The Writing’s NOT on the Wall!

Crayon marks on the wall–that’s the inevitable outcome of giving crayons to babies and toddlers, right? Well, maybe, but I’m going to suggest doing it anyway… 🙂 

Writing is one of the five early literacy practices that prepares your child to read. Though starting writing with children younger than around three years old has not been a widely discussed topic, recent research is showing its benefits. According to the book So Much More Than the ABCs by Judith Schickedanz and Molly Collins, because children under the age of three have fine motor skills that are still developing and aren’t able to use crayons, markers, and paintbrushes to represent objects on paper, these materials, traditionally, have not been suggested for them. The book goes on to make a great point, though:

“…we talk to babies who cannot yet understand what we say, knowing that language understanding and skill emerge only out of this experience. The same principle applies to mark-making. Moreover, a toddler’s fine motor skills are plenty good enough to make marks with tools and to learn from the process. A whole world of learning about movement and its effects on tools is possible long before babies and toddlers ever use marks to represent anything.”

Babies and toddlers learn so much through all types of exploration. Exploration through writing is no exception. In fact, writing allows children a unique opportunity for learning because it allows them to actually see what they’ve created.

So, if you haven’t tried it already, set aside some time to show your little one, even as young as ten months old, how to use writing tools appropriately, and watch him create! And, if you’re really hoping to avoid the oh-so-lovely wall murals that could be headed your way, try these things:

-Keep your child in his high chair while he’s coloring. If you restrict coloring to the high chair, he’d have to throw crayons to mark up the walls (not that that couldn’t happen…).

-Use your sand or water table as a place for your child to finger paint. It’s easy to clean and can help contain the mess. You could even do this outside.

-If you have a toddler who doesn’t want to color in a high chair, create an “activity center” for him. This could be a little table with paper, crayons, and pencils where he can sit to do his artwork. Make sure to keep the supplies away or out of reach when you’re not there supervising him.

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