Learning how to write through play

How can I teach my child to write?

Mark making!

Mark making is about your child doing just that… making marks! This is their very first step towards drawing and writing. To encourage this, be excited about the marks that they make… ‘look you made a line/ dot/ swirl/ zig-zag/ circle/ squiggle….’ No matter what they create, from a tiny dot to a more recognisable drawing, it all counts towards their jouney to becoming a writer! Try out these simple mark making activities to encourage your little writer:

  • A big roll of paper surrounded by different mark making tools; felt tip pens, pencils, crayons etc.
  • Painting using brushes or fingers… or hand and feet!
  • A baking tray with a thin layer of flour… they can use their fingers or paint brushes.
  • A baking try with a think layer of shaving foam.
  • Chalk boards and chalks.

Extension: Can they try and write their name?


Your child is more likely to want to learn to write if they see you writing. With most people now owning phones, tablets and computers there is a lot less writing-by-hand happening. Try these ideas to give writing a purpose:

  • Write a shopping list on paper in front of your child and then take it to the shops with you.
  • Write a message on a post-it note and ask your child to give it to another writer in the house eg. Mummy or Daddy is in another room, write a note that says ’do you want a cup of tea?’ and ask them to write back with their answer.
  • Try find reasons to write when playing: a lunch menu when making food from play dough, name tags for their teddies, instructions of how to build their tower etc.

Extension: can they copy the writing you have done… or write have a go at writing it for you.

Every child can write…!

And must see themselves as a writer! No matter what marks they have made, if they tell you what it says, just agree! If they ask what they have written, ask them what they wanted it to say and pretend it does, or pretend to read it and say ‘wow what wonderful writing’. This might seem strange when you want to teach your child to actually write but just as when a baby babbles you pretend you can understand them by talking back, this applies to early writing skills too. Eventually more letters will appear in their mark making, just as more words begin to appear in a baby’s babble.

Extension: Once you have pretended to read their ’writing’, take one or two words from their ’writing’ and show them how you would write it, can they copy?

Gross motor skills and fine motor skills!

Just as important as the marks they make is the ability to make those marks. Children need strong and coordinated gross motor skills (climbing, running, jumping, hopping…) first, before being able to develop strong and coordinated fine motor skills (using their fingers). Give your child lots of opportunities to use their whole bodies, for example, going to the park, dancing, or playing sports, and try out these activities to develop their fine motir skills:

  • Play dough
  • Baking
  • Playing with sand
  • Gluing and using stickers
  • Using washing line pegs
  • Picking up small foods like raisons.

Learning how to read through play

More PlayWorth Play Ideas