Practical steps to helping your child with writing.
I am amazed at how much we put pressure on children, and at a very young age, insisting that they should and must write! Parents always compare and contrast their children with cousins and neighbours.
First off, we need to understand one thing, all children are different, they are not the same; Yoruba people have a saying, ‘All fingers are not equal’, this believe it or not is also true about children. So do not compare your child or children in your classroom with other children.
Another important point to note is that children are not really interested in writing until they are four plus! ‘Haaa…haba!’ I can hear the disagreeing moms and dads and teachers already taking up arms ready to crush me with their disapproval of this statement. But like it or not it is true.
Now let me explain this to you in little bits, notice that what I said is ‘Children are not really interested in writing until a certain age’. I did not say ‘Children cannot write till they are 4 plus’, neither did my statement imply that ‘Children do not write until they are 4 plus!’ What I am saying though is that they are not interested in writing till they are four and above.
This to me makes perfect sense. Writing is an activity that has evolved as a result of mans ability to think, create and express his ideas and thoughts. It is not a natural activity of man, it is an acquired activity. Children tend to learn the natural activities first, sitting, walking, talking etc. Yet we want to force their little hands to start writing once they are over a year old! Why?
Let them at least learn the language, acquire good communication skills, get to the point were they can even read before writing is put in the mix.
A lot of us may have a problem with the the suggestion above, but then again if you stop and think for just a little bit you may begin to see the reason why this makes perfect sense.
Imagine a child whom you have spent time teaching a lot of language; you have been singing nursery rhymes together since she was a baby, you have introduced words of all objects and places to her and she actually knows them, she can speak in sentences correctly at two and a half years and has started acquiring phonemic awarness of sounds (that means she has the ability to hear and distinguish the different sounds in the words that she speaks). Then she learns the symbols of these sounds and begins to read.
Your child is so excited that she is the one who says to you, ‘I want to write!’ How does this happen or why does it happen? It happens’s because the child has acquired the correct skills and is now ready to use them to further her development at the appropriate time. Not our whims and imposed goals for the child. In other words the child has learnt how to speak and express himself using the language to her best ability, when you now include the ability to read in the mix the next natuaral progression is for the child to also want to write about her experiences. Now there is interest, and once there is interest its a beautiful experience and will lead to greater achievements. Creative writing!
So your next question is: ‘What are you saying, children should not write till they are 4 plus?’ No that is not what I am saying. What I will say though is that the act of writing and typing for that matter is very tasking on the hands and fingers. The child has to learn how to handle the pencil correctly and her hands must be strong for the task. I would therefore say the first steps to writing is not actually writing but it is pre-paring the hands for this life long activity.
Next week we will spend time looking at specific activities you can do to help your child learn how to handle the pencil correctly and strengthen her fingers. In the meantime so you can start off with something: Let your child sort out some beads or pompoms with one distinction colour or size. So you may have same coloured beads of two different sizes for example blue big and blue small beads. Now put them in one container and show her how to pick them one by one with the three dominant fingers and seperate into another two containers, the big in one and the small in another. Using the 3 dominant fingers helps to strengthen the fingers used for holding the pencil. You can do this with different colours… Enjoy till next week when we shall look at more activities you can do to help your child develop great writing skills.