Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Write Way

It seems the pressure is on!  Parents feel the pressures of having their children ready for school and the expectations of kindergarten.  While preschoolers are often encouraged to write their name at an early age, the OT in me says "Hold your horses!" and do it the "write" way.  Before a child starts working with a pencil, it is crucial that they spend lots and lots of time working with manipulatives such as blocks, puzzles, playdough, and beads.  Manipulatives help children to develop grasping skills, bilateral hand use, strength, coordination, and in-hand manipulation.  These are all significant foundational skills that are needed for writing.   If you decide to run your first marathon, you know you cannot show up on the day of the race and expect to finish unless you've done the months of training needed to prepare your body.  A child needs to "train" with manipulatives so that his hands are physically ready for writing.  If pushed to write too early, a child will likely get frustrated and lose interest.  Limited hand development in the early years can also lead to writing issues for school aged children including slow handwriting, inefficient pencil grasp, and illegible handwriting.   Old fashioned manipulatives might not have some of the bells and whistles of newer high tech toys but they will lay the foundation for good writing when you do it the Write Way!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L


  1. What (on average) is the appropriate age for a child to print his/her name? Thanks.

  2. Hi Kris! Of course kiddos develop at all different rates but I typically see 3 year old preschoolers start to "approximate" letters in their names by making a mark of some sort for each letter (there might be 3 identical squiggles for "Sam" for example). By age 4, there is typically more familiarity with letters and kids can start to look at a printed model and attempt to copy the letters. Some names are easier to learn than others because some letters are easier to copy (such as "L" and "T" instead of "S" or "M". Developmentally, it is fantastic for children to first spend lots of time practicing the letters of their name using stamps, magnet letters, in shaving cream, in playdoh, etc. They are still learning the letters and how to spell their names and then when their hands are physically ready to correctly hold a pencil, they will feel more confident about writing their name :) Kids who have had early childhood classroom opportunities and some direct instruction from an adult are often ready to start writing as a "mid-4" year old; other kids might not be ready until they start kindergarten around age 5. Hope that helps!
    PS---The picture that posts with your name is too darn cute :)

  3. I hope you don't mind that I sent you an e-mail with a question. Thank you.