Preschool is an exciting time for parents and children as it is during these years that literacy skills first emerge. Your child will increasingly make independent attempts to express their creativity through writing. It is important to keep in mind that when children are 3-4 years old, or at pre-Kinder stage, the process of learning is far more important than the final product.
All children develop differently. Prior to commencing school children are focussing on learning skills which will support the formal teaching of writing and spelling. There’s no need to worry if your child cannot achieve all of the milestones listed below as it’s likely they will develop in their own time.
A pre-kinder child is developing their visual memory
Children need to be able to remember visual patterns before they are able to spell words. Children at this age will begin to notice environmental print (words around them) and will notice the ‘look’ of letters. Some children can talk about ‘round’ letters and ‘tall’ letters.
A pre-kinder child is developing their perceptual skills
Visual perceptual skills are skills that allow a child the ability to make sense of what they see with their eyes. This is a very important skill as children must learn to visually discriminate between letters and understand that the letters of the alphabet have different shapes.
A pre-kinder child is learning that marks have meaning
Children will begin to realise that marks on the page look different and that these different marks are called words. Children will also understand that that these words have different meanings. Encourage children to mark pages with their attempts at letters and display their attempts to instill further confidence.
Pre-kinder children will begin to write letters
Children who have had opportunities to experiment with marking pages will progress to write some letters in the alphabet usually 4-5 letters. At this age the letters will appear backwards, upside down or spread out around the page. Children will not have mastered direction. Children also do not understand that letters must be grouped together to form a word.
Pre-kinder children will learn to identify some letters of the alphabet
Children are now learning to name letters. Children will usually learn the letters which are in their name first. The focus for children is on learning the sound of the letter and not the name of the letter. Being able to match the sound supports the development of reading skills as they emerge.
Pre-kinder children will want to write their own name
Children at this age learn that their name is powerful. It sets them apart from others and makes them special. Children become interested in the sound and look of their name. Around the age of 3 circular scribbles will be created. This will progress into continuous linear scribbles which may look like letter formations. Finally children will attempt direction and some grouping of letters.
Pre-kinder children will focus on tracing
Tracing supports visual discrimination of letters (being able to see differences between the shapes) and should be encouraged. Pencils do not need to be used at this age. Children can use paint, sand, shaving cream or sandpaper letters for tracing. Most importantly learning to write and spell is a tactile experience. At this age a child’s emerging literacy skills can be supported by providing them with experiences that strengthen a child’s hand muscles. There is no need to focus on correct pencil grip at this age. Instead activities such as shaping letters with play dough, tracing letters on textured paper, finger painting, drawing letters in shaving foam or sand and manipulating magnetic letters are the most beneficial