Our stories are important. They are the fabric through which the words and language of children develop in early childhood. Our words, written or spoken, become the backing that children use to weave their own colorful quilts of a language-rich and literate life. Shopping lists, daily reminders, emails to the phone company, and even our Facebook posts are all examples that give children the opportunity to develop a language-rich life through our modeling.
Here are three ways to help influence the development of children through writing.
- Honor your child’s language development
First, honor your child’s development. They are already exploring how to use language and writing to communicate how they feel. Now you can help them connect meaning to what they are writing by engaging them in conversations about their work. Ask questions like “What’s happening in your picture?” or “What’s on your list?” Even for children, writing is a process and it is very personal. What may look to us like a messy scribble is a story to a toddler. Talking to them about their pictures will validate the progress they have already made and help them develop new ideas.
- Influence their development
Invite your child to write with you during everyday tasks like making lists and signing cards. Show them that they are writers too, and as always, how happy you are to have their help. Every phase of development is influenced by the way and amount we speak with our children, by the books we read with them, and by the way we share our own writing and reading with them. Yes, as parents and caregivers, we are writers too. We write when we label photos and files, and we write when we create our endless to-do lists. What may seem mundane to us is exciting to our children. We do not need to have big moments for teaching. The small ones are just as effective.
- Write it together
Now try writing together! The next time your child jumps into a pile of leaves or helps you find your car keys turn it into a happening and write about it. It doesn’t matter how you write it—whether it’s a list, a photo with a Facebook post, a story, or a report. Writing it down and talking about it is one of the best learning experiences your child can have. Some other ideas are to write lists, share a family diary, create a family newspaper, brainstorm as many words as you can to describe the ice cream you’re about to eat and list them, write a set of directions for eating an Oreo or how to cook a favorite dish. Celebrate the things you do together and enjoy writing about them. Refrigerators are meant to be covered with fingerprints and your child’s publications.
Remember, as a writer, you are your child’s best teacher. The quilts of words we weave through our daily lives keep the world of language warm and colorful to our children. Honor yourself and your child as each other’s audience. Share your ideas on paper, and give voice to the value of being literate wherever and whenever you can. It’s an exciting experience that you don’t want to miss.
“I hear and I forget;
I see and I remember;
I write and I understand.”