(Disclosure: I received a free copy of Ready for Kindergarten! by Deborah Stewart for reviewing purposes. All opinions are mine! This post also contains affiliate links.)
I have four children of my own. Two of them, my Three and my Five, are preschool boys who love to write! No, they’re not writing stories, poems, or reports. What they’re doing is communicating on paper – each at his own developmental level. In the tips below I’ll share how I’ve helped foster a love of writing in our home.
Tips for doing journal writing in preschool
1. Provide appealing materials.
A few simple materials they call their own go a long way toward making writing fun for preschoolers. During a trip to Michael’s, I purchased these supplies for each of my boys:
- a blank, spiral-bound sketch pad
- a set of Crayola Super Tips markers
- a colorful Iris Storage Container
When choosing materials, keep these things in mind:
- Choose unlined paper. If you don’t want to purchase a sketch pad, you can staple together a stack of plain typing paper and put a sheet of colorful construction paper on the front and back.
- Stay away from pencils for now. Young writers will appreciate the color that markers and crayons bring to their writing. Pencil erasers are distracting, and colored pencils can be frustrating for children without a very strong grasp.
Note: a reader has had great success with these first colored pencils from Crayola. I’ve never tried them, but they look great!
- While lots of materials are fun, don’t overwhelm your preschooler. Consider offering stamps, stickers, post-it notes, and other writing tools one at a time.
2. Keep in mind your overall goals.
- We want to foster an early love of writing. You can get there by keeping the pressure off. Writing time should be relaxed and fun!
- We want children to learn that they communicate through their writing. If your child draws or scribbles, ask what the writing says. This may be hard for him at first. Model it: draw something yourself, and then tell your child just what you want it to say. Keep giving him the opportunity to tell you his story. Some teachers and parents like to write what the child says alongside the writing. This way your little writer can see how his words look in print.
- We want children to have the confidence that they can write! Get there not by focusing on what your child can’t do, but by building on what he does do.
3. Understand the early stages of writing.
- Children begin scribbling as toddlers.
- Most three-year-olds learn to draw basic shapes and pictures.
- Eventually, children will attempt to write scribbles that represent real writing.
- You will start to see letter-like forms within the scribbles.
- Around age three or four, many children learn to write the alphabet correctly.
- Some preschoolers will be able to attempt spellings of real words.
4. Establish a simple writing routine that works for your family.
We’re still working on finding a consistent routine at our house! It’s a challenge to work around my One’s nap time and my Six’s school schedule. Here are my tips for setting up a writing routine:
- Aim for at least once a week, with a goal of three or more writing sessions. The more we read to our kids, the more they’ll love it. The same goes for writing!
- Keep your materials accessible. We keep our writing boxes in a nook by the kitchen table. When it’s time to write, we pull out the boxes and get to work.
- Expect a brief writing session. Don’t be surprised if early writing times are just ten minutes. As children grow in their writing ability and attention spans, it could last 20-30 minutes – or even longer.
5. Keep writing time structured, but open-ended.
- Start with conversation and modeling. Talk about your your week. What fun things could you write about? Write in your own notebook first. Model what your child can do. For example, if your child is drawing and can write a few letters, draw a picture of something you’ve done and label it with a single letter. If your preschooler is more advanced, model writing a simple sentence.
- Give your child a chance to write – with a few parameters. We don’t have many rules for writing time, but one I stick to is that we keep our writing to a single page. This encourages my boys to think before they commit to their story. It also limits waste and encourages them to expand their writing and picture to take up a large space. Occasionally my Three will do just a few scribbles and ask to write another story on a separate page – sometimes I let him.
6. Be encouraging.
- Whatever your child is doing – whether that’s scribbling, drawing, or forming letters and words, call it writing!
- Build on what your child can do, and always encourage growth. Here are just a few ways to do that:
- If your child is just drawing, ask him to write some words. See what he does — is he attempting to make letters?
- If your child is learning the letter sounds, help him figure out the first letter of what he’s drawing and form that letter alongside it.
- If your preschooler is learning to sound out basic words, help him streeeetch the sounds in a word and write it next to the picture.
- If he’s ready, assist your preschooler in writing a complete sentence.
- Show interest, ask questions, and celebrate any small successes! Did your child draw something you can recognize – scribble from left-to-right, write a letter to stand for a picture, or attempt to spell a new word? Call attention to it! Celebrate!