Literacy Helping Your Five-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 five-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’ll feel encouraged to explore the world of writing at their own pace.

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.

Create a Kid’s Calendar

Your child can better understand how a calendar works by decorating the days on a calendar or making his own calendar to track daily activities.

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Keep Writing Materials Handy

Markers, crayons, pens, pencils, paints, paper, glue, scissors and a stapler: with these materials, kids can create pictures, books, posters, cards and lists. At this age, your child may also enjoy having his own special book, such as a journal or spiral notebook.

Create a “My Favorite Toys” Book

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

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Encourage Writing During Pretend Play

Children love to play pretend — and writing can be part of this imaginative work. For example, if they like tea parties, encourage them to make invitations for guests, place cards, maps, signs or menus. Keeping writing materials readily available and at child level will help them integrate writing into their pretend play.

Write a Play

Just like Princess Pea and Red, you and your child can work together to write and put on a play as a way of practicing writing skills and creative thinking.

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Make Time for Family Writing

Many families make room for daily read-aloud time. Try setting aside time at least once a week for writing together — even for 15 minutes. Topics might include imaginative stories, a journal entry, a thank you card, a book review for a website or an email to a relative.

Make Appreciation Cards

Making cards for friends and family can help children learn to appreciate and value the special people in their lives.

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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.

The Cat in the Hat Can Map This and That

The Cat in the Hat is making a map. Your child can practice geometry skills and making maps from a bird's eye view by selecting the shape, size, color, and decorations for a room or outdoor play space.

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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.

Secret Codes and Magic Messages

You can combine science, reading, and secret codes with this activity that uses lemon juice and heat to reveal secret messages.

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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. Invite children to write a story about a favorite topic or activity, such as dinosaurs or playing at the park — a picture and a few words on every page. At first, you may write the words that they dictate to you, but as they become more comfortable writing words, have them write their own captions. Once they have filled all the pages, read it back to them.

Dog Dictionary

Is your child interested in another language? Help him create a simple bilingual dictionary to practice fun words in another language.

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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.

Alphabet Falls

Duck needs help catching the correct letters to complete a code. Your child can practice her upper and lower case letter identification skills by helping to catch letters in the waterfall.

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Raise a Reader with Super Why

Super Why introduces children to the power of reading -- and helps kids develop problem-solving skills along the way. Through engaging stories and games, your child can practice key skills like letter identification, word decoding, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension.

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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Five-Year-Old

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