Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen
Perhaps a better word for pre school writing activities would be ‘mark-making’activities. Since the beginning of man’s time on earth, humans have enjoyed, or been driven by an urge to try, recording things – patterns, thoughts, lines and shapes – either for reflective and creative enjoyment for themselves – or for sharing with others.
Like early man, our ‘little cavemen’ preschoolers have no learned written language or code when they come into this world – it is something they learn, hopefully, from us in the particular society they find themselves in, from its arts and crafts, its culture, its heritage of written texts.
It is a commonly-held belief among education professionals today, that the earlier children start with this creative art and writing activity, and the more encouragement and challenges they receive, the better they will be at it, the faster they will progress and the higher the rest of their academic schooling achievement in life will be.
Indeed, education professionals through time have also propounded the same theory – that the child learns by expressing his creativity. Vygotsky and Piaget noted the experimental way in which children learn.
Vygotsky in particular made special note of the human need to communicate:
‘the central fact about our psychology is the fact of mediation’ (Minick)
This mediation can be a blurry area, particularly at the pre-school stage! For example different media could include a stick and some sand, a finger on a rainy pane of glass or a fat red crayon and a sheet of paper – or Mom’s newly painted kitchen wall!
The important thing to realise is that during babyhood there is no distinction between drawing and writing. Indeed, even in ancient times the two were synonomous with pictogram-type hieroglyphs forming the written language. It is during toddler-hood at home, the so-called preschool stage, that the child is ready to learn that there is a distinction between the two – that pretty marks can tell people things.
So, which preschooling activities can best stimulate writing and drawing skills and spark toddlers' creativity and intellectual curiosity? parents can try to:
1. Encourage toddlers to express themselves creatively right across the spectrum of the learning curriculum. They can be motivated to move to music in an uninhibited way, to use their bodies freely to gesture, point, and express emotion and convey meaning. read and enact short stories and poems to demonstrate that meaning is conveyed in many ways.
2. Use sound. Music is an important component of creative self-expression, preschoolers' artistic movement will be sparked even further through appropriate inspiring pieces. Later they will learn that even this can be transcribed in its own written language as music notation and scores. Have children beat time and rhythm with simple appropriate beaters and instruments – they are marking time.
3. Supply tools. The joy of uninhibetred movement can be recorded through different media. Have them use whatever is naturally to hand to mark-make, using a varity of writing and drawing implements and tools, from tiny paintbrushes to make dots to giant DIY paintbrushes to have fun painting the fence in the yard. They can even use a paintcan full of water on a hot day – to save mess!
4. Practice skills. Tracing different textures on patterns and letters is good for fine-motor skills. Surfaces to try include sandpaper, cold metal, sponge, rubber and furry fabric or felt. Lines, patterns and later letters can be drawn in different textured substances such as thick paint, cooling wax, wet and dry sand or foamy bubbles. Larger-scale fun can be enjoyed in the yard, with other ‘mark-makers’ such as the watering hose on a path, or footprints in wet earth. or snow.
5. Draw attention. As toddlers become preschoolers, their attention can be drawn (around the home and around town) to ‘marks that mean something’- firstly, commonly used pictogram such as road signs for hazards, rest rooms, diners or accommodation. Later, they will have the ‘writing readiness’ to interpret the words for the same facilities. They can create some of these signs for their own home.
6. Apply writing to life. Soon preschoolers will learn that sounds accompany some of the marks, and will have the necessary readiness to learn to write their own name! During their later schooling they will have a peg, books and clothing with their name written on.
7. Celebrate their learning space. Positive encouragement can be given to preschoolers' early drawing and writing efforts by prioritising their ‘workspace!’ A wide varity of media can be provided and a safe and child-friendly writing and craft area, such as child's writing desk, can be placed in a prominent, accessible part of the home. This encourages children to take their own ‘work’ seriously from the very beginning and to organise and maintain their ‘equipment', art supplies and drawing tools well.
From here on in, preschoolers will take their writing further at school,or in home schooling, by writing stories and reports and may, one day, become fledgling bestseller story writers!.