When a child learns to write his or her name, it is a huge milestone. This achievement often happens during the preschool years. We often focus singularly on the end product without realizing all that is involved. Learning to write your name takes a lot of developmental skills working together, all at the same time–skills, for a preschooler, that have only just been learned or may still be in process.
In order to write his name, a preschooler has to have the fine motor skills and hand muscle strength to hold the pencil, have hand-eye coordination to put pencil to paper, make a brain-to-hand connection, and be able to recognize and write the individual letters in his name in the correct order. Whew! That’s a lot of work!
In order for all of this to happen together, each individual skill must be introduced, practiced, and developed. Various activities throughout our day at Square Roots Preschool help us develop these skills. For example:
• An art project that requires students to glue small objects onto paper works helps develop the pincher grasp, a fine motor skill important to holding a pencil.
• Practicing with scissors builds hand-eye coordination and also hand muscle strength, both essential to the writing process.
• Working on letter recognition in a variety of ways, including art projects, songs, and sound repetition all leads to letter recognition and, thus, execution.
• Before a child can form letters, he forms pictures, and before he forms pictures, he forms scribbles. Scribbling is important, and young preschoolers in our class do a lot of it!
• Playing catch during outside exploration time helps develop hand-eye coordination, a skill critical to writing.
• Crawling, for both babies and preschoolers, helps build upper body strength and wrist strength, which is essential to writing.
So there are many activities that seem completely unrelated to writing but are critical to developing writing skills. By encouraging our preschoolers to build writing skills in a variety of pre-writing activities, we keep them engaged and interested so that they come to the table with a solid foundation, ready to write their names for the first time.