Writing is another way you can help your toddler prepare himself to become a reader. Now, we all know toddlers cannot master the intricacies of writing. His hand muscles haven’t been developed yet. That doesn’t mean that practicing pre-writing skills can’t take place a little bit for your toddler everyday. It also doesn’t mean worksheets and overemphasizing proper handwriting skills. What follows are some easy, playful ways to continue building the fine motor skills he may have been doing since infancy and new things to try. You don’t have to overdo these or worry that your toddler isn’t coloring within the lines (especially if your neighbor’s daughter can already write an E!). It will come in time.
Allow your little one to play with foam or magnetic letters.
Buy letters. You can get magnetic ones to use on your fridge. There are foam, sticker, cardboard, and block letters. Use them as toys. Manipulate the letters and talk about how if the M stands this way, it is an M, but if you turn it upside down, it makes a W (another example is C and U). You can show your tot how to spell words, lining the letters up properly.
You can also draw your finger across the letters to show your tot the lines, angles, and shapes that make up our letters. Cheer her on to follow along.
Encourage your tot to scribble freely. Toddlers practice writing by scribbling. Even though to us it looks like they are making nonsense, they are really attempting to draw and write. It takes a lot of strengthen in wrists, fingers and palms to create proper letters. By giving the freedom to hold and manipulate crayons, markers, and the like, your toddler will begin to master his muscles. As preschoolers and elementary-aged, they will master more, so for now just have fun playing with the different instruments.
You don’t have to even worry about proper handling of the writing instruments. Toddlers will hold a crayon with fingers and thumbs facing down. Eventually, they will change the position.
The easiest letter for a toddler to master is the “l”. Toddlers can make vertical strokes. Some can even make “o”, or circles.
Write down what your toddler says. Words mean something, and it takes a while before a child understands that the spoken word can be written and that it should be written. Help her understand the power and connection between the spoken and written word by writing down what she says. After you write out the words, you can spell them out, pointing to each letter if you’d like. Also, the more she sees you write, the more likely she will be encouraged to write herself.
Beyond being a fun activity (and messy!), buy a kid-friendly ink pad and some paper to help him gain dexterity. Then, let him go to town! You really don’t have to make up cutesy ideas (like this craft that goes with the rhyme “10 Red Apples”) for their fingers to get some exercise. You can suggest for your tyke to use all his fingers; the ring finger is the weakest finger because it gets used less.
Droppers and syringes. Turkey basters can be used for more than turkeys! Give it to your kid during bath time, at the pool, or simply with a bucket of water. The strength required to fill it up and release the pleasurable stream of water will help develop his fine motor skills. We use a medicine dispenser at home.
Stacking, sorting, rotating, and dropping objects. Toddler should be able to stack up to 8 objects on top of each other. The movement in the hands to stack, dismantle, sort, rotate, and drop objects helps to fine tune their gross motor skills and strengthen fingers and wrists.
Do fingerplays. You can find plenty of fingerplays out there. Here are some I use during my story times and at home with my son. The manipulation of fingers and hands in meaningful patterns is a terrific way to not only get attention but to help master control of fingers.
Tearing, folding, and crumpling paper. Hand your toddler tissue paper to tear and crumple and then *gasp* an actual glue bottle. This may be messy, but that squeezing and tearing definitely helps to develop pincher skills. Show him how to fold paper as well. Hey, you could just give him paper to tear without any art project in mind! That will kill two birds with one stone: occupy him and strengthen those finer muscles.
Use playdough or clay. As your toddler ages, make sure to introduce playdough to him. Show him how to pound, roll, tear, squeeze, and knead it. It is a fun activity not only to get the creatvitiy juices flowing, but also to engage in some fine motor skill building.
What kind of activities do you do with your toddler to help develop her fine motor skills?