How Children Learn to Write

My child in pre-kindergarten just scribbles, even his name. However, some kids in his class try to write words. How do children learn to start writing? -- Scribbler

Answer: Fine motor skills are the ones that children use to color, cut, paste, paint and begin to write from the first day they start preschool. Other skills requiring fine motor abilities are tying shoes and fastening buttons.

Fine motor skills are definitely harder for some children to learn because they require more practice to develop than other motor skills. Teachers realize that children entering school are still developing their fine motor skills and do not expect them to paint like Rembrandt or write their names like John Hancock.

Children have their own time clocks that dictate the development of their fine motor skills. How adept they become at using these skills, however, depends on how much they practice using them. Reaching and grasping are fine motor skills that newborns quickly and automatically acquire. Even 2-week-old babies reaching for an object make contact 40 percent of the time. Over the weeks and months, fine motor skills develop as children use their arms, hands and fingers to reach, grasp and retrieve desired objects. By year one, children can pick up objects with their thumb and forefingers and are manipulating the objects to study them more closely. Between three and six years, small muscle coordination develops rapidly until children have acquired the basic fine motor skills that allow them to color, copy, cut and write.

Your son will develop the skills necessary to write. Encourage him to write by creating a fun writing center with all kinds of markers, crayons, color pencils and paper. Also, having beads that need to be strung or pegs that have to be put in holes will help him to strengthen the muscles in his fingers.