Mark making is an important pre-writing skill for young toddlers. Too often, parents make the mistake of giving their children writing tools too early in their development in hope that they will pick up writing as soon as possible. Children between 2 to 4 years need lots of pre-writing activities to hone their fine motor skills, finger dexterity (how well we handle small objects with our fingers) and lots of mark-making activities to prepare them amply for formal writing.
What is mark making? It is the process where children make early scribblings, often imitating the way adults write, and learn to assign meanings to the marks they make on paper, or any writing surface. For example, you often observe toddlers doodling on paper, and they are able to tell it represents (though you can’t make it out!).
Good sensory information is important for hand skills, especially for young children, as their brains take in these input and stimulate their hands for coordination and precise control. Making marks with their fingers also develops their wrist control and directionality of their writing. For the beginning stage of mark-making, it is a physical activity of engaging the concrete materials with their hands, and it progresses gradually to making more definite, precise, resembling recognizable letters when their muscle control gets more developed.
For young toddlers who are not ready to do formal writing, encourage them to do mark-making with their fingers on the sensory tray. You can use:
1. Sand or coloured sand dust
5. Small beans
6. Shaving cream
Here you see Rae having fun doing mark-making in her sensory tray with flour. She draws lines to show directional marks, with continuous movement of the hand. Making curves and enclosures are important pre-requisites for forming letters and numbers. She also creates dots to make symbols and representations of abstract ideas.
Here I asked her what her initial marks represents, and she exclaimed, ” A snake is moving in the grass!”. To encourage her to make more marks, I prompted her further by asking her, “is it just one snake?” She said her snake friends are coming, and she quickly represented that idea by drawing another few more lines. I then asked, “Besides snakes, who else are her friends?”. She then added another mark signifying a bird in the sky who had flown in to join her snake friends on the grass!
Hence you can see from Rae’s example, her scribblings are her way of communicating meaning and sharing her ideas with others ( which is the purpose for writing). We can help our children develop an interest for writing by encouraging, praising and valuing their ideas expressed through mark-making!