I have spent many years working within childcare centres and OSHC services but this is the first year I have spent working on a regular contract with the 3 – 5 year old age group. At the Early Learning Centre that I have been working for, I have noticed that the majority of parents have requested that their children learn to write their own names. I’m assuming, given the age group, that this is because they want them to be able to learn this in time for school and kindergarten. While this is a great thing for them to learn it is not as simple as just writing their name. This task requires strong fine motor skills and proper technique. Practice, of course, will help to strengthen and learn these skills. There is so much to learn that goes along with name writing, such as correct pencil holding technique, letter patterns and letter recognition and fine motor skills to name a few.
At my workplace our most common letter tracing activity is to simply have the name of the child printed out in a light grey colour, which is then laminated so they can trace their name over the top in texta to practice. Since it is laminated it is therefore wipe-able and easily cleaned for reuse. It wouldn’t be difficult to make your own at home.
I recently purchased these flash cards from ALDI that are also wipe-able so your child can practice their letters over and over. Not only does it help them strengthen their fine motor skills and practice the act of writing, it also helps them build letter recognition. These cards also display the directions of how you should write each letter. If you don’t want to purchase cards, there are many printable variations online. Search and find one that suits you best.
Benefits of letter tracing activities include the obvious fine motor skill development as they strengthen the muscles required to write correctly. It also builds their confidence by using the line as their guide and familiarity with the letters, rather than just immediately attempting to write their name. It is important to gain some familiarity before learning proper handwriting as the repetitive practice of writing will allow them to find the patterns and movements required to write correctly. This clearly takes time and they will learn that skill over the years. Building their confidence allows them to feel good and will encourage them to continue on with the activity. It is also easier to demonstrate the correct way to write letters when they have a guide eg. a lowercase ‘a’ is written with the circle part first but many three year olds will start with the line before adding the circle. Being able to see the differences in the letters is also part of the beginning stages of reading.
Handwriting is a more complex skill which will develop over time but letter tracing certainly helps to lay the foundations.
What letter tracing or letter recognition activities do you try at home? Let me know in the comments!