When do children learn to write?
At three? At four?
We saw yesterday that children become symbol users very early on. They feed their toys imaginary food; they pretend to be someone else. They learn to use one thing to represent another.
Writing is simply another step along this journey. Letters and words are yet more symbols.
So the basis of writing is play.
It begins with mark-making. Marks are first made for fun, an exploration of surfaces and materials. A finger through sand or condensation on a window. But soon those marks are ascribed meaning. This line is my car. This dot is Daddy. Not figurative art, to begin with, but over time children's representations become more accurate.
Before letters are attempted, children need a good degree of fine motor control. This is why threading and collage feature so heavily in preschools.
Only then can writing begin. It's a long road, and shouldn't be rushed. I've taught summer-born three-year-olds who could write full sentences, but I've also seen plenty start school at five barely able to attempt their name. They all get there in the end. The important thing is to keep it fun.
Children can be ready for school simply by learning through play. That's what this series - and 100 Toys - is all about.
Here's the rest of the series:
Encourage open-ended play for creativity and focus
Understanding schema play in toddlers
Independent play and why it matters
Insider Guide: Small World Play and Language
Tell Almost Any Story with Just a Handful of Figures
A simple guide to choosing the right toy