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Scribbling, drawing, and writing readiness in prekindergarten children

little boy scribbling with a pencil

Writing readiness refers to the development of some pre-writing skills in children that are fundamental for learning how to write.

As you can imagine, many of them relate to the ability of having our hand do what we want it to do, which is referred to as “gross motor skills”. On the other hand, the “fine motor skills” are the ones that enable us to hold writing instruments correctly and do it with the correct amount of force and speed to make a mark on a paper. That’s why for children to develop writing abilities, it’s crucial that they have plenty of positive experiences interacting with materials like paper and crayons before starting school.

Writing is a very complex process that requires the coordination of many processes at the same time: it requires managing sensory information, planning and sequencing it, and responding with the appropriate movements.

Some of the skills necessary to master handwriting are:

  • Adequate eye-hand coordination
  • Capacity to hold a pencil firmly in writing position
  • Attention and memory skills necessary to recognize the letters of the alphabet
  • Basic lines and figures stroke formation, meaning that a child can draw vertical and horizontal lines, as well as circles and basic shapes

According to a 2015 paper published by Dr. Cetin in the Educational Research and Reviews journal, all scribbling and drawing behaviors before the age of five are indispensable for the reading and writing readiness of children, as they learn through seeing and doing.

During infancy and toddlerhood, kids make random scribbles where the marks for both drawing and writing are undifferentiated. Afterwards, they start doing controlled scribbling, where they can say that they are drawing an object and can identify it by its name. This attribution of meaning to drawings, regardless of their technical mastery or accuracy, represents an important milestone in their cognitive development, as it attests that a child is beginning to grasp the idea that real objects can be symbolized using marks.

Research shows that 2 and 3 year old children can differentiate writing from drawing, and that many 4-year-olds know that print means something, that it is structured in small bits represented by “words”, and that their hidden message is decodified by following each line from left to right (or following other sequences depending on the language). At this point, with adequate stimulation, many kids are ready to start writing their names.

If you want to read more on the development of writing skills during the early years of childhood and get some additional ideas on how to prepare your kid for writing, check out this link:

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