Kids Have All The Write Stuff

Inspiring your children to put pencil* to paper by Sharon A. Edwards and Robert W. Maloy

*or crayon or felt-tip marker or computer


Early marks and scribbles evolve into readable symbols as children express their thoughts through drawings, words, and stories.  Young children write spontaneously and enthusiastically.  When writing is a natural feature of children’s lives, their concentration on it is total and their enjoyment is great.  As writers, children are active creators rather than passive consumers of information.

A Writing Box might contain:

  • white construction paper
  • colored construction paper
  • lead pencils
  • erasers
  • scented watermelon markers
  • crayons
  • colored pencils
  • cellophane tape
  • glue
  • stapler
  • scissors
  • ruler with shaped template cutouts
  • small and large notebooks
  • small chalkboard
  • white and colored chalk
  • pencil sharpeners
  • alphabet chart
  • top-locking plastic bag
  • classroom-made blank books

Child-initiated, adult supported 🙂

They need “favorable learning conditions” that spark their interests and enable them to express their talents freely.

You find ways to make your child feel that the choice is hers-or both of yours together- rather than yours alone.  You follow a child’s lead, engage her interest, make suggestions, discover what works, and let her learning process evolve over time.

First, young children between the ages of two and nine are engaging in serious learning when they scribble, pretend, and create their own versions of favorite stories.  A youngster’s initial efforts at written expression – what are often called scribbling or doodling – is meaningful writing.

Second, any scribble, dot, or line on a page is writing.  Do not wait till you see certain features in a child’s written communications that are standard or conventional before calling it writing.  It is not necessary for you to be able to read it to understand that your youngster is creating symbols for writing.

Encourage alphabet and letter-sound learning, handwriting, and spelling but not at the expense of a child’s image of him- or herself as a writer – a person who can already express his or her thoughts and ideas.


  • box
  • basket
  • backpack
  • pencil box
  • bag
  • suitcase
  • drawer


  • lead pencils
  • crayons
  • chalk
  • pens
  • computers
  • colored pencils
  • felt-tipped markers
  • pant and paintbrushes
  • stamps and ink pads
  • typewriter


  • paper
  • pads
  • stationary
  • magic slates
  • notebooks
  • chalkboard
  • write-on wipe-off board


  • highlight writing where others can see it
  • oral publishing
  • create an author’s shelf in your home
  • utilize an author-illustrator bulletin board
  • use a photo album to collect writing
  • frame your child’s special writing
  • hold family author’s circle
  • publish children’s books at home

Written language provides models of sentence structure, conversation, plot, characterization, story line, detail and suspense.

Children need familiarity with the elements of story creation:  settings, plot, characters, and vocabulary in context, all of which are acquired through hearing books read to them.

Learning new words and expressions is essential to a child’s becoming a confident and effective writer and speaker.  When you read aloud, tell oral stories, or converse about topics and ideas that your child wants to know about, you build a love of stories, a fascination for finding things out, and an interest in words.

Investigators of children’s reading and writing development explain that invented writing is part of a process of personal intellectual discovery on the part of children that is a powerful motivator of learning.

Scribbles are not irrelevant simply because adults cannot understand them.

Missing teeth affect spelling also.

There are many choices for encouraging your youngster to write his own way when he asks you to spell something.  One is to assure him that any way he spells the word is fine:

  • “Write it your way.  I like to know how you figure out spelling.”
  • “You’re a writer who uses his own spellings.  I like seeing you do that.

Clarifying questions may assist his efforts to spell his own way:

  • “Say that word.  What sounds do you hear?”
  • “What letter do you think makes that sound?”

By contrast, “What letter makes that sound?” or “What letter says huh?” imply a correct answer that an adult knows but a child may not.

…[0r] try a technique suggested by Lucy Calkins:  “Stretch the word like a rubber band so you can hear the sounds.  Say it slowly and listen for the different sounds.”

Handwriting practice should focus on fluidity and ease of letter formation.  If a child writes letters from the bottom up, quickly and legibly, without using extra strokes that make formation awkward, do not change it to the usual top-down formation.  Certainly a child’s handwriting should be legible; it can still have individuality and flair.

First and foremost, handwriting depends on developing large arm and small hand muscles.  When Austin Palmer designed his handwriting method a century ago, he expected that young children would stand, not sit, and that they would write at a board, in large print, to first develop the muscles of the upper arm.

To help a child develop fluidity of motion with handwriting, hang a chalkboard or large piece of paper on a wall for practicing letters.