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How to Teach Your Toddler to Write

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When Do Children Learn to Write?

How writing skills develop, what the research means, encouraging writing skills, a word from verywell.

When you really think about it, the fact that children learn a language , learn how to speak, and learn to write in such a short amount of time is extraordinary. As parents and caregivers and educators, we all want to encourage our children to learn the skills they will need for a lifetime, but many of us don't necessarily think a lot about how those skills develop—or at what age we can encourage our children to start learning skills like how to write.

We might think that children don't really learn how to write until they approach kindergarten age, but a 2017 research study uncovered some interesting findings that show otherwise. The study, published in the journal  Child Development, showed that children actually start to learn writing skills as early as age three.  

Previously, child development experts had assumed that children learned how to write only once they learned what sounds each letter represented. So, for example, once a child learned what "A" sounds like, they could connect that sound to a letter and from there, start to write the letters that are representing sounds.

Researchers found that children actually learn the fundamentals of writing before they learn what letters represent specific sounds.

Study co-author Rebecca Treiman, PhD, a professor of psychological and brain sciences, says her research shows that children actually display knowledge about the formulas of written language, such as which letters are usually grouped together before they learn what those letters actually represent.  

Young children are recognizing patterns in words—such as how long a word is and what letters go together—even before they know what those patterns mean or what the words mean.

This study, unlike other studies that examined how children's writing skills improve as they get older, looked at how early children actually learn how to write. The researchers found that children begin to write "words" that actually follow rules of the written language as early as age 3.

These words might not make sense, but they might follow a basic rule of looking like a word, with repeating letters that represent vowels or word types.  

Treiman's study looked at spellings of "words" from 179 children in the United States between the ages of 3 years 2 months and 5 years 6 months who were "prephonological" spellers. This simply means that they spelled words with letters that had no connection to the sounds of the letters in the actual words.

What they found was that when asked to spell a word like, "cat," for example, an older child may not be able to write any letters that actually sound like the letters in the word, but the child recognizes that "cat" is a shorter word than, say, "elephant," and writes down their word accordingly.

This skill improves as the child gets older, so the 5-year-olds had much better ability to write words that looked like words than the preschoolers.   The researchers based what looks like a "word" on a few standards, which included: length of a word, using different letters within the words, and how they combined the letters within the words.

This study is an important look at how children learn how to absorb the basic rules of reading and writing at younger ages than previously thought. Knowing this allows parents, caregivers, and educators to better teach young children the foundations of language, giving them a better start on life-long learning.

Dr. Treiman also pointed out that the findings might help educators develop a plan for identifying any potential learning disabilities early on, too. Children who have learning challenges benefit from early intervention, so identifying those challenges as early as possible could be very helpful.  

Don't worry about hosting a handwriting class with your little one. But you can definitely get started on introducing writing skills to your toddler if you would like. You may be curious to see how your toddler approaches reading and writing, if they will naturally gravitate towards a love of language, or if you should anticipate any problems.

But of course, keep in mind that kids change quite a bit from the toddler years to school-age years, too. To get started on introducing writing to your toddler:

Motor Development

Consider your toddler's motor development. If your toddler is following typical motor development, you can check their skill development timeline to see what they should be able to accomplish by age. If your toddler is too young to hold a crayon, for example, it may not be time to start introducing words just yet.

Large Writing Implements

Provide larger crayons, markers, or pens for your toddler to grasp. A three-year-old with typical development should be able to hold and color with a regular crayon, marker, or pencil, but a younger child may benefit from a larger crayon with a more stable base. The larger design makes it easier for the toddler to hold and start to draw on paper.

Lead your toddler in word games. There are many ways you can introduce the concept of words to your toddler . For example, you could draw a word with a corresponding picture, you could have your toddler practice writing words after you write them, or you could play "Snowman."

Snowman is like "Hangman," but child-appropriate. Draw lines for each letter in a word, have your toddler guess letters for the word, and each missed letter gets one part of the snowman.

Space to Learn

Give them freedom. Although it may seem tempting to try to lead your toddler into becoming a wordsmith by age 2, one of the best things you can do for your child is to simply step back and let them explore what it means to write all on their own.

They may imitate you or try to write words from their own books, but rest assured that play is the work of childhood and your little one always learns best through free play.

As always, the single best thing you can do for your child at any age is to read together . You can read to your toddler or have them "read" to you, but either way, studies show that reading together helps all aspects of communication, language development, and future abilities.

Plus, reading is always a fun activity to do together, and it's exciting to see research showing us that there is more development happening at even very young ages than we might have realized.

Treiman R, Kessler B, Boland K, Clocksin H, Chen Z. Statistical Learning and Spelling: Older Prephonological Spellers Produce More Wordlike Spellings Than Younger Prephonological Spellers . Child Dev. 2018;89(4):e431-e443. doi:10.1111/cdev.12893

Treiman R, Kessler B, Boland K, et al.   Statistical learning and spelling: Older prephonological spellers produce more wordlike spellings than younger prephonological spellers .  Child Development. 2018;89(4):e431-e443. doi:10.1111/cdev.12893

By Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.

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Stages of writing development: Teach your child to write

When will my child start writing? What can I expect as she starts to develop these skills? How can I encourage my child as a writer? Find the answers in this article, where you'll learn about the four stages of writing development, plus how you can support your child as she goes from scribbling to sentences.

BabyCenter has partnered with HOMER, the essential early-learning program, to share expert advice to help children develop skills for school and life. BabyCenter may earn a commission from shopping links.

young girl readying a book

How writing develops

Preliterate stage: scribbling is good (0 to 2 years), emergent stage: letters appear in writing (2 to 4 years), transitional stage: letters start to become words (4 to 7 years), fluent stage: spelling starts to have meaning (5 to 6 years).

There are four stages that kids go through when learning to write: preliterate, emergent, transitional, and fluent. Knowing which stage your child is in – whether he's scribbling in the preliterate stage or using "dictionary-level" spelling in the fluent stage – can help you support his writing development. Your child's ability to write is dependent on his ability to master a wide variety of literacy skills including recognizing letters, interpreting sounds, and print awareness, such as the spacing of words.

Children love expressing their thoughts and ideas verbally. Putting those thoughts on paper (writing) happens in stages that kids work through at their own pace. Any ages mentioned below are "typical ranges" and should be used as general indicators. And remember: No two kids are the same. Some will develop writing skills quickly; for others, it will take longer. If you're concerned about your child's progress when it comes to writing, speak to his pediatrician or teacher.

In the first stage of writing development, any scribbling or drawing a child does is writing. As they watch you and other grown-ups write, young kids are encouraged to pick up crayons and start scribbling. This kind of pretend play shows that your child is thinking, "I'm a writer, too!"

It's a milestone moment when a child realizes her ideas can exist as writing. You'll know this is happening when you see her scribbling or drawing while saying words or telling a story. During this stage, applaud any and all attempts to write.

Tips for the preliterate stage

A great way to encourage your child as a writer – even in this early stage – is to say, "Tell me what you wrote." Kids love sharing their stories, and you'll delight in hearing the often-elaborate and fantastical thoughts that are behind those simple scribbles.

Keep paper and crayons or markers easily accessible so your child can start writing when inspiration strikes. Pens and pencils are fine too, but young children often have an easier time holding thicker writing tools.

You can also encourage your child by writing notes to her. A simple one that reads, "I love you!" waiting at the breakfast table can inspire a note in return.

Is your child scrawling lots of random letters on a page? That's excellent! This means he is in the second stage of writing development, which usually happens between the ages of 2 and 4. Kids in this stage are taking the big step from scribble writing to appreciating that the "scribbles" grown-ups use for writing are symbols called letters. They're not quite matching letters to sounds – at least not consistently – but they are beginning to understand that letters play a special role in writing. At the start of this stage, children might still use other symbols like drawings or squiggles. As they progress, kids start to use only letters and will firmly declare that they are writing.

Tips for the emergent stage

Teaching your child to write his name helps him understand that letters are used to make words. It also encourages the move from scribble writing to using letters as symbols. Once that's mastered, you can move on to teaching him to write words like "Mom," "Dad," and the names of other family members. Another fun idea: Make signs together for role-playing games, for example a STOP sign for when you're playing cars.

Reading is also important at this stage. A great way to encourage reading is to find time to read to your child everyday. In addition to encouraging him to love reading, reading aloud inspires his inner storyteller. He'll start to come up with his own imaginative tales. Reading aloud also reinforces the idea that words are made up of letters, and that words have specific meanings. When you read the same story over and over together, your child might begin to recognize some words. For many kids, this repetition isn't just a step toward reading but also toward writing. For example, once a child has seen the word "bug" in a story several times, he will start to recognize it. Once he recognizes it, he can move on to writing those three letters to tell his own story about bugs.

When kids start to realize that words are made up of sounds, and that letters represent these sounds, they stop using random letters in their writing. Instead, they start trying to match the sounds they hear in a word to letters they know. This cognitive leap often happens between the ages of 4 and 7.

A child might spell "My cat is happy" as "mi kat z hpe." This type of spelling is called "invented spelling." Evidence shows that this effort to match individual sounds in words demonstrates that a child's writing and reading skills are getting stronger.

During this stage, kids often reverse letters or mix them up. It might be tempting to fix your child's mistakes, but instead focus on the fun. Mistakes like this are common at this age and are part of the learning process. Encourage your child's writing and communication, and save the spelling lessons for when she's older.

Tips for the transitional stage

Encourage your transitional writer by making writing part of pretend play. Help her write a menu for a tea party with her toys, or a prescription for you when you're playing doctor. Hold on to these little gems. You'll both enjoy trying to decipher the invented spelling in years to come.

In this stage (which usually happens between ages 5 and 6), children begin to use "dictionary" spelling rather than "invented" spelling. The spelling may not be accurate, but children are now aware that different spellings can have different meanings. They'll even begin to memorize some words, especially tricky but common words (like "was," "and," "the"), so that they can spell them correctly.

Trying to push kids to this stage too quickly can sometimes inhibit them, as they feel the demand for perfect spelling. If you feel your child is struggling with the pressure to spell perfectly, a great way to alleviate the stress is to introduce the idea of drafts. You can emphasize that a first draft is just to get ideas out, and the second draft is to check spelling.

It is also helpful for kids to begin memorizing common sight words like "was," "the," and "of." These words occur often, and the sounds do not follow the basic rules of spelling. Memorizing them makes spelling a lot easier.

Tips for the fluent stage

Encourage your child to use writing to connect with people. Try writing short letters to each other or family and friends. Another fun way to make writing a social activity is to write shared stories: You start by writing the first two or three lines of the story. Then, your child writes the next few. After that, someone else takes a turn, and so on.

If your child isn't in the fluent stage and wants to play, he can dictate and you can write. Kids think of story ideas much faster than they can write them down, and this can cause frustration. When you write for your child, he gets to experience the delight of having his original stories documented. In time, his writing ability will match the speed of his thoughts. But until that happens, alleviate the frustration by offering assistance.

What writing stage is your child in? How are you supporting his writing future? Remember, each child goes through the stages of writing development at his own pace. He will move from one stage to the next as he develops a greater understanding of writing and his desire to write grows. Allowing your child to take his time going through the stages helps him stay excited about writing. Observe, enjoy, and encourage your child's growth within each stage.

Is your child ready to learn to read? HOMER creates a fun, personalized learn-to-read plan based on your child's skill level and interests. It’s research-backed and kid-tested to give your child the best start to the learning journey. BabyCenter parents get the first month free (and if you choose an annual membership, up to 4 months free). Opens a new window

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Fun activities to promote writing skills

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How to raise a child who loves math

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Which reading stage is your child in?

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How to raise a child who loves to write

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Where to go next

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Teaching My 4-Year-Old to Write

Writing is an essential skill that all children should learn. Not only does it help them develop their vocabulary, but it also helps them to connect ideas and thoughts together.

In this blog post, we’ll provide tips on how to start teaching your child to write and help them develop the writing skills they need to be successful.

We’ll discuss the importance of writing with your child, how to start young, and some common developmental milestones your child will go through as they learn to write.

So whether you’re new to the idea of teaching your child to write or have been doing it for years, this blog post is for you.

Can Children Write at Age 4?

Most children begin writing between the ages of 4 and 7. Some children may start writing earlier or later, but this is typically the range in which most kids acquire the basic skills needed to write.

Most four-year-olds are not able to write because they have not yet developed the fine motor skills necessary for writing.

However, there are some four-year-olds who are able to write simple words and sentences. If your child is able to write, it is probably nothing to worry about. If your child is not able to write, you may want to talk to his or her doctor or a developmental specialist.

There are a few key things that children need to be able to do before they can start writing. Firstly , they need to be able to hold a pencil correctly. This may seem like a small thing, but it’s actually quite important! If a child doesn’t have a good grip on the pencil, it will be difficult for them to form letters correctly. Secondly , children need to be able to understand how letters are formed. This includes knowing which way to make strokes when forming letters (e.g., downwards for an “L” and upwards for an “F”). Once again, this may seem like a small thing, but it’s necessary for being able to write neatly and legibly.

Thirdly , the thing to look for is whether the child shows an interest in drawing and scribbling. Children who enjoy these activities are often more likely to be interested in learning how to write letters and words. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to consult with your child’s pediatrician or kindergarten teacher before starting any formal writing instruction. Lastly , kids need some general knowledge about what they’re writing about. For instance, if they’re asked to write a story about their weekend, they’ll need to know what happened during their weekend in order to tell their story effectively.

If your child is displaying all of these skills, then there’s no reason why they can’t start writing at age 4! Just provide them with some paper and pencils and let them loose!

How Much Should a 4-Year-Old Be Writing?

Assuming you mean how much should a 4-year-old be able to write: There is no one answer to this question as every child develops differently and will be able to write more or less depending on their individual abilities.

However, by four years old most children will be able to scribble using a crayon or pencil and may even be beginning to form some basic letters. Some children may also be able to spell out simple words such as ‘cat’ or ‘dog’.

Can Children Write at Age 4?

4-5-Year-Old Writing Skills

Most 4-5-year-olds are able to:

  • Hold a pencil or crayon with the proper grip
  • Draw basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles
  • Write some letters of the alphabet, usually those that appear in their name first
  • Begin to spell simple words on their own, such as “cat” or “dog”
  • Copy words from a book or from someone else

Here Are a Few Tips to Get You Started

  • Start with the basics. Show your child how to hold a pencil and make basic strokes. Then, have them practice tracing lines, circles, and other shapes.
  • Encourage them to write their name. This will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment as they see their name in print for the first time.
  • Help them sound out words. As they learn to read, they’ll also start to understand how written language works. This will come in handy when they start writing sentences on their own.
  • Read aloud together. Reading stories is a great way to expose your child to different types of writing styles and genres. It’s also a bonding experience that you can both enjoy!

There are some other ways that you can go about teaching my 4-year-old to write.

One option is to enroll them in a pre-kindergarten or kindergarten program that includes writing instruction.

Another option is to purchase a workbook or other materials specifically designed for teaching young children how to write. Or, you can simply take some time each day to sit down with your child and help them practice writing letters, numbers, and simple words.

How to Teach a Child to Write Numbers

One of the most basic things that children need to learn is how to write numbers . This is a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives, so it’s important to get them started off on the right foot. There are a few different ways that you can teach your child to write numbers. 1. Have them trace numbers with their finger. This can be done on paper or even in sand or dirt. Tracing helps kids to see the shape of the number and understand how it is supposed to look. 2. Another way to teach kids how to write numbers is by using dot-to-dot worksheets. These worksheets have dots that need to be connected in order to form a number. As kids connect the dots, they will start to see the number take shape. 3. Once your child has a good understanding of how numbers are formed, you can start having them write numbers on their own. Start with simple numbers like 1, 2, and 3 and then move up from there. Make sure they take their time and form each number correctly before moving on to the next one.

Writing numbers may seem like a simple task, but it’s one that kids need plenty of practice with before they master it. Use these tips to help your child learn how to write numbers correctly and confidently!

How to Teach a Child to Write Sentences

One of the most important things you can do to help your child excel in school is to teach them how to write sentences. By teaching your child how to properly construct a sentence, you will not only be helping them with their writing assignments but also preparing them for future success in other areas such as reading and math.

There are a few simple tips you can follow to help your child learn how to write sentences: 1. Start with the basics. Teach your child the difference between a subject and a predicate. A subject is a noun or pronoun that is doing the verb, while the predicate is the verb or action being done. For example, in the sentence “The boy throws the ball,” “the boy” is the subject, “throws” is the verb, and “the ball” is the object.

2. Make sure each sentence has a subject and a predicate. Every sentence needs both a subject and a predicate in order to be complete. For example, “I am happy” is a complete sentence because it has both an “I” (the subject) and “am happy” (the predicate). However, “Happy” by itself is not a complete sentence because it lacks a subject.

3. Help your child choose interesting subjects and verbs for their sentences. Sentences about mundane topics such as what they had for breakfast or what they did at recess can quickly become boring for both you and your child! Instead, encourage them to come up with more creative ideas for their sentences such as describing their favorite animal or made-up creature.

The basics for teaching a preschooler to write

Writing is an essential skill that every person needs to be able to use. However, many children learn to write at a much slower pace than adults, which can have negative consequences down the road. In this blog post, we discussed some tips on how to teach your 4-year-old to write effectively and efficiently. By following these tips, you can help your child develop strong writing skills from an early age and ensure that they have a foundation on which to build future skills. If you found this blog post helpful, please share it on your social media platform to help others who are also interested in teaching their child to write.

learning to write 4 year olds

Dwight Hughes Sr

I am Dwight Hughes Sr., your specialist in Special Education and Preschooler topics at EduEdify.com. Holding a PhD in Early Childhood Education, I bring a depth of knowledge and experience to guide parents and educators in nurturing the younger minds. My mission is to share evidence-based insights, cultivated from years of academic and field research, to help every child flourish during their formative years.

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  • February 24, 2017

Learning to Write and Draw

A child coloring a red and blue circle with crayon

Key Takeaways

  • How Your Child’s Writing and Art Changes Over Time

Stage 1: Random Scribbling (15 months to 2½ years)

Stage 2: controlled scribbling (2 years to 3 years).

  • Stage 3: Lines and Patterns (2½ years to 3½ years) 

Stage 4: Pictures of Objects or People (3 years to 5 years)

  • Stage 5: Letter and Word Practice (3 to 5 years) 
  • What Can You Do to Encourage Art and Writing Skills

How A Child’s Writing and Art Changes Over Time

Creativity is a bridge to learning. When a child is creative and curious, she can come up with answers to the problems she encounters—like how to keep the block tower from falling. Creativity helps a child become a thoughtful, inquisitive, and confident learner later on, when she starts school.

One of the most important ways that a toddler is tuning into her creativity is by experimenting with art materials. As she grabs that chunky crayon and gets to work, you will see her art and writing change and become more controlled and complex as she grows.

For very young children, art and early writing skills are one and the same. At first, it’s all about just figuring out what these cool things called crayons can do. Then the child discovers the link between her hand holding the crayon and the line she made on the page: Presto! She experiences the power of cause-and-effect. Imagine how exciting this must be for her! She can now make a real “mark” on the world. This leap in thinking skills is helped along by her new ability to hold things in her hands and fingers. The growing control a child has over the muscles in her hands lets her move a marker or paintbrush with purpose and with a goal in mind.

For very young children, there are four stages of drawing and writing that you may see as a child grows from 15 months old to 3 years old. Note that the timetables listed below are approximate; the child may master these skills faster or slower and still be developing just fine. Growth doesn’t happen at the same speed for every child, but by offering repeated fun experiences with a variety of art and writing materials, you will see forward progress over time.

toddler sitting at table with art supplies

This is the period when young children are just figuring out that their movements result in the lines and scribbles they see on the page. These scribbles are usually the result of large movements from the shoulder, with the crayon or marker held in the child’s fist. There is joy in creating art at all ages, but at this stage especially, many children relish the feedback they are getting from their senses: the way the crayon feels, the smell of the paint, the squishy-ness of the clay.

For other children, this sensory information may be too much and they may not enjoy some art activities at this stage (like finger-painting). As they grow to tolerate more sensory input, you can incrementally re-introduce art activities into their routine.

Toddler painting a picture with paint brush

As children develop better control over the muscles in their hands and fingers, their scribbles begin to change and become more controlled. Toddlers may make repeated marks on the page—open circles, diagonal, curved, horizontal, or vertical lines. Over time, children make the transition to holding the crayon or marker between their thumb and pointer finger.

Stage 3: Lines and Patterns (2½ years to 3½ years)

Children now understand that writing is made up of lines, curves, and repeated patterns. They try to imitate this in their own writing. So while they may not write actual letters, you may see components of letters in their drawing. These might include lines, dots, and curves. This is an exciting time as a toddler realizes that his drawing conveys meaning! For example, he may write something down and then tell you what word it says. This is an important step toward reading and writing.

Many adults think of “pictures” as a picture of something. This ability to hold an image in your mind and then represent it on the page is a thinking skill that takes some time to develop. At first, children name their unplanned creations. This means that they finish the picture and then label their masterpiece with the names of people, animals, or objects they are familiar with. This changes over time.

Soon you will see the child clearly planning prior to drawing what he will create. You will also see more detail in the pictures, more control in the way the child handles the crayon or marker, and the use of more colors. What else to be on the lookout for? Children’s first pictures often build off circles. So, you may see a sun—an irregular circle, with lots of stick “rays” shooting out—or a person (usually a circle with roughly recognizable human features).

Once a child has begun to purposefully draw images, she has mastered symbolic thinking. This important milestone in thinking skills means that a child understands that lines on paper can be a symbol of something else, like a house, a cat, or a person. At this stage, the child also begins to understand the difference between pictures and writing. So you may see him draw a picture and then scribble some “words” underneath to describe what he has drawn or to tell a story. When a child is able to share his story with you, he will be motivated to “author” more and more work as he grows.

Stage 5: Letter and Word Practice (3 to 5 years)

Children have had experience with letters and print for several years now and are beginning to use letters in their own writing. Usually children start by experimenting with the letters in their own names, as these are most familiar to them. They also make “pretend letters” by copying familiar letter shapes, and will often assume that their created letter must be real because it looks like other letters they have seen (Robertson, 2007).

During this time, children also begin to understand that some words are made of symbols that are shorter and some words are made of symbols that are longer. As a result, their scribbles change. Rather than one long string of letters or letter-like shapes, a child’s writing now has short and long patterns that look like words or sentences. While these letters and words are probably not technically correct, it does not matter. This exciting milestone means that the child is beginning to understand that text and print have meaning.

How to Encourage Art and Writing Skills

Toddler sitting on the floor dipping paintbrush in paint and making a picture

No need for instructions.

Let children experiment and explore. Creativity means having the power to express yourself in your own way (Lagoni et al., 1989). This independence is just what a growing toddler is looking for to feel confident, competent, and clever. By sitting nearby, observing, and taking pleasure in your child’s creation, you are providing all the guidance he needs.

Notice the process, not just the product.

As parents, we often tend to compliment children on their successes:  What’s that a picture of? A house? That’s great!  And sometimes we get hung up on the fact that trees should be green, not purple. Sometimes we quiz:  What’s the name of that color? But children learn more when we don’t focus so much on what they are drawing, but on what they are thinking about their drawing. Take a few moments to observe a child’s work: Look at the lines you are making—there are so many of them!  Or,  That picture is really interesting. Those colors make me feel happy.  Or,  I see you are working really hard on your drawing.  Or just:  Tell me about your picture. Then see if the child is interested in sharing more.

Experiment with a variety of art materials as your child nears 3.

Let children paint with cotton balls, q-tips, sponges, string—you name it. Give a child crayons and rub over a textured surface (like a coin or a screen). Draw with chalk outside on a sidewalk; see how water changes the color of the chalk. Add powdered paint or glitter to a child’s sand play. Or add a new dimension to water play by adding drops of washable food coloring to the water. What happens when you mix two different colors of water together?

Use art to help a child express strong feelings.

Is the child having a tantrum? Offer some play-dough or set out the markers and paper and suggest she make a very, very angry picture. Creative activities can sometimes help children express and make sense of feelings that are too intense for them to share in words.

Encourage a child’s attempts to write.

If the child scribbles something and then tells you what he “wrote,” take it seriously. Let him take his “shopping list” to the supermarket or mail his (scribbled) letter to Grandma. This is how children learn that words are powerful and have meaning.

Display your child’s art and writing.

This is how a child knows her work is valued and important.

Creative activities help children to learn how to solve problems, come up with their own answers, discover the cause-and-effect of their actions, and feel confident about the choices they make. Art experiences help children develop independence within limits, and gives them the opportunity to represent their ideas on paper or in other formats. Most important, creative expression lets children tap into the magic of their own imaginations—which is what being a child is all about.

Resources and References

Farrell-Kirk, R. (2007 February).  Tips on understanding and encouraging your child’s artistic development.  Downloaded on June 10, 2008.

Gable, S. (2000).  Creativity in young children.  University of Missouri Extension. Downloaded on June 10, 2008.

Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. (n.d.).  My child is an artist! The stages of artistic development.  Downloaded on June 10, 2008.

Lagoni, L. S., Martin, D. H., Maslin-Cole, C., Cook, A., MacIsaac, K., Parrill, G., Bigner, J., Coker, E., & Sheie, S. (1989). Good times being creative. In  Good times with child care  (pp. 239–253). Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. Downloaded on June 10, 2008.

Levinger, L, & Mott, A. (n.d.).  Developmental phases in art.  Downloaded on June 10, 2008.

Robertson, R. (2007, July/August). The meaning of marks: Understanding and nurturing young children’s writing development.  Child Care Exchange, 176 , 40–44.

Browse our full suite of resources on early childhood development.

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Why handwriting is important

Handwriting is an essential life skill .

For example, children who can write smoothly and clearly are better able to use writing to record thoughts and ideas. When handwriting is automatic, ideas can flow. Children also need to write for many school lessons and tasks.

Handwriting skills help children develop reading and spelling skills. Handwriting also helps with the ability to recall and remember information.

And we need handwriting skills to do many tasks later in life, like writing birthday cards, filling in forms and signing important documents.

How handwriting develops

Handwriting is a  complex skill that develops over time . To learn handwriting, children need to combine  fine motor skills , language, memory and concentration. They also need to practise and follow instructions.

Handwriting starts with scribbling and drawing then moves on to forming letters, words and sentences.

You can encourage your child to develop an interest in handwriting by giving them opportunities to draw, scribble and write. This prepares your child for the formal handwriting they’ll learn at school.

Left-handed writing in children Most children choose to write and draw with their right hand. But some children choose their left hand. This is OK. When children choose their left hand to write with, there’s no need for them to swap hands.

Children who write with their left hand might find it hard to see their writing because their left hands cover their writing as it moves across the page. If you tilt your child’s page so that the left-hand corner is highest, your child can more easily see what they’re writing or drawing.

Toddlers: drawing and early handwriting skills

Drawing is the start of handwriting for toddlers, usually at around 2 years.

Drawing starts with making marks or scribbles on paper and other surfaces . At first, toddlers usually move markers, crayons or chalk back and forth across paper. Gradually, they gain more control and might try to make lines and curves. Sometimes older toddlers might tell you what their marks are – for example, ‘a caterpillar’ or ‘a cat’.

Here are ideas to get your toddler  scribbling, drawing and ‘writing’ :

  • Have crayons and paper, or chalk and blackboard, handy. Small chunks of chalk or crayons encourage your toddler to use a fingertip grip. This helps your toddler learn to hold a pencil.
  • Provide various materials for your toddler to draw on – for example, coloured paper, cardboard, and notebooks with lines and blank pages.
  • Sit with your toddler and draw pictures together.
  • Encourage your toddler to draw things that interest them. For example, if your toddler likes insects, you could draw a centipede and your toddler could add a lot of legs. Or on a rainy day you could draw a big cloud and your toddler could draw rain falling down.
  • Prop up your toddler’s drawing surface so that it’s on an angle. You could use an easel or blackboard. This helps your toddler make downward strokes, which they need to do for writing later on.
  • Encourage your toddler to squeeze and pinch things. This could be threading big beads, squeezing and pinching playdough into shapes, or building with blocks and Duplo. This helps your toddler develop the hand muscles needed for using pencils.
  • Let your toddler see you writing by hand for different purposes – for example, to make a list, leave a message, or write down a phone number.

Preschoolers: getting started with handwriting

Children usually start to draw straight and circular lines in the preschool years. Your child might even put these lines and shapes together to draw people and objects. Your child might also start to form letters and numbers.

Plenty of opportunities to draw will help your child keep developing the skills they need for handwriting:

  • Keep giving your child chunky crayons and chalk until they develop the finger and thumb grip needed to hold a pencil.
  • Encourage your child to trace simple top-to-bottom and left-to-right lines on a page, trying to stay on the lines all the way to the end. Make up a story to add interest to the activity. For example, ‘Help this puppy find the way home’.
  • Practise drawing anticlockwise circles that start at the top of the page. This is the pattern we use to form letters.
  • As your child gets more control over crayons or pencils, encourage them to draw simple stick figure people. If you put your child’s pictures on the fridge or wall, they’ll feel proud of their work.
  • Encourage your child to trace over the letters of their name. At first you might need to put your hand over your child’s hand to help them.
  • Help your child learn the alphabet sequence. Try clapping your hands in a steady rhythm while you say the letters together. Doing this with music or singing the alphabet song together can also help.
  • Encourage your child to write and draw with other materials. For example, your child could draw lines in sand or mud, trace over letters on signs with their finger, form 3D letters from playdough, and so on. Take photos of these drawings if you want to print them out and display them.

Creative and pretend play can improve your child’s literacy. It also puts some of your child’s drawing skills into practice.

Handwriting education at school

During the first 2 years of school, your child will learn to:

  • form letters
  • recognise and spell frequently used words
  • put spaces between words
  • write letters and words in a similar size and in a line
  • write about familiar events.

Children develop their handwriting ability at different rates, but most children gain these basic skills within the first 2 years of school. From Year 2 on, children start to write more complex sentences and write about their experiences.

Handwriting: encouraging your school-age child

Here are tips to encourage your school-age child’s handwriting:

  • Make a place for writing at home. Have a stable chair and a surface at the level of your child’s belly button. If your table is too high, you could use a cushion or tall chair to raise your child higher, with a footstool to support your child’s feet.
  • Ask your child’s teacher for a sample sheet with the starting points for each letter clearly marked. This can help your child practise at home.
  • Write letters lightly and correctly yourself and get your child to trace over them. Show your child where to start drawing the letter by putting a green dot at the starting point and a red one at the finishing point.
  • Say the names of letters and the letter sounds with your child as they draw or trace the letters.
  • Use everyday opportunities to practise writing. For example, get your child to add items to the family shopping list, write notes to grandparents, help with birthday and other cards, or make labels with post-it notes.
  • Make it fun. Use a stick to draw large letters in the ground or at the beach and fill the letters with pebbles or shells. Use non-permanent markers on a window to trace a letter over many times. Bath crayons are also good for this activity.
  • Surprise your child with different types of writing materials and accessories, like pencils, pens, pencil cases and rulers. This shows your child that you value handwriting tools.

Learning to write takes time and practice. Praise your child’s efforts. It’s good to help your child spot their best letters. And you can encourage your child to write more letters like them. Focus on the letters your child writes well rather than the mistakes.

Signs of handwriting problems in early school-age children

Learning to write involves a combination of skills and abilities and an understanding of language. If your child is having difficulty with one or more of these skills, they might have some trouble with learning handwriting.

Here are early signs that your child is having difficulty developing the skills to write by hand at school:

  • Swapping hands while drawing or handwriting during the first year of school – most children prefer using one hand for drawing before they reach school, but some children have started school when this happens.
  • Writing slowly or struggling to draw letters correctly – your child might need some help developing motor skills to make smooth, careful movements.
  • Gripping a pencil differently from the way they were taught or gripping the pencil weakly – this can slow down your child’s handwriting and make it hard for them to complete work in a reasonable time.
  • Lacking interest in or avoiding drawing and handwriting – this might happen if your child isn’t confident about drawing or their writing isn’t as advanced as their classmates’ writing.
  • Writing in an untidy way – this might look like reversed letters, letters not correctly closed, inconsistent letter size, letters that don’t sit on the line and inconsistent spacing between letters and words.
  • Not following the teacher’s instructions while learning to write – this might be because your child has trouble concentrating, paying attention or understanding instructions.

If you notice these signs, it’s possible that your child can’t clearly see the board, their own writing or the print in books. Or your child might have additional learning needs that affect handwriting development.

Getting help with handwriting

Talk with your child’s preschool or school teacher or your GP if you’ve noticed your child having difficulty with handwriting skills. Your GP might recommend you make an appointment with an  occupational therapist ,  audiologist or  optometrist .

Children with handwriting difficulties  might need extra help and aids . These might include:

  • angled writing boards
  • chunky pencils
  • pencil grips
  • paper with coloured dotted lines, bold lines or raised tactile lines.

An occupational therapist can let you know what aids will help your child.

Handwriting apps

You can get handwriting apps on tablets and smartphones. Handwriting apps can be useful, so long as your child uses them only as an extra option for handwriting practice , rather than as a replacement.

It’s also important to make sure that any apps you’re interested in use the handwriting script that’s taught at your child’s school. It might be a good idea to talk with your child’s teacher before you decide on a handwriting app for your child.

learning to write 4 year olds

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350+ Free Handwriting Worksheets for Kids

Helping a child learn to write is a lot of fun. There are a few things you can do to help your student learn to write.

First, make sure you help your child hold their pencil correctly. We have a fun Alligator trick that works well and children love for helping a child hold their pencil correctly.

Next, make sure you help the child know where to start forming the letters. We always start the letter at the top and pull down. It is not good enough to let your student practice, practice, practice. Make sure when they are practicing writing that they are practicing writing well. When you write/form a letter correctly, you are able to write faster later (when you are better at writing).

Help your child have proper spacing on the paper between letters and words.  One fun trick is to have a “spaceman”/wooden ‘Popsicle’ stick to place between words, or a student can use a finger, OR, a cheerio.  Soon your student will know how to space words well.

You can make handwriting practice fun by giving children colored pencils to write with.  Write a rainbow!  Drawing is a great way to practice handwriting.  Yes, you still have to practice letter formation, but, pencil grip is part of the battle.  Make sure you child is holding their pencil correctly and then have them draw!

Also, if you have tracing sheets, have your student use a highlighter and trace over the letters.  My students always like this.  To help you help your students practice writing, I have included some free printable handwriting worksheets below .  Hope you find what you need!  A great way to start teaching handwriting is to first start teaching the child how to write his/her own name!  

learning to write 4 year olds

Handwriting for  Kids – Free Handwriting Practice Pages

The links below contains the ENTIRE alphabet handwriting pages:

Free Handwriting Practice Worksheets (lower case letters, dotted trace) 1 Handwriting Practice for Kids (lower case letters, dotted trace) 2 Preschool Handwriting Practice (lower case letters, dotted trace) 3 Free Handwriting Sheets (lower case letters, without trace) Free Printable Handwriting Worksheets (upper case letters, without trace) 1 Printable Handwriting Pages (upper case letters, without trace) 2 Printable Handwriting Worksheets for Kids (upper case letters, dotted trace) 1 Kids Handwriting Worksheets (upper case letters, dotted trace) 2 Handwriting Practice Printables  (upper and lower case letters, without trace) 1 Preschool Handwriting Worksheets (upper and lower case letters, without trace) 2 Handwriting Printable Worksheets (upper and lower case letters, cut and paste, case recognition) Handwriting Worksheets for Kids  (upper and lower case letters, dotted trace) Printable Handwriting Worksheets for Kids (tracing, writing, sign language)

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Writing worksheets will supplement any child's education and help them build some of the fundamental skills to help them become good writers. Our collection of free writing worksheets starts with helping build the fine motor skills necessary to become an early writing. They then focus on making sure kids learn to write the letters of the alphabet and numbers. As ages progress, our writing worksheets get into spelling, grammar and some more advanced skills. Our set of "Think, Draw and Write" worksheets are a fun exercise for early writers. All of our writing worksheets are designed to print easily and are free to use over and over again!

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Hands On As We Grow®

Hands on kids activities for hands on moms. Focusing on kids activities perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

Name Writing Practice with 12 Hands-On Activities

Fine Motor Literacy & ABCs Preschoolers Name Resources Writing Activities 29 Comments

Give your preschooler a little boost in school with easy and fun activities to practice name writing!

They’ll be ready to go for the first day of school!

One of the first things your preschooler will learn is how to spell and recognize their own name.

Your little learner will be discovering how to spell it.

And that means writing it down.

Instead of using a name writing practice sheet or worksheet, add a little bit of fun to learning with a writing activity!

Hands-on writing is much more exciting for preschoolers than putting pen to paper and writing the same thing over and over again.

Enhance your preschooler's literacy skills with 12 engaging & effective name writing practice activities.

Plus, preschoolers might not be ready to grip the pencil and be able to write in this way yet.

And that’s okay.

Okay, quick disclaimer, I know that just sounded like I know what I’m talking about, and kind of sounds like it’s from a teacher’s perspective, but it’s not.

I’m a parent, not a teacher. I never have been a teacher.

This is just information that I’ve gathered through experience and through researching for many years on my own.

Get the FREE Learn Your Name Download

Name Writing Practive Can be Fun with Hands On Activities

Making name writing practice a hands-on experience can be so much more meaningful.

Over the years, I’ve done many of these in some shape or form.

I hope you enjoy these 12 fun ways that kids can practice name writing.

Best of all, you can use these ideas at home or school.

It will make learning fun for them without adding pressure!

12 name writing practice activities for preschoolers

Download the Fine Motor Week of Activities

Activities for Preschoolers to Practice Name Writing:

  • Highlighters are awesome for tracing anything! Add in glue and yarn and it’s a hands-on experience, or triple the name tracing fun !
  • Buggy and Buddy loves to  rainbow write their names ! Writing their name over and over again in different colors to make a rainbow. Make it big and fun!
  • Another twist on rainbow writing is rainbow name painting from NurtureStore! Paint over and over in different colors!
  • Toddler at Play traces letters with paint and Q-tips , put this to their name and the kids will love it!
  • Jen’s OT for Kids uses glitter glue to practice name writing! (Get glitter glue here , affiliate link )
  • Practice writing their name on the chalkboard, but with water to erase it away !
  • Make a sensory bag to practice pre-writing skills to write the letters of their name (from Learning 4 Kids)
  • Fingerpaint their name! This idea from Creative Tots is a great one for kids struggling to grip a pencil yet.
  • Practice writing their name in a salt sensory tray ! Great idea from Bounce Back Parenting. No salt? Try flour!
  • Get out the watercolors and  trace the letters of their name with a paintbrush ! This is a pretty one from Play to Learn Preschool!
  • Teach Preschool has a fun name writing game to do on the whiteboard.
  • When all else fails, break out a can of shaving cream . This idea from Gift of Curiosity always wins! Write their name in a tray!

12 ways for preschoolers to practice name writing

How can I teach my child their name?

Not quite ready to practice name writing yet?

Try some of these name activities to start recognizing and spelling their name first.

There are so many exciting and fun ways to help even toddlers learn to spell and recognize their names .

Download the FREE Learn Your Name Week!

What are your favorite activities to help your child practive writing their name?

These affiliate products are non-worksheet ways for kids to practice writing their name.

  • Use these WikkiStix letters to write their name
  • Try the letter construction set from Learning Resources to build their name
  • Use dry erase markers to write their name on the window
  • Use sidewalk chalk to write their name outside

Here are 10 more ways to prepare your little ones for school (that have nothing to do with academics!), from TheSaltyMamas.com.


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About Jamie Reimer

Jamie learned to be a hands on mom by creating activities, crafts and art projects for her three boys to do. Jamie needed the creative outlet that activities provided to get through the early years of parenting with a smile! Follow Jamie on Pinterest and Instagram !

More Hands on Kids Activities to Try

Start learning letters with your toddler! You'll love these 20+ activities that make it simple to have fun and learn together.

Reader Interactions


marilyn young says

June 17, 2023 at 8:37 pm

Always looking for ideas for Head Start/Early Head Start, thank you!

Seanna says

July 6, 2020 at 4:51 pm

I love this website

Courtney says

August 22, 2019 at 2:11 pm

These are all great ideas! We discussed this topic in my mommy group, the Weecare.co Community Page. I think one of the most basic things when getting started is something another mom from Weecare mentioned: “Keep crayons and paper in her reach at home and practice together.” If it’s there and in front of them all the time, they are more likely to be interested and want to do it. If anyone is interested in the full discussion, here’s the link: https://weecare.co/post/at-what-age-do-kids-learn-how-to-spell-their-own-names-226 .

Suzette Dobbins says

August 19, 2018 at 10:16 pm

One of my favorite ways to practice writing is with water on a chalk board. I have one client who loves to put everything in the mouth, who cares if its a clean brush and water!

Stephanie, One Caring Mom says

July 13, 2018 at 3:14 pm

My youngest will be headed to preschool soon so I would love for him to have some idea of how to write his name. These ideas actually make it look fun. Thank you for getting all of these together!

April 10, 2016 at 1:58 am

I love this compilation. Big help!

Snehal Borkar says

January 15, 2016 at 1:13 am

It’s very good idea……THANKS

Nona T. says

January 2, 2016 at 1:37 pm

I am a preschool teacher with 15 years experience and five master degrees in education. You are absolutely correct about writing names. Your activities are perfect. Thank you for the reminder. School starts up again in a few days and I am going to have my little ones do your activities. So many times adults forget that young children learn best by having playing and fun. Skill sheets are NOT fun!! I wish teachers would sit down with a skill sheet and complete it. It wouldn’t take long before they realize how their hands ache and they stopped processing what they are suppose to learn. Just imagine how a child’s little hand muscles must hurt. Thank you again for the great ideas and reminders of how to help our children.

Claudia Morales says

January 2, 2016 at 9:39 am

Thank you!!! We are doing the Rainbow Writing Name right now! She loves it!

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Parents Wonder

Can 4-Year-Olds Read and Write? Educational Norms & Goals

Your child is leaping toward independence, leaving the awkward and silly toddler behind. The transition from toddler to preschooler seems to happen overnight. Skills gathered between 3 and 5 years old are essential to school readiness. 

Can 4-year-olds read and write? It is possible for 4-year-olds to read and write as early literacy skills are often emerging at this age. Some 4-year-olds can copy or trace letters, showing beginner skills in letter formation. Most 4-year-olds are working on phonemic awareness, letter identification, and high-frequency words.

Encouraging your 4-year-old to read and write should be done gently through play. By identifying what your 4-year-old knows and should know, you can choose activities, toys, and books that best support their developing skills. 

What Should a 4-Year-Old Know Educationally?

Deciding what is normal and abnormal falls to a list of milestones and developmental markers.

There is a wide range of what is considered normal development as skills develop at different rates. Developmental milestones are indicators that imply what skills your child should know.

4-Year-Old Reading Skills

Early reading skills will develop in partnership with your child’s language skills.

By age four, your child should be able to:

  • Identify some letters of the alphabet
  • Name beginning sounds of letters or words
  • Retell stories
  • Differentiate between letters and numbers
  • Engage in rhyming word games
  • Match some letters to sounds
  • Recognize familiar words, signs, pictures/symbols

4-Year-Old Writing Skills

Fine and gross motor skills will determine early writing readiness. Grip, stamina, and strength are necessary for successful writing.

  • Complete pre-writing strokes, including circles and vertical and horizontal lines
  • Trace lines and letters
  • Copy familiar letters
  • Begin using scissors with mild accuracy
  • Start using a tripod grip: holding a writing instrument with their thumb and pointer finger while resting it on the joint of their middle finger

Not all of these skills must be mastered by age four. These are emerging skills that will continue to grow as your child practices.

4-Year-Old Math Skills

Basic math skills begin with rote counting and noticing quantity. Differentiating between numbers and letters is the first step in visual math skills.

At the age of 4, your child should be able to:

  • Sort, organize, and differentiate between objects
  • Identify at least three shapes
  • Identify four or more colors
  • Count to 10
  • Begin identifying numbers 1 – 10

Math skills are still in the early stages at age four. Repetition, play, and practice boost math knowledge and encourage kids to exceed milestone expectations.

4-Year-Old Social Skills

Social-emotional growth is abundant during preschool years. Social skills emerge rapidly as children seek independence and friendship outside their inner family circle. 


By the age of 4, children are blossoming into social creatures. They would rather play with others than be alone.

Four-year-olds begin seeking new experiences and expressing personal tastes. By 4, children seek independence and will attempt new tasks to display independence.

Your child may now play more cooperatively with other children to seek happiness. The concepts of “game rules” and sharing are new skills making playtime more reciprocal.

Your 4-year-old’s playtime may evolve from direct play into creative make-believe play.

Four-year-olds are now actively seeking to make others happy. They will begin to display more desirable and socially acceptable behavior. They will also begin to negotiate solutions to conflict rather than throw a tantrum.

By understanding rules and boundaries, your child behaves with more respect for their environment and the people in it. 


Four-year-olds express emotions verbally rather than physically. They can communicate likes and dislikes. By understanding their emotions, they can obey and think logically before acting.


Four-year-olds understand obedience. They are displaying more obedient behavior by following two- or three-step directions, showing respect for people and their environment, and acting with the intent to please others.

A little girl in a yellow shirt sitting on the floor at a library looking at a book.

4-Year-Old Fine Motor Skills

Children learn through play, and that is exactly what they should be doing. They should be running, jumping, throwing, and kicking.

At 4 years old, your child should be able to:

  • Use a fork and spoon
  • Cut with scissors
  • Trace or copy lines, shapes, or letters
  • Draw a person with a body
  • Stack 10 or more objects
  • Dress independently

Your child’s quest for independence keeps motor skills sharp and evolving.

What Should a 4-Year-Old Know Before Starting School?

The skills your child learns at home are essential to school readiness. Before your child heads off to school, they should be able to express themselves . The expression doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be understandable.

Your child should be able to play with others amicably and have the ability to express wants, needs, and emotions. Social skills ranging from turn-taking to asking for help are essential skills for children starting school.

Four-year-olds should know how to feed and dress themselves. Being able to use the toilet and express toileting needs is crucial for school-aged children.

Academic practice before your child starts school isn’t required but is very helpful. Practicing, identifying, and sorting are skills that are applicable to objects, letters, numbers, shapes, and colors.

These basic academic skills are beneficial for your child to know before starting school. 

How To Develop Language Skills in a 4-Year-Old

Development in your child’s language and early literacy skills happens through everyday interactions. Language skills develop through:

  • Play – Skills develop through playing together and with academic toys/resources
  • Communication – Talk to your child, talk about your day, ask questions, and narrate
  • Reading – Read together! Books that have repetition and rhyming are great tools for language development
  • Music – Sing songs or listen to educational/repetitive songs 

Anything you can do to boost communication and listening skills will support language development.

Signs of Reading Readiness

Reading readiness stems from interest. If your child is interested in reading, they will be motivated to learn the proper steps necessary to be a successful reader.

If your child can…

  • Identify all or some of their letters
  • Understand that letters make sounds
  • Retell a story with context

… they could be showing you signs that they are ready to read.

Is My Child Ready for Preschool?

Determining whether or not your child would benefit from preschool stems from two key readiness aspects: social-emotional and physical.

Social-Emotional – Can your child separate away from you without anxiety? Do they play well with peers? Are they able to tolerate exposure to over-stimulation and extended period of sensory input? Can they express themselves?

Physical – Are they potty trained? Can they feed and dress themselves?

If you answered “Yes” to all of these questions, your child could be ready for preschool.

Related Questions:  

Should a 4-year-old be potty trained.

Yes, a 4-year-old should be potty trained, especially before starting school. If your child is struggling with this accomplishment, talk to your pediatrician about any stress in your child’s life, but know that accidents at this age are completely normal.

What Age Should a Child Read Fluently?

Children should be able to read fluently by 2nd grade between the ages of 6 and 8 years old . Of course, there are exceptions, and many children can read well by the age of 4 while others still may not be quite fluent at 9 years old.

Final Thoughts

All children grow and develop at their own pace. Don’t worry if your child hasn’t reached all of their milestones at a specific time.

Children learn through play and daily interactions. By communicating and playing with your child, you are encouraging positive development.

Your child should be gradually learning new skills and meeting developmental markers. If you notice any delay in development or regression of skills, talk to your primary health care provider.

Ashley-Author Avatar

Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.

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learning to write 4 year olds

Best Writing Games For Kids To Practice At Home And School

Writing is an important skill that we use in our daily lives. Children need to practice writing every day to improve their skills. One of the best ways to entice children to practice writing is to involve them in some fun writing games for kids.

List of Writing Games For Kids

We’ve compiled a list of simple writing games for kids that are sure to get even the most reluctant of them to write.

Pictionary writing games for kids

Things you need for Pictionary writing games for kids: Pencils and sheets of paper Instructions

  • This is one of the most fun and creative writing games for kids and is best when you have a bunch of kids. Ask the kids to sit in a circle.
  • Hand the first player a sheet of paper and ask them to write a random sentence at the top of the sheet. Pass the sheet to the next player.
  • The second player should read the phrase and draw a picture related to the sentence on the paper. Then, they fold the paper to cover the sentence and hand it to the next player.
  • The third player should observe the drawing and write a sentence describing the drawing. Ask the child to fold the paper to conceal the drawing and pass it to the next player.
  • The next player draws an image based on what they understand from the drawing and passes it to the next player.
  • This continues until the last player gets their turn to play or there’s no space on the sheet of paper. Finally, unfold the paper sheet to compare the original sentence with the drawings and sentences and have a laugh!

Rapid-fire writing games for kids

Things you need for rapid-fire writing games for kids : White sheets and pens


  • Rapid-fire writing games for kids are more exciting when you play with friends! As the name suggests, the players are supposed to play the game at a quick pace.
  • Divide the kids into two teams with an equal number of participants in each team. Nominate one child in each team just to assign the words.
  • The nominated child should call out any random word like trees, lakes, mountains, dogs, etc. The other kids from both the teams should write any phrase related to the word within ten to twenty seconds.
  • The team with the most meaningful sentences related to the topic is the winner. Continue the game until each child gets a chance to win.

Creative story writing game for kids

Things you need for story writing games for kids : A long sheet, writing pad and pen

  • Kids have a very active imagination and are natural-born storytellers. In this game, channel their storytelling abilities towards writing. These kinds of creative writing games for kids improve their creative thinking, visualization, handwriting and vocabulary skills.
  • This writing game can be played in school or at home with the family.
  • Hand the child a sheet of paper and write the first sentence of a story. The children will have to use their imagination and complete the rest of the story. And it’s ok if it’s just 1 or 2 lines too.
  • Some children might struggle initially, but slowly they’ll get the hang of it.

Creative writing using different consequences for kids

Things you need for play consequence-based writing games for kids : White sheets and pens

  • First, explain to the child that most stories have two main characters, the ‘protagonist’ and the ‘antagonist.’
  • The conversations between the protagonist and the antagonist in the story leads to certain consequences.
  • Write the name of the protagonist and antagonist on the board and a particular consequence. For example, Jack and Jill fell down the hill.
  • Then ask the children to think creatively and write a sentence on where and how the two characters met.
  • Then, encourage them to think of and write about the conversations that take place between the two characters that led to that particular consequence.
  • In the end, ask the kids to read out their stories to see their take on the conversation.

Letter-writing activities for kids to improve their writing skills

Things you need for letter-writing activity for kids : A long sheet of paper and a pen

  • Letter writing is an important part of learning English, learning how to write letters is one of the best writing games for kids.
  • First, teach your kids about the different types of letters and their formats. Then ask them to write letters or messages to their friends and family.
  • There are two types of letters: formal and informal letters. Formal letters are used for formal communication like letters addressed to your teacher or employer.
  • Informal letters are letters, which are written to friends or loved ones. These letters have a casual tone with a personal touch.
  • There are specific formats for both formal and informal letters. Formal letters have from address, to address and date. They begin with a salutation (respected sir/ma’am) and end with thank you or sincerely and regards. The matter in the letter should be short and to the point.
  • Informal letters have a date and place, written on the right side. They begin with a salutation (dear) and end with a complimentary closing (with love).

Writing A Journal

Things you need for writing a journal: A new journal, colorful pens, stickers etc.

  • Hand your child the new journal, the colorful pens, stickers etc.
  • Explain to them the importance of maintaining a journal. Then ask them to write their thoughts or anything they wish in their journal.
  • It can be a safe space to talk about their feelings or talk about their dreams. They can even write a story or a poem.

Comic Strip Dialogue

Things you need for comic strip dialogue writing: Printed comic strips with your child’s favorite character with blank speech bubbles and pens

  • This is one of the best writing games for kids who love comics and storytelling.
  • Hand your child the printed comic strips with blank speech bubbles and some colorful pens.
  • Then ask them to use their imagination to fill in the speech bubbles and create a story.

Ask The Oracle

Things you need to play this writing game for kids: Sheets of paper and pens

  • This is one of the most entertaining writing games for kids that also tests their creativity.
  • Have the kids sit in a circle and hand each of them a sheet of paper and a pen.
  • Ask each child to write a question that they want the Oracle to answer at the top of the page.
  • Then ask them to hand the paper to the child on the left.
  • Now ask the children to read the question and write a suitable answer according to their perception. Now, ask the child to fold the paper to conceal the first answer and hand it to the child on the left.
  • The next child writes another answer based on their understanding of the question above.
  • Continue the game until there’s no space left on the paper. Finally, ask each child to read the crazy answers written to the original question.

These 8 writing games for kids are sure to get your little ones more eager to practice their writing skills. Check our kids learning section for more such games and learning activities.

Frequently Asked Questions on Best Writing Games For Kids To Practice At Home And School

What are the best writing games for kids to practice at home and school.

The Best Writing Games For Kids To Practice At Home And School are Creative writing activities for kids, letter writing, story writing competitions, instant writing games for kids, etc.

What are the benefits of Best Writing Games For Kids To Practice At Home And School?

The benefits of Best Writing Games For Kids To Practice At Home And School are that they are helpful in teaching kids the importance of writing and improving their spelling skills for better learning outcomes.

Activity: Story mountain

Complete the story mountain to plan your story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Perform a poem activity

Activity: Perform a poem

Read a poem, talk about what it means, and perform it to an audience.

5. Find story inspiration

You can find fun story ideas anywhere! Why not raid your kitchen cupboards or hunt through the attic to find lost treasures? Anything from an old hat to a telescope will do the trick. What could the object be used for? Who might be looking for it? What secrets could it hold? Suggest different genres such as mystery or science fiction and discuss how the item might be used in this kind of story.

Real-world facts can also be a great source of inspiration. For example, did you know a jumping flea can accelerate faster than a space rocket taking off into orbit? What crazy story can your child make out of this fact? Newspapers and news websites can be great for finding these sorts of ideas.

For more storytelling ideas, download our free Story idea generator  or our Character profile activity sheet .

Activity: Story idea generator

learning to write 4 year olds

Activity: Character profile

learning to write 4 year olds

6. Draw your ideas first

If your child isn’t sure where to start with a story or even a piece of non-fiction, it can sometimes be helpful to sketch out their ideas first. For instance, can they draw a picture of a dastardly villain or a brave hero? How about a scary woodland or an enchanted castle?

Your child might also find it useful to draw maps or diagrams. What are all the different areas of their fantasy landscape called? How is the baddie’s base organised?

Some children might enjoy taking this idea a step further and drawing their own comics. This is great practice – it stretches your child’s creativity, gets them thinking about plot, character, and dialogue, and is a big confidence boost once they’ve finished and have an amazing story to look back on.

What your child will learn

In Year 4 (age 8–9), your child will be aiming to build upon the goals and expectations they were first set in Year 3. They will be expected to:

  • Discussing writing similar to that which they are planning to write in order to understand and learn from its structure, vocabulary and grammar
  • Discussing and recording their ideas.
  • Composing and rehearsing sentences orally (including dialogue), progressively building a varied and rich vocabulary and an increasing range of sentence structures
  • Organising paragraphs around a theme
  • In narratives, creating settings, characters and plot
  • In non-narrative material, using simple organisational devices (for example, headings and sub-headings).
  • Assessing the effectiveness of their own and others’ writing and suggesting improvements
  • Proposing changes to grammar and vocabulary to improve consistency, including the accurate use of pronouns in sentences .
  • Proof-read for spelling and punctuation errors.

Handwriting, spelling, grammar, and punctuation are all important aspects of writing too. You can find out more about them on our dedicated pages:

Image of boy writing

Handwriting in Year 4 (age 8-9)

Find out more about handwriting in Year 4 at Primary School.

Find out more

Image showing close up of child's hand writing

Spelling in Year 4 (age 8-9)

Find out more about spelling in Year 4 at Primary School.

Image of letter blocks reading grammar

Grammar and punctuation in Year 4 (age 8-9)

Find out more about grammar and punctuation in Year 4 at Primary School.

  • Age 5–6 (Year 1)
  • Age 6–7 (Year 2)
  • Age 7–8 (Year 3)
  • Age 8–9 (Year 4)
  • Age 9–10 (Year 5)
  • Age 10–11 (Year 6)
  • Year 1 (age 5–6)
  • Year 2 (age 6–7)
  • Year 3 (age 7–8)
  • Year 4 (age 8–9)
  • Year 5 (age 9–10)
  • Year 6 (age 10–11)
  • Grammar glossary
  • Grammar books

17 Best Books for 4-Year-Olds

Because every family with a kid in preschool can use more reads in its rotation.

affectionate father reading book with adorable mixed race daughter

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Most 4-year-olds are so entertained by stories that they ask you to read favorite picture books over and over again — the repetition is both soothing and helpful to them when it comes to figuring out concepts and messages. A 4-year-old can also spend a long time at a library or bookstore, flipping pages. Age 4 is a bit young for chapter books, especially if they don't have pictures for you to show while you read aloud. At this age, a lot of a child's investigation involves studying pictures as much as the words themselves.

The Good Housekeeping Institute has experts on staff who are parents themselves, who are constantly watching the world of children's books to find the best kids' books of all time . Below, you'll find gems for your 4-year-old from that list, as well as our best books for 3-year-olds round up, which naturally has some crossover with older ages. We also pulled from our annual Kids' Book Awards , done in conjunction with librarians, tester families and book aficionados (such as special guest judge and author Jenna Bush Hager ).

Looking for more great books and gifts? Check out these Good Housekeeping guides:

Best Toys and Gifts for 4-Year-Olds | Best Books for 1-Year-Olds | Best Books for 3-Year-Olds

Evergreen by Matthew Cordell

Evergreen by Matthew Cordell

The most beloved new picture book in our 2023 Good Housekeeping Best Book Awards , according to editor Karen Cicero , who works with the librarians and families who judge the awards, is about a squirrel delivering soup to her sick grandma. The brave yet scared squirrel traverses Buckthorn Forest, showing readers that helping others is worth conquering their fears . It's pure fiction and fairytale with a sweet message and a twist ending for the 4-year-old set. Librarians, parents and children all gave it high praise and its author, Matthew Cordell, previously won the 2018 Caldecott Medal for Wolf in the Snow .

There Is a Bird On Your Head! by Mo Willems

There Is a Bird On Your Head! by Mo Willems

Does your 4-year-old show interest in sounding out words ? They might be able to pick out a few in any of the 25 simple — and simply hilarious — Elephant and Piggie books. Author and illustrator Mo Williams uses the most basic of language and repeats words to tell stories of happy Piggie and grumpy, worried Elephant. Show your preschooler the word "bird," for instance. This one won the 2008 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, named for Dr. Seuss, an award that goes to the year's most distinguished book for early readers.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and Illustrated by James Dean

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and Illustrated by James Dean

Here's another great book series for age 4, and if your kid likes it, buckle up: There are more than 50 Pete the Cat books. "They're all a big hit with us," says Apparel Lab Executive Director Lexie Sachs , a mom of two who also helms our Family Travel Awards . This title incorporates the concept of subtraction and gets kids counting in a sing-song way. It earned a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor in 2013.

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Illustrated by Dan Hanna

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Illustrated by Dan Hanna

Expressive, shimmery fish rule this fun read-aloud picture book that ultimately helps 4-year-olds deal with their big feelings . "The Pout-Pout Fish offers a creative way of teaching kids about emotions and how to turn 'dreary-wearies' into 'cheery-cheeries,'" says one mom of a 4-year-old, echoing others who enjoy this read. "My son loves pointing out all the different sea creatures — squid, jellyfish, octopus, clam. He especially gets a kick out of Pout-Pout Fish’s catchphrase, 'blub, bluub, bluuuuub,' and insists I say it with an exaggerated 'pout-pout' frown. Admittedly, the rhyming and alliteration can get kind of tongue-twisty to read but that's all part of the fun."

I LOVE Strawberries! by Shannon Anderson and Illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett

I LOVE Strawberries! by Shannon Anderson and Illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett

This one got top marks from librarians and families in our 2022 Good Housekeeping Best Book Awards . Done as a series of handwritten diary entries, along with a bit of regular text, you can follow one girl’s efforts to convince her parents that she’s hard-working enough to grow a garden of berries. “This book explores themes of responsibility, passion and entrepreneurship while explaining the process of growing one's own food,” said our judge Sandhya Nankani, founder of The Story Seeds Podcast . Bonus: The publisher is a nonprofit!.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

All the other fruit have rhyming words — why not Orange? Orange is feeling super sorry for itself, as noted in many asides across these imaginative pages. But this book has a happy ending, and is a hoot to read aloud , says our Good Housekeeping Parenting & Relationships Editor Marisa LaScala . "The first time I read this through with my daughter, we were laughing so hard we had to wait to turn the page," she says.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

We're suckers for funny books, as are 4-year-olds — and this one's got more than 23,000 five-star Amazon reviews to boot. The crayons are mad, each for their own reason. They've gone on strike and have issued their grievances to their young-boy owner, Duncan. It's up to him to convince each crayon to come back, a lesson in unity and recognizing worth . The illustrations are child-like to depict the kind of drawings that kids really do. This was Goodreads’ Best Picture Book of the Year when it came out in 2013.

Little Faces Big Feelings: What Emotions Look Like by Amy Morrison

Little Faces Big Feelings: What Emotions Look Like by Amy Morrison

Socio-emotional health is a hot topic and rightly so — kids have a lot of feelings to process that go way beyond just happy and sad. We put this book on our 2023 Best Book Awards list, noting how helpful it is for neurodiverse children who struggle to read others' body language. Instead of demonstrating each feeling with a single picture, this book utilizes 10 inclusive images to show a range of what, for instance, frustration might look. A mirror on the final page lets your kids make their own faces.

Nibbles: The Book Monster by Emma Yarlett

Nibbles: The Book Monster by Emma Yarlett

One of the testers for our Parenting Awards turned us onto this inventive book, which starts with your child letting Nibbles out of his cage by opening up a flap. He then runs rampant through the book. "Nibbles like to eat books so the way the book is built, there are lots of holes in the pages," she says. "Then he starts eating his way through fairy tales and changing the stories. At the end he escapes so there's a big hole in the back of the book. We have lots of laughs with this, and it's interactive. Sometimes I see my daughter just paging through it on her own, looking at the pictures."

We're Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

We're Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

If you don't yet have this classic in your library, get it while your 4-year-old is still young enough to love the delicious anticipation of finding and escaping from the bear. It also introduces sequence: Readers follow the family swishy-swashying through grass and splash-sploshing through water on their way to a cave, then going in reverse order on their way out. "It's still a big hit in my son's Pre-K 4s class," says our Executive Technical Director Rachel Rothman , a mom of three young kids.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

It can be tough to find a father-daughter tale. In this book, a tie-in to Academy-Award Winning Short Film "Hair Love," a girl named Zuri describes all the different ways her hair can look. Then her Daddy offers to work through some trial and error to give her yet another hairstyle she'll love. It's a message about self-confidence and loving the hair that you're born with.

What Happens to a Hamburger? by Paul Showers and Illustrated by Edward Miller

What Happens to a Hamburger? by Paul Showers and Illustrated by Edward Miller

One of 93 books in the Lets-Read-And-Find-Out Science series. This shows kids, with simple illustrations, the journey their food goes through, beginning with chewing food and breaking it down in their mouth. They learn how the body digests — changing food into fuel. It ends, naturally, with food coming out as poop. It's an educational read for any 4-year-old who questions how things work (especially their own body!) and useful, perhaps, for both picky eaters and reluctant potty-users. Not only that, but it's all part of the process of living, kids!

Danny and the Dinosaur by Sid Hoff

Danny and the Dinosaur by Sid Hoff

This oldie but goodie, first published a couple of generations ago, is just a simple tale of friendship that also tickles a 4-year-old's imagination. What dinosaur-loving child wouldn't want a playdate with a dino? It's a level-one reading book, which means you can read it to your preschooler now and in a few short years they should be able to read it to you .

Just One Flake by Travis Jonker

Just One Flake by Travis Jonker

This new story also made our 2023 best-of list. "This book celebrates the uniqueness in all of us,” said our judge Jenna Bush Hager. “My youngest, Hal, laughed out loud.” The boy, Liam, comes up with inventive ways to try and get snow on his tongue, a lesson in creativity . In the end, he gets more snow than he bargained for!

The Bad Seed by Jory John and Illustrated by Pete Oswalk

The Bad Seed by Jory John and Illustrated by Pete Oswalk

This naughty seed's list of naughty deeds spells out what people shouldn't do — things like being late, not putting objects back where they belong, not washing hands, and so on. At the end, after some misadventures, he decides he wants to be happy and good. If your 4-year-old enjoys this, there are six more in the series including one about a good egg and one about a cool bean.

I Want to Be Spaghetti! by Kiera Wright-Ruiz and Illustrated by Claudia Lam

I Want to Be Spaghetti! by Kiera Wright-Ruiz and Illustrated by Claudia Lam

Here's our final new-to-2023 release: A book about ramen that serves as a lesson in self-love . A package of ramen sitting in a grocery story wishes to be more like spaghetti, all “thin” and “popular,” but learns from other pasta that they're all just perfect being themselves. Once the ramen is cooked that it realizes “being yourself is tasty.”

Just Go to Bed by Mercer Mayer

Just Go to Bed by Mercer Mayer

The books in the extensive Little Critter series are inexpensive and reliably entertaining. This one sees Little Critter go through a bedtime routine , which he pretty much fights all the way. (Sound familiar?) The little guy's procrastination is impressive, and the parents do their best to stay calm before finally losing it with one final, "Go to bed!" It ends sweetly with him tucked in and dozing off while his parents sneak a peek from the door.

Why Trust Good Housekeeping?


For more than a century the Good Housekeeping Institute has steered families toward quality products. You've probably heard of the Good Housekeeping Seal but might not know about our extensive "best of" lists such as our Best Car Organizers for Busy Families and our Best Bedding Awards .

This list was compiled by Contributing Writer Jessica Hartshorn with insight from our kids' book-award stories, done in conjunction with librarians and families, as well as recommendations from our Lab pros who are also parents. Hartshorn previously worked at Parents magazine and is a mom of two.

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Police find body of missing 5-year-old Darnell Taylor, foster mother faces murder charge

learning to write 4 year olds

Authorities say that 5-year-old Darnell Taylor , who had been missing since early Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio, has been found dead. Police say his foster mother will now face murder charges.

Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant made the announcement Friday morning at a press conference.

Police took the child's foster mother, Pammy Maye , into custody shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday night in the 4000 block of Tiedeman Road in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn. Police found her wandering in a nightgown, and she told investigators where they could locate Darnell's body, Bryant said.

Maye told police that she left Darnell's body in a sewage drain in the 1000 block of Marsdale Avenue in Franklin County. Investigators located the body shortly after 1 a.m. Friday.

Darnell had been  the subject of an Ohio Amber Alert since early Wednesday when his foster father called 911 around 3 a.m. to say his wife had told him the boy was dead, and he couldn't find the boy in the house on the 900 block of Reeb Avenue.

Officers searched Maye's family and friends' homes looking for her and the child before requesting a statewide Amber Alert, which was issued after 5 a.m., though delivery issues were reported with the system.

Franklin County Children Services said Thursday that Maye and her husband had become the legal custodians of Darnell, despite police calling Maye the foster mother of Darnell.

Who is Pammy Maye?

Maye remains in custody, and Bryant said police will seek to add murder charges to counts of kidnapping and endangering children. Maye has been Darnell's foster mother since May 2023, according to Columbus police and the  Ohio Amber Alert website .

Bryant said that police have notified Darnell's biological family of the death and Maye's arrest.

Court records do not yet detail when Maye is expected to make her first appearance in court in Franklin County. Maye has no discernible criminal history. Public records show that she and her husband married in 1998 and bought their Reeb Avenue home in 2021. 

Learn more on case: What we know about Darnell Taylor kidnapping and Pammy Maye

Police searched neighborhood around Pammy Maye's home

A Columbus police officer in a patrol car sat guard Thursday afternoon outside Maye’s Reeb Avenue home and told reporters no one was home and not to approach.

Neighbors who spoke to The Dispatch at their residences Thursday said they did not know Maye except in passing. They said that area of Reeb Avenue was generally a quiet neighborhood.

Neighbor Saria Guardado, whose son acted as a translator during the interview, said she had only interacted with Maye once, when the woman dropped off some vegetables. While she spoke with The Dispatch, an officer came to her side door to ask permission to search the garage, which she granted.

Another neighbor said she’d provided Ring doorbell footage to police, though it didn’t appear to her that any of the footage would be useful.

Police had asked residents in the 43207 ZIP code, which is in the South Alum Creek neighborhood in Columbus' South Side that includes the Reeb Avenue home where the foster mother and child reside, to search their property for anything that may look suspicious or out of place. Court filings and the searches Thursday suggest police are concerned that the boy may have been left somewhere in the area.

Leading science fiction writer Ted Chiang explores technology's impact on writing

Author whose novella was adapted into movie 'arrival' delivers 2024 humanities institute distinguished lecture.

A man sitting in front of an audience smiles

Science fiction author and futurist Ted Chiang smiles during Thursday evening's Humanities Institute Distinguished Lecture at Armstrong Hall on ASU's Tempe campus. Chiang explores complex relationships between science, technology, religion and philosophy in unconventional and insightful ways through his writing. He posed the question about the advancement of communication, starting with the spoken word, progressing to the written word, and evolving into what is next. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Science fiction author Ted Chiang spends a lot of time thinking about language and writing. It’s his livelihood — his work has earned four Hugo and four Nebula awards, among other accolades — but one might argue that language is also a special focus.

His novella “Story of Your Life” — adapted into the 2016 movie “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner — has at the core of its worldbuilding an alien language that, well, no spoilers, but there’s more to this language and how it affects its users than first appears.

So it wasn’t a surprise that language was the focus of Chiang’s remarks Thursday evening at Arizona State University as the 2024 Humanities Institute distinguished lecturer.

He spoke at Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus about the evolution of speech to writing, calling written language a form of technological breakthrough. First there was speech — a natural biological function — but writing had to be invented and purposefully taught. No one spontaneously learns to read on their own, Chiang said. Writing changed how we use language.

“The bards of ancient Greece used patterns like (rhyme and meter) to improvise their way through thousands of lines of verse,” he said. “... Nowadays, we think of rhythm and meter as primarily decorative features. They’re an important part of pop music, so much so that we have come to associate them with a lack of seriousness, which may be why their role in modern poetry has declined.

“But before writing was widely used, rhyme and meter were essential mnemonic tools. There was no way anyone could have remembered the Iliad and the Odyssey if they consisted of ordinary prose. But now, because we used the written word instead of our memories, rhyme and meter exist mostly for fun.”

He doesn’t think language is done evolving.

“What is the next step beyond writing itself?” he asked, wondering how technology will influence written language in the future.

“What is the cognitive technology that will succeed writing? Suppose it’s 100 years from now or maybe 1,000 years from now, and you are going to give a presentation. What kind of technology are you going to use to help you figure out what you’re going to say?

“I don’t mean a replacement for word processing software. Is there some sort of cognitive technology similar to writing, but better than writing that will help you articulate your thoughts and choose the words you will actually say when you give your presentation? A successor to writing that can only exist in a digital medium?”

Two men on stools speak in front of an audience

A conversation with Matt Bell , director of ASU’s Worldbuilding Initiative and a professor in the Department of English, followed the lecture. Chiang told Bell that he was skeptical about the role of artificial intelligence in creative writing.

“The question of conscious machines is one that I think is super interesting and raises a lot of philosophical questions, like what kind of respect do we owe to conscious machines that we make?” Chiang said.

“… Right now, we’re just dealing with these autocomplete on steroids, and the fact autocomplete on steroids is kind of spookily good is really weird and interesting, and it might be very useful. … But right now, it seems like they’re pretty terrible at every use that people are proposing.

“They’re definitely interesting in terms of what they reveal about the statistical properties of text … but they do not deserve respect. Anyone who tries to claim differently is trying to sell you something.”

Chiang said he hopes technology’s future influence on the written word won’t “dehumanize” its art.

“A lot of people feel that technology is dehumanizing, and there are plenty of situations where I feel that is accurate,” he said.

“But if there is any technology that is humanizing rather than dehumanizing, it is the written word. The written word helps us to be creative, and it helps us to be, and it helps us to reason. And those are the most human of activities.”

About the program

The Humanities Institute’s Distinguished Lecture program brings to ASU a prominent scholar whose work highlights the importance of humanities research. While on campus, speakers discuss humanities trends and participate in informal sessions, allowing ASU colleagues and students to share related research interests. In Chiang's case, his visit included a screening of "Arrival" and film discussion  on Friday, co-sponsored by ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. 

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Nurturing Learning in Three- and Four-Year-Olds: Mathematical and Scientific Thinking

Preschoolers are rapidly developing the mental abilities to think in mathematical and scientific ways in order to explore and understand their favorite topics.

Topic: Mathematical and Scientific Thinking


The preschool years, ages three and four, are a busy time for young children's minds. When given encouragement and support, they can become immersed in extensive explorations of topics that interest them. Whether it's dinosaurs or rainbows or airplanes that capture their attention and imagination, preschoolers are rapidly developing the mental abilities to think in mathematical and scientific ways in order to explore and understand their favorite topics. Preschoolers are also seeing evidence of math and science concepts in everyday life, from laying out the right number of napkins for snack to predicting and testing the direction a ball will go when it's kicked. In this Nurturing Learning we'll look at the abilities that preschoolers are developing that help them think in more complex ways.

Taking Apart and Putting Together

Threes and fours are playing with the concepts of parts and wholes. They are fascinated by the insides of both mechanical things and living things and how the different parts make the whole thing work. They are also gaining in their understanding of how to put many parts together to make a whole. Everything they create becomes more complex and elaborate: the structures they build, the stories they tell, and the artwork they create.

  • Puzzles, including floor puzzles, with a range of difficulty.
  • Building sets with a variety of parts, marble mazes, "found" materials (cardboard and wood scraps, heavy-duty tape) to build with.
  • Discarded small appliances and real tools to take them apart.
  • Books that illustrate the insides of animals, plants, buildings, machines, etc.
  • Opportunities to take apart and examine the insides of plants, seeds, etc.; tools for exploration (magnifiers, tweezers); and paper and pencils to record what they see.
  • Cooking and baking experiences, allowing children to participate in combining ingredients to make a finished dish.

What caregivers can say and do:

  • Encourage children to continue their work over multiple days by setting apart a place for continuing work to be kept where it won't be disturbed.
  • Model and extend children's curiosity ( "I wonder what it looks like inside. What do you think we'll find in there? How could we find out?").
  • Ask children to describe their thinking and decisions as they build ( "What did you do next?" "That's interesting. What does that part do?" "What else will you need?").

Observing Changes in Themselves

What children are doing: Preschoolers are keenly curious about themselves. They love seeing and talking about pictures of their younger selves; they express pride in how they've grown and changed. This fascination with personal growth is a wonderful context in which to introduce measurement, charting, recording observations, and other math and science skills.

What caregivers can provide:

  • Tools to measure height and weight (start with non-standard ways of measuring and then introduce standard measurement tools, such as rulers, later).
  • Opportunities to record their measurements and observations.
  • Photo displays of children as babies and toddlers.
  • Children's books, both fictional and nonfictional, that focus on growth and change in children.

What caregivers can do and say:

  • Adults put so much emphasis on getting bigger that young children, in comparing themselves to each other, put more value on being taller than others, which can result in hurt feelings for those who are on the shorter side. Emphasize that people come in all heights and weights and that what is worth getting excited about is noticing and recording their own growth over time, rather than being taller than other children.
  • Size is the most obvious aspect of growth, but help children focus on other ways that they have changed, too. Record their responses.
  • Extend children's interest in their own growth to the growth and development of other living things. Invite children to investigate the growth of animals from babies to adults and talk about how their development is different. Encourage measuring, counting, charting, and recording.

Creating Representations

What children are doing:

  • As preschoolers get older, they become more skilled and interested in recreating accurate models of things they've observed. Drawing or sculpting a representation to be incorporated into a scientific exploration can actually help young children focus their attention on details they otherwise might have missed. When they are intent on drawing the insect, fish, or flower exactly the way they see it, they notice much more detail, which in turn fuels more curiosity. Even young preschoolers show an amazing level of attention, focus, and interest when representational drawing and sculpting is part of their investigation.
  • Drawing and painting tools that support more detailed drawing: colored pencils, fine-point markers, etc.
  • Firmer modeling clay (instead of play dough) and tools to encourage detailed sculpting.
  • An area where children can display their work without danger of being destroyed, or offer to take a photo that the child can keep, talk about, and reproduce if desired.
  • Talk to children about creating models from observations and how it's different than creating from their imagination. Consider showing examples of illustrations from children's books that show each.
  • Talk to children as they are recreating what they see; comment on the details that the adult notices represented in their model. If children are stuck, adults can help them focus on specific parts of the animal or plant by talking about shape, line, and color to help children think of how they could be recreated.

Recognizing Numerals

What children are doing: At some point during the preschool years, children make the connection that a particular written squiggle - "5" for example - represents an amount and corresponds to the verbal word for that amount. Since there's nothing about the squiggle (or, more accurately, symbol) that looks like the amount it represents (there aren't five lines or dots in the symbol "5"), children can only learn the names and symbols for each amount through lots and lots of exposure and use in the context of play and everyday activity.

  • Games that include written numerals.
  • Puzzles, books, charts and other materials that link written numerals with their amounts.
  • Incorporate counting, verbal labels, and written symbols in everyday activity. ("How many children want strawberries on their yogurt? One, two, three four - okay 'four' children. Let's write that on our chart - here's the number '4' and I'll put four dots next to it so we can remember.").
  • Give children models of numerals that they can refer to, but don't be concerned about the accuracy of their early attempts. Curved and diagonal lines are difficult for little fingers to make. Children will write numerals backwards and sideways as they learn. Over time they will improve as they find meaningful ways to practice. What won't help is a lot of correction or meaningless repetition/practice, which only makes children fearful of making a mistake and less motivated to write on their own.

Keep in mind

Scientific thinking involves making predictions about what will happen next, testing those predictions and observing the outcome, recording that outcome in some way, and telling others about what's been discovered. Mathematical thinking includes not only knowing numerals and counting, but also creating patterns, recognizing geometric shapes, measuring, and organizing numeric information using charts and graphs. Although all of that sounds far beyond the capabilities of most preschoolers, it's really not! Preschoolers can learn all of these skills, and will do so eagerly, if those skills are embedded in activities and explorations that are centered on children's interests and curiosity.

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The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500

FACT SHEET: President   Biden Cancels Student Debt for more than 150,000 Student Loan Borrowers Ahead of   Schedule

Today, President Biden announced the approval of $1.2 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 153,000 borrowers currently enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) repayment plan. The Biden-Harris Administration has now approved nearly $138 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 3.9 million borrowers through more than two dozen executive actions. The borrowers receiving relief are the first to benefit from a SAVE plan policy that provides debt forgiveness to borrowers who have been in repayment after as little as 10 years and took out $12,000 or less in student loans. Originally planned for July, the Biden-Harris Administration implemented this provision of SAVE and is providing relief to borrowers nearly six months ahead of schedule.

From Day One of his Administration, President Biden vowed to fix the student loan system and make sure higher education is a pathway to the middle class – not a barrier to opportunity. Already, the President has cancelled more student debt than any President in history – delivering lifechanging relief to students and families – and has created the most affordable student loan repayment plan ever: the SAVE plan. While Republicans in Congress and their allies try to block President Biden every step of the way, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to cancel student debt for millions of borrowers, and is leaving no stone unturned in the fight to give more borrowers breathing room on their student loans.

Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration’s SAVE plan, starting today, the Administration will be cancelling debt for borrowers who are enrolled in the SAVE plan, have been in repayment for at least 10 years and took out $12,000 or less in loans for college. For every additional $1,000 a borrower initially borrowed, they will receive relief after an additional year of payments. For example, a borrower enrolled in SAVE who took out $14,000 or less in federal loans to earn an associate’s degree in biotechnology would receive full debt relief starting this week if they have been in repayment for 12 years. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) identified nearly 153,000 borrowers who are enrolled in SAVE plan who will have their debt cancelled starting this week, and those borrowers will receive an email today from President Biden informing them of their imminent relief. Next week, the Department of Education will also be reaching out directly to borrowers who are eligible for early relief but not currently enrolled in the SAVE Plan to encourage them to enroll as soon as possible. This shortened time to forgiveness will particularly help community college and other borrowers with smaller loans and put many on track to being free of student debt faster than ever before. Under the Biden-Harris Administration’s SAVE plan, 85 percent of future community college borrowers will be debt free within 10 years. The Department will continue to regularly identify and discharge other borrowers eligible for relief under this provision on SAVE. Over four million borrowers have a $0 monthly payment under the SAVE Plan Last year, President Biden launched the SAVE plan – the most affordable repayment plan ever. Under the SAVE plan, monthly payments are based on a borrower’s income and family size, not their loan balance. The SAVE plan ensures that if borrowers are making their monthly payments, their balances cannot grow because of unpaid interest. And, starting in July, undergraduate loan payments will be cut in half, capping a borrower’s loan payment at 5% of their discretionary income. Already, 7.5 million borrowers are enrolled in the SAVE Plan, and 4.3 million borrowers have a $0 monthly payment.  

Today, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released an issue brief highlighting how low and middle-income borrowers enrolled in SAVE could see significant saving in terms of interest saved over time and principal forgiven as a result of SAVE’s early forgiveness provisions.

learning to write 4 year olds

President Biden’s Administration has approved student debt relief for nearly 3.9 million Americans through various actions

Today’s announcement builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s track record of taking historic action to cancel student debt for millions of borrowers. Since taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration has approved debt cancellation for nearly 3.9 million Americans, totaling almost $138 billion in debt relief through various actions. This relief has given borrowers critical breathing room in their daily lives, allowing them to afford other expenses, buy homes, start businesses, or pursue dreams they had to put on hold because of the burden of student loan debt. President Biden remains committed to providing debt relief to as many borrowers as possible, and won’t stop fighting to deliver relief to more Americans.

The Biden-Harris Administration has also taken historic steps to improve the student loan program and make higher education more affordable for more Americans, including:

  • Achieving the largest increases in Pell Grants in over a decade to help families who earn less than $60,000 a year achieve their higher-education goals.
  • Fixing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program so that borrowers who go into public service get the debt relief they’re entitled to under the law. Before President Biden took office, only 7,000 people ever received debt relief through PSLF. After fixing the program, the Biden-Harris Administration has now cancelled student loan debt for nearly 800,000 public service workers.
  • Cancelling student loan debt for more than 930,000 borrowers who have been in repayment for over 20 years but never got the relief they earned because of administrative failures with Income-Driven Repayment Plans.
  • Pursuing an alternative path to deliver student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Administration’s original debt relief plan. Last week, the Department of Education released proposed regulatory text to cancel student debt for borrowers who are experiencing hardship paying back their student loans, and late last year released proposals to cancel student debt for borrowers who: owe more than they borrowed, first entered repayment 20 or 25 years ago, attended low quality programs, and who would be eligible for loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment programs like SAVE but have not applied.
  • Holding colleges accountable for leaving students with unaffordable debts.

It’s easy to enroll in SAVE. Borrowers should go to studentaid.gov/save to start saving.  

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