Writing skill development in young children
As children grow, their writing and drawing skills will improve.
Michigan State University Extension knows writing is an important skill that takes time to develop. Very young children are capable of making crayon marks on paper at approximately 15 months old, but not all children develop at the same rate. It is not unusual for young children to hold the crayon with a closed fist. Typically, they have not developed their finger muscles to work each finger independently. Their attempts may consist of hitting the paper with tips of crayons resulting in dotted marks.
As children progress, by about 2-years-old, their dots will develop into small strokes. Still, there will be a lack of control on their strokes. With practice children will keep crayon-on-paper contact longer creating longer strokes. These strokes will become long random lines all over the paper. Children will scribble outside the lines of the picture in a coloring book lacking control. It is important for parents and caretakers to continue exposing the child to coloring or other activities similar to coloring such as painting. Overtime their long scribbles will become more guided as they develop control. At ages 2 to 3 children start having more control and start bringing the lines in, having more control. Large print coloring books are ideal for this age. With practice the child will start coloring inside the pictures lines.
At about 3- to-5-years-old, children’s scribbles are capable of forming circles now, and can mimic a diagonal or horizontal line when demonstrated. Their writing will progress and the simple circle may now have rays, turning it into a “sun” or a “happy face”. Although pictures are not letters, their fine motor skills have started to develop into more sophisticated writing. According to Zero To Three, children have now mastered symbolic thinking and recognize that their writings represent something they are thinking about in their mind. It is at about this stage that the child will recognize the difference between pictures and writing. Children at this age are usually introduced to letters and are most interested in their name. Wise parents and caretakers do well in encouraging the child to write their own name. Again, letter writing tends to be large due to their still developing fine motor. A vigilant parent and caretaker will continue to see how the child progresses into more precise writing skills as their pictures become more detailed and their writing becomes smaller and more legible.
Finally, a fun way to help a child practice writing, and can be beneficial for the future, is to have them write letters to distance family members and friends. They may need a parent or caretakers help at first, but if parents are diligent in their letter writing efforts with the child they will be instilling the enjoyment of writing letters in their children.