Writing is an important lifelong skill and outlet to effectively communicate, express emotions, instruct, inform, create visions and improve one's ability to read.
'Research shows that for writing to develop, you should provide young children with opportunities to build their physical strength and control in the core, upper body, hands and fingers.' https://help-for-early-years-providers.education.gov.uk/literacy/writing
This is known as 'pre-writing' skills and these include sensorimotor input, (messages) that then create a response, (motor output). These skills all contribute to the ability of effectively holding and controlling mark making tools such as pencils and pens.
At St. Michael's, this ethos is woven into our everyday practice right from our youngest children in Ladybirds, through to our school leavers in Kindergarten. We believe that creating opportunities and providing resources through child led explorations, 'invitations to play' and 'provocations' effectively supports the children's learning and development.
Children of all ages are given opportunities to build their core strength, a fundamental skill needed in writing. Our youngest children in Ladybirds and Butterflies have access to soft play, tunnels, ball pit, climbing arch and lots of tummy time where the nursery nurses lie on the floor too.
Dragonflies and Kindergarten regularly visit the woodland area where they can use pulleys and ropes to hoist things up into the trees, pull themselves up the hill with a rope, swing and climb the 'Tell Me Tree' and make dens using large, heavy branches. In the large all weather garden there are huge opportunities to run around, roll and stack tyres, climb on the crates, make obstacle courses, balance on planks of wood, commando crawl under a cargo net and ride pedal tricycles.
It is also vitally important to build and develop a child's muscle strength, dexterity, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills in their hands and fingers. When we think about all the activities and opportunities to explore, we provide in our indoor environment as well as outside, we value the importance of the resources.
These beautiful Tuff Tray designs are carefully planned and initiated in our set up time. When we look beyond the carefully sourced, colourful, aesthetically pleasing sensory display, we see colourful invitations for curious children to explore, touch, smell and play with. It might be shaving foam that invites messy fingers to mark make, it might be rice and scoops to promote a pouring action from the wrist, it could be playdough that is colourful and scented with ginger that brings alive the story of 'The Gingerbread Man'. Playdough and clay are wonderful open-ended resources that invite rolling, squishing, moulding, breaking, flattening and using tools. This in turn helps to develop muscles that are used for fine motor movements, promoting a child's strength, precision, accuracy, dexterity and
confidence. These muscles are very important for future skills such as holding a pencil and using scissors.
Examples of other great activities, (especially ones used in Dragonflies and Kindergarten 2-4 years), include using chunky chalks, using tweezers to pick out seeds on a Sunflower head, threading buttons onto pipe cleaners, pegging matching socks onto a washing line, brushing with paint, large rollers, eco-printing, using scissors to snip herbs,
We are also mindful about the access to activities that actively promote children 'crossing the midline'. The theory goes that if children have the ability to cross the imaginary middle of their body, this builds actions where children can spontaneously use their right hand accomplishing a task on the left-hand side of their body and vice versa.
This ultimately builds up bilateral integration, (using each hand on the opposite side of their body), dominant hand preference, balance and coordination.
Baby Champion Emma J reflects on her practice, "We always make sure we have a range of activities for our Ladybirds and Butterflies. They really love the Cloud dough which is cornflour and hair conditioner. They love the gloop. It's a great sensory activity."
Kindergarten Team Leader Leah takes away any stress that parents might put on themselves, "We very much put the emphasis on children being 'writing ready'. Of course, we provide the children with lots of activities that encourage fine motor skills such as the peg boards, hammers and pins, collage, baking, threading and Lego building. We use lots of name cards within the day to promote name recognition. The children see their names on their pegs, on their trays and on their placemats."
SENDCo Emma Hedge runs weekly baking sessions and expresses how a baking activity can actually have a positive contribution to getting the children ready to write, "Children have been enjoying the baking sessions. We made bread roll hedgehogs last week and this really promoted hand strength kneading the dough. It was also good for fine motor skills adding currents using a pincer grip for the eyes and snipping with scissors to create spikes!"
Emma has found some excellent ideas and advice online.
It highlights some great ways to encourage even the youngest children to take part in activities that build motor skills, encourage mark making and an interest in literacy.
These include 'snuggle up and share board & cloth books with me, point to and name things to help build my vocabulary, share books that let me see people of different races, cultures and gender, give me chunky pencils/crayons/chalks to explore. Play around with words, make up fun rhyming sentences with me. let me help you write birthday cards and shopping lists.'