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Getting ready for writing: making marks

child mark making

Every child is different and will develop at their own pace. Children aren’t expected to be able to write when they start school, but there are some skills you can help your child master at home that will help them get off to a great start.

Learning to write takes time. Young bodies need to develop muscle strength in the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders and backs to be able to hold a pencil properly, make marks and then form shapes and letters with control. Making marks also helps develop creativity and imagination, and offers a new way for children to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Some activities to try at home

There are loads of fun activities you can do at home with your children that help strengthen muscles and support mark making – you’re probably already doing lots of them anyway!

Here are a few that we enjoy:

Strengthening muscles
  • Get creative with playdough. Encouraging pinching, chopping and squeezing helps develop all the muscle groups needed for writing.
  • Finger rhymes like five little monkeys, incey wincey spider and two little dickie birds will get your child curling and stretching their fingers. Check out YouTube if you need inspiration – and who doesn’t love the addition of a finger puppet or ten?!
  • Get your little ones to help you peg out the washing, it can help develop their pencil grip.
  • Get crafty, making pictures using small objects that they’ll need to pick up using the thumb and index finger - stickers, sequins, paint, glue feathers etc. Or make jewellery by threading pasta or beads onto string.
  • Most kids enjoy baking, so get them ‘tickling’ a crumble topping, kneading dough and stirring cake mix – encourage them to stir clockwise and anti-clockwise.
  • Puzzles, lego and building blocks are all great for increasing strength and developing hand-eye coordination.
  • Encourage your child to climb on play equipment at the park, pulling themselves up will help strengthen their arms and shoulders.
Making marks
  • Make art using all sorts of materials - crayons, paints, fingers, potatoes, mud, sand, and dare we even suggest the dreaded glitter?!
  • Arm your child with a paint brush and a bucket of water and let them ‘paint’ the garden fence or buy some pavement chalks and let them create a masterpiece on the patio or path.
  • If your child likes getting messy, they could make muddy handprints, bark and leaf rubbings, press flowers or draw in the dirt using twigs and stones.
  • Technology can also be used, there are lots of apps that children can draw and make shapes with.
  • Pick up a roll of lining paper from a DIY shop, roll it out and see if your child can draw some roads to play with their cars on or lots of swirly lines and then colour in the gaps.
  • Think big and make your own ‘art attack’, create a giant picture by laying out colourful scarves, cushions, plastic plates and cups, toys etc.

So the next time your child grabs hold of your best eyeliner to colour in their eyebrows, makes patterns on the windows with buttery fingers, or creates a masterpiece on the dinner table with spaghetti bolognaise; you can praise and encourage their excellent mark making – and when they help you clean up they’ll be strengthening their little hands with each squeeze of the squirty bottle and every wipe!


Reviewed: June 2018

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