Before children can be competent writers, they need a rich variety of mark making activities. They will have fun experimenting with these early marks, which will later develop into their first written words.
Providing a variety of materials and range of exciting and engaging activities to make these early marks, can make all the difference in encouraging your toddler or pre-schooler to have fun with mark making. They will also encourage school aged children to continue practising their pencil grip, improve their coordination and fine motor skills, and keep a love for writing/mark making.
My top ideas for mark making are:
Chalks outside - something about being outside enthuses children and holds their attention for longer (and the best part for you, is that it means less mess indoors!). Another tip is to give your child a wet paintbrush to go over their marks with afterwards. They will have to use careful control to go over the marks they have already made and part of the clearing up will already have been done for you!
Sand - who doesn't love drawing in the sand? Use fingers to make marks in the sand or any tools from around the house you can find. E.g. forks, rulers, spoons, painting tools and scrapers. If you don't have a sand pit, you can always pour salt into a tray and make marks in this.
Paints - Make marks using fingers, paintbrushes, string, forks, cotton buds, potatoes, cotton reels & marbles, anything you can dip in paint really!
Play Dough - roll it, poke it, pinch it, use sticks and tools to make marks in it. Check out Play Dough Disco on You tube with Shonette Bason.
Painting with water - on a chalk board or outside on the patio, fence and walls. The added benefit for you, is that there is no chalk or paint to clear away. For the children, they can experiment using different sized paintbrushes, and making a variety of shapes, patterns and marks with the water. On a warm day, their learning will be extended as you are able to explain why their marks don't last and quickly dry up.
Foam - shaving foam or modelling bath foam, squirted on to a tray, is a wonderful medium for the children to make marks in. They will enjoy getting messy and seeing the bottom on the tray appear as they push aside the foam to make different shapes.
You can encourage control by giving your child patterns, wiggly/zig zag lines, shapes, simple letters, words or pictures, to copy or draw over. But most of all it's about having fun! You want your child to enjoy mark making, which in turn, will improve their fine motor skills, pencil grip, control and coordination.