Literacy Helping Your Four-Year-Old Become a Writer

One of the best ways to help children become writers is to show them through example that writing has useful purposes in your life. Point out simple moments when you are writing and explain why. Let your four-year-old see you make a grocery list, write a thank-you note, text a relative, send an email, or write down a funny thing your child said! When your child watches you write and has access to their own writing and art materials, they will feel encouraged to explore the world of writing at their own pace — even if they aren't writing legible letters or words yet.

Simple ways to build your child's writing skills:

Model Writing

One of the most effective ways to help children become writers is to show them through your own example that writing has useful purposes. Talk to them about how you use writing, from making a shopping list to texting Grandma, from writing down a recipe to keeping a journal. Let them see that writing is a part of daily life.

Post Office

Creating a post office in your own home can be as easy as decorating a shoe box and setting aside time and materials for everyone in your house to make cards or drawings for each other.

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Keep Writing Materials Handy

Thick markers, crayons and paint brushes are ideal for the youngest writers since they are still developing the small muscles in their hands that help them hold tools. Likewise, large paper is best as they learn to control the size of their marks. Give them time each week to mark and color on blank paper; this will help them develop vital fine motor skills that will help them in the future.

Favorite Toys

Your child can develop writing skills by creating a book all about his favorite toys.

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Draw a Map

Grab some paper and crayons and work with your child to draw maps of places you both know well. Start with rooms in your home and then branch out to favorite places such as a local park. Use simple shapes to draw and label objects such as furniture or playground equipment. Take a walk around the block together, looking for landmarks to include in a neighborhood map. As kids get more proficient, encourage them to create maps of imaginary worlds or of places in their favorite books or movies.

ZOOmazing

While visiting the zoo, George let some of the animals out of their pens. Your child can practice using a map to find the correct path back to each animal's home.

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Make a Shopping List

Make a shopping list as your child sits with you. Name each item you need out loud and let her watch as you write it down. When she is ready, let her write down some of the items. As you say the name of the item out loud, say each sound slowly, for example "M-I-L-K." Ask your child, "What letter do you think starts the word 'milk'?" "What letter do you think comes next?" It is not important for your child to spell the word exactly right. The idea is to help them make a connection between the letter and the sound it makes. "Yes, MMM, the letter M makes that sound."

Family Farm

Taking a trip to the grocery store can provide many opportunities for your child to practice math, literacy, and science skills. In this activity, your child can help pick out vegetables at the store and then sprout some vegetables at home.

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Encourage Creative List Making

Lists are a great early writing activity and can include both pictures and writing. Brainstorm lists that children can create, such as a list of things they do in the morning to get ready for school, a list of activities they want to do during school vacation or a list of people they want to give cards to for a holiday such as Valentine's Day. Let them tell you the words to write down and then let them illustrate the list. When kids write lists about routines, things they did on vacation or things they plan to do on the weekend, they practice sequencing — a key writing skill.

Charts

Charts are a great way to show data. Help your child collect data and make a chart that displays family members' favorite fruits and vegetables.

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Play with Letter Toys

Tub letters, alphabet blocks, ABC puzzles and letter magnets are simple and often inexpensive toys that support literacy development. Point out letters and letter sounds as kids play, and help them build simple words out of blocks and magnets.

Have a Letter Party

Tea parties are yummy and even more fun when they involve letters! Your child can practice writing letters and recognizing items that begin with the same letters, such as T-E-A!

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Make a Book Together

All it takes to make a book is paper and crayons/markers. Staple pieces of paper together or fold them in half, and then invite children to illustrate each page. Ask them to tell you what they have drawn, and then write it down under the picture. Once they have filled all the pages, read it back to them. At this age, it may be more a collection of images than a story, but children will love hearing their book read aloud to them!

Make a Letter X Book!

You and your child can build a book about the letter X and think of X words using this papercraft activity.

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Make Sand, Playdough and Soap Letters

Here are some tactile ways to practice letter writing:

  • In sand, have kids use their fingers to draw large letters in the sand. You can do a similar activity with a stick and a patch of dirt.
  • Roll playdough into long "snakes" and then use those to form letters. This helps kids see, and feel, how shapes fit together.
  • During bath time, use your finger to trace a large letter on your child's back. Start with a familiar letter, like the first letter in their name. Then ask your child to guess what letter you traced

Alpha Pig's Paint By Letter

Alpha Pig is painting pictures. Your child can practice recognizing printed uppercase and lowercase letters to help Alpha Pig finish painting his picture.

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Raise a Reader with Sesame Street

On this very special street, children learn early language and literacy skills such as letter knowledge, vocabulary, and reading and writing fundamentals.

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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Four-Year-Old

Explore our Age-by-Age Guide: