How Do I Get My Child To Write?

A friend of mine emailed me with the following question:

K is only 3, (nearly 4) do you maybe have a suggestion for getting him to write letters? I know his attention span is short. I’ve tried letting him choose colored pencils or crayons, changing colors. I’ve let him do the activity part of a workbook page first. I just can’t seem to get him to write the letters. Is he just being stubborn or is he just maybe not ready for this?

Here were my suggestions for writing with young children:
  •  Make it fun!  Do writing in an authentic way.  I always make my kids write their own thank you cards for gifts, write holiday and birthday cards, help me make lists, label things, etc.


  • Use non-lined paper.  I’ve read that kids’ eyes aren’t fully developed yet so the lines can seem to “jump” around on them.  In my experience, kids will naturally start drawing their own lines when they are ready for them.
  • Use markers, crayons, pencils, white boards, paint, etc.  Kids love to mix it up!
  • Stay away from workbook pages making kids write their letters.  These can be boring and not very authentic.  I would do them only when kids have some handwriting skills under their belt already.
  • Don’t worry about perfect spelling.  Help them stretch out the words slowly and let them write the sounds they hear in the words.
  • Start with just capital letters.  They are easier for kids to make and it’s difficult for kids to know when to use upper or lower case letters so if you stick to one in the beginning, it can be much easier for them.
  • Let kids practice writing letters in sand, shaving cream, or pudding.  You can take a big baggie full of pudding and seal it up.  Then lie it flat and let them write a letter on top of the baggie.  It’s easy to “wipe away” the letter and do it again and again.
  • Use the Verbal Path when helping kids write letters.  Say the verbal cues for each letter as you write it with the child so they begin to hear the words in their own head as they write.  Once they start practicing on their own, say the words for them as they write the letters.  Here is a link to a great verbal path guide:
  •  Start with something familiar….their name!  Then move on to “MOM,” “DAD,” and other names from your family.  They’ll be so proud to be able to write their family member’s names!
  • You can also have them label things.  Have them draw a picture and then begin to label the items with the first letter of the word.  Don’t worry about the rest of the letters, just start simple and they will be so proud!
  • Talk about authors and illustrators when you read.  Discuss what each of those jobs means and help your kids see the difference.
  • Do bookmaking.  It’s fun and kids love it!  Plus, you can work on it for several days so you can get them to write many times.  (see my previous post about bookmaking for more suggestions)
  • Refer to them as writers.  Writing starts with thoughts which they all have so if we are constantly referring to them as writers (before one might naturally assume they are writers) we are saying that their thoughts are valuable and they’ll want to write those thoughts down!
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