(Pulled from my YouTube archives…He was 2 years, 2 months at the time…)
I came upon this online article yesterday, Your 3-year-old timeline: Name writing | BabyCenter, and it disturbed me quite a bit. It addresses writing for 3-year-olds and starts off by saying, “It’s exciting when your child’s scribbles begin to look more like real letters. Some threes even start writing their name, or a few letters of it. But writing is one of those developmental milestones that varies from child to child. Don’t stress out if your child isn’t even interested in writing.” It goes on to say a parent might still not know the child’s dominant hand for another year or so, and that it’s hard to control a pencil due to lack of fine motor skills. In terms of child development and literacy, I feel that we grossly underestimate what our children are capable of.
To me, it’s about exposure and practice and expectations. If a child isn’t given the independence to try to hold a pencil or to feed him/herself at a young age (before 24 months), then those skills will not have the chance to develop as quickly. If you provide them with the opportunity, they will embrace it.
I had to look back at our library of photos to see when we first let Malachy scribble away. He was less than a year and a half. Before he was two, we knew he was a lefty. He started eating with his left hand and writing with his left hand. We never forced him to write. Pens, markers, crayons and lots of scrap paper (found a use for junk mail!) were always around for him if he chose to write. And boy did he choose to write! 😉 When he started school, his writing was way better than his coloring and drawing. In fact, he had to practice his coloring and drawing MORE THAN his writing! Most kids draw a picture and then try to write something. At school, he would write something, and then try to draw it! 😉
Lately, he’s been writing lots of notes to people. On Sunday, he was upset that Grandpa and Uncle Chris had a father-son brunch. They wound up coming to the same restaurant we were eating at, about an hour later, but sat at another table. Since he couldn’t sit with them, he wrote a note to his uncle saying, “Dear Uncle Chris, I wish you were over here.” He proceeded to get out of his booster chair and handed him the note. Then he wrote a note to his Grandpa. “Dear Gong Gong, I wish you were over here.” Again, he asked to be excused and handed his grandfather a note. In a way, it was therapy for him, too, helping him to get over the anger he felt earlier that they were not eating with him.
Two weeks ago, after we came home from school, he wrote me a note telling me he hoped I took care of Jimmy, and just handed it to me. I think kids get it. If you show them that writing has a purpose, then they’re going to want their voices to be heard. Before long, they find their own reasons to write. Gotta’ let them write, and believe they are ready BEFORE they’re 3! If they can talk, then they can write. 🙂
Sometimes, when he goes to Whole Foods with Mommy, he’ll write a Grocery List while she gets ready, and then he checks off the items at the store. He writes countless notes to his uncle and his girlfriend about how he misses them and loves them. One evening, he made a label for each of us. On my note, he wrote, “Dad is a fixer.” On Mommy’s he wrote, “Mom is a good friend.” Every day, on his way to school, he’ll ask Mommy for scrap paper and his clip board, and he’ll just write notes on his way to school. Age 3, and he’s writing more prolifically than Daddy. Aiya! 🙂