Best Way to Help a Child Write

Updated on September 19, 2010
C.M. asks from Denton, TX
10 answers

I have two 4 1/2 year olds in my class that can't write their name yet. They know their name but, when they try to write it, it is just a jumble of lines and squiggles. All the other kids in the class can write their names already as well as some of the other letters. Should they be able to write their names by now?

I think one child can't write her name because the parents don't work on it with her at all. The other one I think may have some type of learning disability. Since both of the kids will be entering kindergarten next year, I feel like it's important that they at least get their names written...or is it not important at this age?

What is the best way to help them with this? The lead teacher suggested that I take their hand and help them write it, but I feel like that is not helping because it is really me writing it. When my daughter (also 4) wants to write something I will either describe the letter to her or write it down on another sheet of paper and she copies it. Another friend of mine suggested writing the letters out in dotted lines and having the child trace over it. What have you found works best?

Also, the one that I suspect may have some sort of learning or sensory issue has poor fine motor skills. What are some activities I could use to help him improve this? Would large pencils help?

This is my first year as an assistant teacher, so I still have the new teacher attitude of wanting to really help everyone and make sure I do the best job I can as a teacher. I appreciate any advice or help :-)


*EDIT* I do realize that it isn't always possible to tell how much the parents are involved. In this case, I know both parents very well and know what is taught/played at home. My 4 year old daughter is very shy, especially around some people. I was mortified a few weeks after school started when the teacher for her pre-K 3 class asked if she had never painted! We had been painting for as long as I can remember, but my daughter was just shy around the teacher and kind of stared at the easel instead of painting. Since I don't know all of the kids situations in my class, I do not judge their family based on how they act or what they know. It just happens I know these two kids really well and think that they will benefit from some extra help.

Thanks so much for all the great advice! I can't wait for tomorrow,so I can try some of the activities mentioned.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers


answers from Dallas on

I've subbed for 10 yrs and sometimes it was in Special Ed.

One thing we did.... Use a highlighter and write the name of the child. Have an example and then have the children follow it. This seemed to help a lot of the children.

It is shame but some children are not supported at home. Some parents rely on the school to raise their children.

Edit My Answer
2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Sacramento on

My 4 year old also struggled with printing (it't not a jumble of lines anymore, but keeping the letters the same size or spaced normally is rough). Anyway, one thing that has made a huge difference has been to stop practicing the letters themselves and do other things that practice those pencil control skills. Mazes are great because they're fun and work that same skill. You can get "pre-printing" workbooks that are filled with mazes and dot-to-dots and other fun ways to develop pencil control without the frustration of trying to print letters.

Since they know what the letters look like and just aren't producing them, I'd stick to things that aren't directly tied to the letters until they are able to at least accurately trace shapes.

Another fun thing is to cover a table with shaving cream and let them write their names with their fingers in the foam. if they make a mistake, they just rub it out and try again. They can write much bigger that way than on paper. Plus your table tops get really clean :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Mansfield on

Yes it is important that they learn before starting kindergarten.
trace trace trace! My kids all learned to write letters, numbers, draw shapes and now even draw detailed pictures by tracing them.
Connect the dots for these children would be a great starter point. also writting in other forms- sensory stimulation- like writting in the sand, in shaving cream, flour.
Our kindergarten required they start the year with the fat pencil and then move to the regular ones so that may help. My son didn't grip his pencil tight enough to control the pencil well in Kindergarten so his teacher always tucked a balled up tissue in his hand to help him... I am not sure why this worked but it did. My kids also grabbed books and copied down the shape of the letters- my middle daughter did this before she even knew all her letters.
I would address it with the parents that this is something they need to work on. If they are first time parents with kids starting school they are not prepared for what is expected in Kindergarten. So they may not even know that their child not knowing how to write their name is a problem.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

Learning to use childrens scissors and cutting out shapes helps with the same small muscles that you use for writing. I would first make sure the kids recognize their name when it's printed out on paper, and then have them take a crayon and draw over the letters....Send a note home to mom and ask that she practice letter writing with her child. They should know how to write their own name by now... but of course if no one taught them how it is not their fault... I would hope that all mothers would teach children the basics when they are young and fresh. My granddaughter is only 26mos old and she can write her entire name already. It really has a lot to do with what Mommy teaches them. It's much harder to teach them as they get older and get behind other kids as they feel the esteem crunch when someone calls them "stupid" and it can stick and really mess them up for years to come.
I can't stress enough how important it is for parents to teach the 123's and ABC's, name writing (some kids dont even KNOW their own full name!), phone number and the names of their parents to your kids when they are at the tender age of 3--they grasp it a lot faster than you may imagine.
Once again, reading to your child from birth opens up a lot of doors, they realize that words do mean something and that they are important to know.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

We do dotted lines, and also squiggly dotted lines, at my preschool. I own a Montessori school so if you google some of the practical life activities they really help develop fine motor skills. Like sorting with tweezers etc. These activities really help. Good for you for taking such interest.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Little Rock on

I noticed that the K-4 teacher at our school uses the half inch wide carpenter pencils instead of regular pencils or the big chubby pencils. My boys seemed to be able to hold the pencil and control it better since it did not roll in their fingers. You should be about to pick some up at any hardware store and maybe even at Walmart in the hardware area.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My son had trouble learning to write his name because he never wanted to color which build kid's small muscles in their hands. I worked with him at home A LOT but I'm sure the teacher cant tell! Definatly let them copy it. let them trace it and get them to color, paint, use glue sticks, play with play dough, cut, use stickers, do puzzles, etc shaving cream, doing mazes, drawing lines from one thing to another, drawing circles, lines etc.
Write their names while they watch, then cut the name up, mix the letters and see if they can put it back together again-they can paste it. If this is hard then repeat every day!
Occupational therapist are now saying let them use little pencils (like golf pencils) not big pencils. Handwriting With Out Tears sells cool little colored pencils or crayons with two colors one on each side so the kids have to flip to change the colors. I often get students who come to kindergarten without preschool, without any experience with pencils, who cannot write their names( and dont recognize any letters) most do great because they are older. It really helps if they LIKE to draw and color and do art work and build those muscles. Its great your looking for the best way to help them!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

You already got great advice on how to actually teach the kids to write.
I do want to say one thing though..... the reason a child can write, know numbers, letters ect does not always show parents involvement.
Most kids are in part time preschool nowdays starting at 2 years old. So if you compare them to kids who've never been, there will be a difference. Some kids are just late learners.I homeschool our oldest, and try to work with our youngest(almos 4t) every day as well. But no matter what, he still can only count to 3, does not know his colors and forget about the letters........while my friend's 2 years old can do it all just from watching Leap Frog videos. My oldest was the same way and is doing just fine now. For some kids it just takes a bit longer:)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

These parents need to be teaching the kids their ABC's first so they know to recognized the letters in their names.
My daughter was only 2 when she knew her alphabet and before her 3rd birthday she could spell her name. Her favorite thing to write with was a doodle pad and the large pieces of paper with crayons.
My daughter is also in her 2nd year of preschool through our school district and I have noticed a lot of the 3-4 years old's are just learning to spell their names, learning the alphabet and numbers.

1 mom found this helpful
For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

More Questions About