Literacy Spot #43: 5 Tips for Supporting Playful ‘Writers’

Early literacy learning

Kindergarteners and preschoolers often spontaneously play around with writing. Their interest is usually 90% experimentation and 10% imitation  as they watch you to learn about the place and function of writing within society.  It is not unusual for these early forays into the written language to include a combination of shapes, scribbles and random letters (generally beginning with letters that they are very familiar with like the letters of their own name). Sometimes they contain a message and fulfill a purpose, sometimes they are just about the feel of a pencil as it moves across the page.

So how do we support these ’emerging’ writers. Firstly, it is important to keep it playful. Be interested, but the minute you push or add an element of ‘have to’ to these experiences, your child is likely to run a mile. I would suggest;

1. Showing interest in what they are doing and encouraging your child to tell stories about their drawing and ‘writing.’

2. Involving your child in your own real life writing experiences, from writing the weekly grocery list to sending an email. Talk to your child about what you are doing, verbalising  what you are thinking and doing as you write.

3. Setting up a writing space where your child has free access to a range of supplies, you will find suggestions for writing centres in this previous post here.

4. Familiarising your child with their own name. Label their belongings and/or add their name on a card displayed in your writing space.

5. Continuing to provide opportunities for your child to strengthen and train the muscles in their hands which are so important to writing. You’ll find a list of pre-writing activity ideas here.

Mostly playful writers just need time. Time in the company of an interested adult who encourages them to play 🙂

What is Childhood 101′s Literacy Spot? It is a weekly reminder of the importance of young children learning playfully as each week I share one idea for playing around with literacy, taken from my many years working as an early childhood teacher. Visit the previous Literacy Spot posts for more fun ideas for playing with literacy.


  1. Seraphimsp says:

    Tried working with Mr Small on writing his name today. He told me he wanted to play “knuckle wars” instead. *Sigh* We may be a while working on learning to write!

    1. I am sure knuckle wars includes an element of hand strengthening goodness 😉

  2. My son asked me to buy him a notebook when we were in a stationary shop. He’s been carrying it everywhere with him and pretend-writing when we have to wait.

    1. Immy’s notebook is her ‘field journal,’ thanks to a Tinkerbell movie *sigh*

  3. What great suggestions! We started out with learning our names too. My daughter loved to write lists like this picture from a very early age. At 5, she carries a notebook around with her many places and enjoys writing very much. My friend Kim and I have been blogging about writing lately too. Here is a recent post. I’d love for you to stop by sometime and visit when you have a chance.

  4. Our 3, 4, and 5 year olds found the clipboards on the art cart in our classroom about a month ago. They love walking around taking orders from the teachers and the other students just like waiters and waitresses. Once our orders are taken, they return and serve us and then proceed to the next customer. They younger students copy the older ones in this imaginative play.

    As last year progressed, the children walked around the room with their clip boards and copied names of students from their cubbies where names and pictures are available to identify each student’s area.

    1. It is such a joy to watch this natural learning occurring, especially across multi-aged groups of children 🙂

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