Teaching children to write often comes across as a recurring topic of concern for parents. There is a lot of anxiety, frustration and worry that surround the subject of writing, especially during the formative years of the child. It can seem like a huge challenge for many parents and they may feel like their child is not demonstrating any interest in learning to write. The important point to be considered here is that writing is actually harder than we assume it to be. It is not something that children can develop overnight and it needs to be cultivated with a lot of love, patience and nurturing.


We often expect our children to master the art of writing but what we often miss is the entire process of learning that needs to be carried out before the child actually starts writing. Let me shed light on some of the pre-requisites that are required to enable toddlers to enter the world of writing.

The first and the foremost factor to consider is that writing, just like speaking or walking, is a developmental skill. Such developmental skills are built over time and they are acquired in stages. As parents, we need to be a part of this journey and systematically support the child through all phases of development without creating unnecessary pressure or rush to acquire the skills.

Another major concern remains around the age when the process of learning to write needs to begin. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for this as every child goes through unique transitions in life. Typically, writing has been estimated to be developed between the age of 15 months to 5 or 6 years of age. While talking about this time frame, there are usually 5 stages associated with the development of writing skills.

Stage 1: Random Scribbling

This can be the starting point of entering the world of writing. It usually begins when the child is about 15 months of age and goes on until the child is about 2.5 years old. During this stage, children start discovering how to write and they begin with random scribbles everywhere. They haven't really developed the pencil grip and they just hold it as they are comfortable initially. During this stage, it is a good idea to provide children with really thick and sturdy crayons that will be easier to hold and will help them enjoy the process of scribbling.

 Stage 2: Controlled Scribbling

Moving on from random scribbles, the child begins to initiate controlled scribbles starting from around 2.5 years of age. This stage goes on until the child is around 3.5 years old. This stage is imperative for future writing for this is when the pencil grip forms. The grip is still not perfect but you can notice how it is slowly evolving into the pincer grip. A word of caution here;, avoid giving your child very thin pencils or crayons and keep your focus on the thicker ones. You can also try the triangular or edgy faced pencils or crayons and avoid the round surface ones because they are very slippery and they don't allow the grip to form.

Stage 3: Line Introduction

As children grow and develop, they enter the third stage that starts around 3 years of age and lasts until the child is around 4 years old. This is the stage when the child has acquired some control over the pencil and it is the right time to introduce the concept of lines. You can acquaint the child with sleeping lines, standing lines and slanting lines. Since the child is now able to join dots together to draw a line, slightly more complex dot joining activities can also be introduced. 

Stage 4: Thought to Creation

The fourth stage occurs somewhere between 4 years to 5 years of age and this is the time when children attempt to translate their thoughts onto the paper. During this stage, you will get to witness a lot of masterpieces that your child creates. Most of those drawings will be circular in nature. You will notice that your child will come to you with his/her drawings and this is when you need to allow them to describe what they have created. Don't be quick to label the creation as what you think it might be. The drawing might not look anything that the child is describing but this is because they are still learning how to portray their thoughts clearly on the canvas. As you support them through this stage, you will notice the gap between the thought and the creation being gradually bridged.

Stage 5: Advanced Writing and Drawing

The final stage of acquiring writing skills occurs somewhere around the age of 5 years to 6 years. This is the phase when alphabet and number formation come into the picture. The child is now able to clearly write numbers as well as alphabets onto the paper and they continue to learn with the help of both parents at home and teachers at school.

It is important to note that this does not signify the end of learning as a person continues to acquire writing skills throughout his/her life. It is also not a perfect timeline that can be read parallel to every child's learning process. Your child could acquire these skills sooner or later than mentioned and there is nothing wrong with that. As parents, we must also direct our attention to determining if the child is facing any learning disabilities or particular writing issues such as Dysgraphia. Traits such as problems in writing, a very strong grip, complaints of a lot of pain and the like can be the determinants of Dysgraphia and it can be corrected using specialized tools, writing aids and expert guidance. It is also equally important to differentiate between regular issues in learning or more serious issues and disabilities like Dysgraphia.


All in all, learning to write is a process and there is no need to excessively worry about it. With these tips and tricks, you can support your child easily through the journey.


For further information, please watch the following video: 

October 03, 2020 — Dr. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi
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