Literacy Helping Your Three-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 three-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! Your three-year-old won't be writing letters yet, but when they observe you writing and have access to crayons, paper and other writing tools, they will begin to explore the world of writing and mark-making at their own pace.

Simple ways to build your child's writing skills:

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.

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.

Make A Silly Folded Picture

Creating a silly picture with others can help your child develop creativity and cooperative learning skills.

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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!

Elmo's World: Books

Elmo wants to make a book. Your child can choose one of the titles -- Up and Away, Under the Sea, or Blast Off -- and then add colors and stickers to the pictures to help Elmo make his book.

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Make Sand, Playdough and Soap Letters

Here are some ways to practice alphabet mark making before kids put pencil to paper:

  • In sand, encourage kids to use their fingers to draw lines and shapes. As they get older, take their finger and help them draw larger 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 lines and shapes. 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.

Gingerbread Cookie Letters

Baking with your child offers the opportunity to explore many math, science, and literacy skills. Try baking these fun gingerbread cookie letters to practice letter recognition and letter sounds.

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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.

My Favorite Foods Book

In this fun craft, you can help your child find, draw, and label foods in the kitchen to assemble a favorite foods book.

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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.

Make a Letter Lunch Menu and Cook it Together

Let's have a letter lunch. You and your child can prepare a healthy snack that starts with a specific letter while you talk about the sounds the letter makes and practice writing it.

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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 Three-Year-Old

Explore our Age-by-Age Guide: