Q: “How Much Should I Help My Four-Year Old Daughter With Her Writing?”A:
“My four-year old daughter is just learning to write words. She can look at a word and write it on her own. Pretty remarkable to see. Makes me so happy. The only thing is when she writes a word the letters don’t justify left and read right like you or I would write. Her letters are all over the page and look more like art. The letters are usually all there, even in a long sentence. For example, the other day she realized that she didn’t get a b-day present from her grandfather. So she asked me to help her write a letter. It read, “Yo POPs send my present”. He will most likely not be able to decipher the message. Should I try to encourage her to write in lines left to right or just let her learn on her own?” Jason, Ithaca, NY
First of all, I hope your daughter’s grandfather eventually gets the message and sends her a present. But let’s look at the question. It’s terrific she is writing, and the last thing you want to do is stymie that exploration by setting strict rules. We as adults often forget that learning anything involves many steps, just like a ladder. We can make the mistake of seeing where she is headed to and become anxious that she hasn’t reached her destination. Step by step. So she is on the step in which she has recognized that letters make up words and that words communicate ideas and that she can write her ideas down.
I would introduce her to notes, letters, postcards or even emails that you or she have received from friends where the writing goes from left to right. Use some of her favorite books as examples as well. Don’t make too big a deal of it, but just help her to recognize that this is the way many adults or grown-ups write. Second, I might get her a note pad with those big lines for beginner writers like this with a space for a picture on top. But don’t push it too much. Her next step might also come the next time she wants a message to copy. She’ll let you know. Or, you can say it’ll be easier to read if it’s all in a line. You can also play some games with word blocks. Put the letters that spell cat on the table. All these letters spell cat, but for someone to read them they have to be in order. Games that use the skills she has already learned.You don’t want to take the joy out of her writing if these things are too tough for her, and inventive spelling and this type of exploration are natural for her age. Good luck, and let us know how this works out.
May 15th, 2010