When you think your little one is ready, it might be a good time to start turning those scribbles he makes on paper (and the wall when he thinks you’re not looking) into something a little more legible.
One of the first things children learn to write is their name. It’s the easiest for them to learn and you’ll find they want to learn because it’s the one word they hear most often, besides ‘no’ and ‘don’t’, that is. It is a word all their own because it represents their identity.
So what are some of the best and easiest ways for you to help them reach this important milestone?
I don’t think I have to tell you to be patient. You’re the parent to a toddler, patience (or at least the attempt) is ingrained in you at this point. Make sure to use a lot of praise as well, even if all he can manage at first is a straight line down the page. He’s trying. That’s the first step.
Hopefully you can take the time every day to read to your child. This isn’t just good for his language skills; it’s also a precious bonding time for the two of you. It doesn’t have to be a whole book. Good luck getting them to sit still for that long. It could just be for five minutes or even one page every day. Just enough to get them familiar with words and their sounds and what letters look like.
When you start to notice that he like to scribble down on paper, you can start nudging them on the journey to writing their name for the first time.
At the toddler age, your child is a complete mimic. You know you’ve had those moments when you’re driving along with your little one in the backseat and all of a sudden he blurts out a word that he’s heard mommy or daddy say more times than they should. When he sees mommy or daddy at the table, either doing paperwork or balancing the check book, chances are he’s going to beg you for his own paper and pen so he can be just like mommy and daddy.
Around this time, you can start to take action. You’ve seen those letter magnets on refrigerators? Those are really great tools for teaching kids the alphabet because they love to play with them. Pick out the first letter of your child’s name and sound it out so that they recognize the sound that letter makes and can match it to the sound of the beginning of their name. Get them used to the shape of the letter and practice writing it with them.
Practice finding that first letter in books, magazines or signs outside.
Pick out children’s books where the main character has the same name as your child so that they can get familiar with the letters that make up his name. Ask him to find his name on the page. Show them items that start with the first letter of their name.
Write up labels with their name on it and let them stick them on things that belong to them like cups or toys.
Once they are able to pick out their name you can set up some exercises where you write out their name on a sheet of paper and they copy it. Even if they get the letters out of order or misshapen, praise their efforts. At this point it’s more about getting him familiar with the lines of curves of the letters in his name than if he can write K-Y-L-E or just a series of squiggles and lines. Gradually, the lines will start to resemble the letters just as a result of sheer repetition.
Play games or sing songs that involve their name.
Make writing a fun habit for them. Maybe you can get them a small desk and chair and their own little stack of papers and fun crayons. Work with them in short increments every day. It might be fun to get some cheap fun stationary and glittery pens that you can bring out only when it’s ‘writing’ time so they can get excited about using these fun tools. The more enthusiasm they have about something, the more likely they are to learn it quickly.
Stick to block letters at first (all capitals) as opposed to cursive letters. The lines are easier for children to get the hang of and the curves of cursive letters might make them discouraged if they can’t get them right.
Don’t make a big deal over mistakes. If the lines of a letter, say an N aren’t connected, just calmly point out that ‘oops, these parts aren’t touching like they’re touching up here. Do you want to try again?’ Make sure to make a big deal of their second attempt, even if it’s only slightly better.
Display their attempts somewhere like the fridge where everyone can see and your child can see how proud you are of them. As they progress, replace the pages so they can see how they’re getting better.
Finally, look into reading/writing games from companies like “LeapFrog” that comes with a special pen which when you slide over words will read them aloud thus allowing your little one to see and hear the letters. They can then make the connections between the letters of their name on a page and it will help them find the letters that make up their name and be able to copy them.
These are just some of the ways you can help your child reach that important moment where he’ll write his name for the first time, without copying or any help from mommy because mommy had already laid the foundation for that very special achievement.