when a child enters school. Not being able to sit at a desk or hold a pencil is frustrating for kids, so let’s build the skills needed to thrive.
Humans develop gross (or large body) motor movements before fine motor ones, like holding and using a pencil. To help large body motor movements develop, start by climbing trees or jungle gyms to build upper body strength and hand-eye coordination.
Practice crossing the midline or the imaginary line dividing the right and left sides of the body. For example, touch the right shoulder with the left hand and vice versa. This is surprisingly difficult for little ones 5 and under.
Hone fine motor movements and hand strength with activities like drawing in the sand with sticks, stirring the ingredients when baking, using tools — yes, even hammers and nails with the proper safety equipment — and lacing or threading yarn or string. Even everyday activities like brushing one’s teeth or combing hair builds muscles and dexterity in little hands.
Fingerplays are another fun way to practice pre-writing skills. Use bigger movements like the ones in “Ram Sam Sam” and smaller ones like “Here is the Beehive.” “Pattycake, Pattycake” and “Where is Thumbkin” are other examples of classic fingerplays.
Check out two great reads in our collection about rhymes and fingerplays: “Let's Clap, Jump, Sing, and Shout; Dance, Spin, and Turn it Out!” and “Good Night, Sleep Tight.”
“I love 'Good Night, Sleep Tight' because it incorporates classic nursery rhymes and fingerplays into a silly story about a babysitter trying to put kids to bed,” said Miss Andrea.