Creative/Fun Ways to Teach 4 Yr Old How to Write Letters

Updated on August 25, 2011
M.H. asks from Las Vegas, NV
18 answers


Im looking for some fun ways to keep my son interested in learning and practicing writing his letters/numbers etc. He knows his letters and the sounds they make but when it comes to practicing tracing them, he gets bored very quickly. I have workbooks for him that we do together to trace the letters etc. But how can I make this more enjoyable for him? Its like a chore for him at this point and I dont want him to feel that way about learning new things...but I also dont know how to make it fun. All I do is tell him what a great job he is doing etc.


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answers from Philadelphia on

I wouldn't push it too much. He might not have the fine motor skills yet. Instead, get him maze books, shape books, or connect the dots. They develop fine motor skills & are more fun. My 4 year old loves these other books, but is not much of a fan of the letter books. Every once in a while I try to get him to write a letter or two, but I don't push it much yet.

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answers from Cincinnati on

Sidewalk Chalk! My 4yo flat out refuses to even try to write his letters. However, I give him sidewalk chalk and that is all he wants to do.

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answers from San Diego on

Chopsticks, curved blocks and skywriting can make letters. Too, often times it is not yet developmentally appropriate. If you make it fun, it may hold his interest. But if he is not yet oriented in that direction and he is getting bored, DO NOT make it a chore. In fact, if he doesn't read, the symbols may not yet makes sense to him.

Can you imagine how boring it would be have to do those tracing workbooks. Arg. I know its very commonly used, but I'm sure children would rather draw or write in the dirt or sand.

Most important for writing is coordination. Playdough increases hand strength as do clothes pins and other manipulatives.

Attitude is everything. Be silly. And too, if you are praising him and he is not really doing a "good job" it is false praise and he knows it.

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answers from Provo on

You can do chocolate pudding...alphabet crackers...etc. But honestly, at this point - I wouldn't stress about it too much. With my oldest, we hardly did any academic prep before Kindergarten...the 6 months before kindergarten she went to preschool 2 days a week...but no heavy academics. We just had tons of fun together...went to the beach...hiking...picnics...crafts...etc. I'd touch on letters occasionally...nothing formal tho'. When she first started kindergarten...I wondered if she would be behind because of it. She's now just starting 2nd grade and reading beyond 4th grade reading level (I'm not sure how 'beyond'...the test only went up to the end of 4th grade level and she breezed through it). The one thing that we did a lot of...and I think that really helped her reading...we read a lot. Going to the library was one of our 'rituals' so to speak...and not just regular kid picture books...anything she was interested in...firefighters...whales...giant marbles are made...we researched it. Sometimes we'd do activities and projects based on what we researched...found recipes/crafts that went along with was a blast...I can't even begin to tell you how much fun we had. I VERY firmly believe that at this point in time the absolute best thing you can do for a child's to help them LOVE learning with a passion and find joy in discovery...etc. Nothing you teach him now could ever take the place of that.

I will now step down from my soapbox :).

Good luck!

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answers from St. Louis on

get an appliance box (or smaller - whatever he'll fit in) & let him go to town using markers! I knew my son could write his name....but he refused to do so. That box was our lifesaver!

If you're wanting practice time, then just write the ABCs on each "wall" & let him copy....not much different from how classrooms have ABC borders!

& kudos to SamIAm....the rainbow letters is exactly what I needed for one of my daycare girls....thanks!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I didn't read other posts, so hope this isn't redundant, but make it fun and games not work:

Fill a shallow pan (like a jelly roll pan or cake pan) with a thin layer of corn meal, flour, or salt and have him trace letters or numbers and shake (with a lid of course) or smooth them out when he's ready to try a new letter or number.

Wikki stix are these wax coated strings that kids can mold into shapes...draw large numbers and letters (both caps and lower) on cards or regular 8x7 pieces of paper and have him trace them with the Wikki stix and make number and letter art.

Using Wikki Stix, play dough or crafter's clay have him make letter or number sculptures. If it's baking clay, you can even have him paint and decorate them and have a whole "zoo" or collection of the them.

You can buy stencils and have him practice tracing them. These are actually very good for helping kids learn to write them properly.

You can buy alphabet and number rubbing plates and have him make neat art with them.

Have him cut a letter of the day and pictures of things that start with that letter from magazines and make a collage with them.

Buy alphabet and numerical dice from a school supply store and have him practice writing whichever number or letter he rolls.

Buy a teacher's resource/curriculum book with begginer phonics games in them and try some of those.

My favorite online stores to find any of the supplies or books I've mentioned above are the following:

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answers from Redding on

You just have to call it "school time" and try to be consistent with the timing of it each day. My DIL works with my granddaughter every morning right after breakfast. They spend an hour doing learning things. This type of structure will be good for him, he'll know that every morning you have learning time before play time. Play time is the goal to get him through the hour of learning time. You can make it fun with flash cards and rewards, whatever works. If he sees you get frustrated he will get frustrated. Mom has to have patience even when it's boring. Kids learn patience from seeing us able to display it ourselves.
I used to let my boys write with markers on the white fridge, they loved that, and it came off with windex as long as you dont use indelibles. Chalk boards are fun too.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My sons teacher suggested doing the rainbow letters - meaning start with Red and make an "a" and then take Green and trace over the "a" again and then purple and yellow and orange. You end up with a colorful "a" and more fun then just using a pencil.

Good luck!

I 2nd the chalk idea. Also we used those bath crayons in the shower. My kids LOVED practicing their stuff in the shower and drawing all over the walls.

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answers from Columbus on

Always sit with him when he practices. Don't just give him a workbook and walk away to do the dishes. When you give him your full attention, he'll be there to try.

Also, try Crayola's window crayons! The window crayons show up better than the markers. Let him go to town on a glass door or a window that is accessible for him. They clean up really easy.

Edited to add: a couple of hints for clean up with these though: The water or cleaner you are using could streak down and stain the rubber caulk of the window. Easy fix; just don't spray so much that it runs down. Also, like regular crayons they can flake off. Don't play with these over an unprotected carpet. Even though they say 'washable', it's kind of a pain to clean out of anything but a hard surface. I mistakenly had a bright blue flake on the bottom of my foot and you could trace my steps all over the house. Like Hansel and Gretel.

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answers from Honolulu on

Boys, are like that.
My son was too.
Now that he is in Kindergarten, he is into, lettering and what not.

Do anything that works the fine-motor skills/fingers.
Even just plain ol' drawing and coloring in a coloring book.
That will help the finger/hand/eye coordination.
Make it fun.
Not a chore.
Or it will not work.



answers from Detroit on

I saw this in a magazine recently and thought it was cute: draw a letter on a piece of sandpaper and let him trace it with yarn.



answers from Los Angeles on


We got a M. & Doug placemat that comes with special crayons for tracing. My son likes to sit and do it while he's waiting for his food to be ready.

Also, it's not critical that he learns to write all of his letters at age 4. If you make it too much of a chore now, he's not going to want to do it when he needs to in school. If he doesn't enjoy it, don't push it right now. I backed off my son a lot and now he writes when he feels like it, and scribbles when he doesn't. Other than his name, he can't write much that is recognizable, but once in awhile he'll surprise me and write a word on a birthday card or something that people can actually read. : )



answers from Los Angeles on

I fully agree with the moms that have stressed the need for developmental readiness. A four year old may just not have the prerequisite coordination for writing letters. Drawing straight lines, circles, zigzags, and curved lines will help with the preparation for writing. Keep the workbooks away! As a teacher for 12 years, I've learned that telling kids they're doing a great job does not inspire a love of learning. Rather, I'd get them to identify what made them feel good/proud/excited, etc.... about their work. You've gotten so many fun and creative suggestions around keeping the letters fun. But please remember, Kindergarten instruction is all about letter formation. It becomes more difficult to undo incorrect letter writing structures/habits. He will be able to write when it's developmentally appropriate.

Best of luck!


answers from Houston on

Get a pie pan or baking dish. Add sand, dirt, salt or flour... Have him write the letters with his finger in the granules. Easy, and my kids loved it. To not waste it, pour the stuff it in a ziplock baggie until it's time to practice letters again.

You can do this same method with instant pudding, shaving cream, yarn on sandpaper is fun too.

Start by having him draw lines, up and down, side to side, horizontal slopes, then curves. Once he gets those down, he can start on the letters and numbers.

Because he isn't holding a pencil, it will at least help him learn to form the lines and curves.



answers from Savannah on

My guy didn't want to just do letters either. So we had him spell out things that were important: his name, "mom", "dad", etc.
We did do shapes first (not saying there's a scientific method there, just that's what we did): drawing, coloring, etc are usually more fun and you can make "pictures" with shapes. We'd work on a circle for a week and we'd take walks around the block having a "contest" who could find the most "circles" on the walk (tires, dream catcher on someone's porch, etc). Then we'd draw things we saw that had that shape (car, because the tires are circles), that kind of stuff. That helped develop his ability and interest in sitting down and drawing or writing.
We practiced the letters and their order by singing, and an alphabet train puzzle that took up then length of the den, The Letter Factory did good at showing that the letters have shapes, sounds, and meaning (and he just liked watching the thing anyway). We did do a lot of things with drawing and "copying" things. I'd draw a big circle, and he'd draw the same. I drew a little circle and he'd copy. (We'd take turns and I'd copy what he was doing too). The puzzle books (dots, tracing, mazes, circling things, etc), and the pages where you draw lines from one thing to another, all that are kind of fun. We did play with a lot of play doh and games where we worked on coordination. We'd use different mediums when practicing writing: finger paints, water colors, "real" paints, mosaic chips (left over from other projects) that we'd put in the garden, sidewalk chalk, pencils, map pencils, crayons, ink pens, and markers. He learned words he "liked" first (as well as lots of drawing and playing around too). We'd see a cool car and on butcher paper draw, color, or paint some cars, and I'd show him how to "write" car. I'd draw it and make the "c" for "c-c-c-car!" and then he'd copy. He would write car a few hundred times over the course of a week, and have little car pictures (little more than squiggles with 2 circles for wheels). Stuff like that. We also got on and made a photo book called "The ABC's of Daddy" for father's day that year that he was learning all that (age 3): stuff like A is for Adore (photo of the boys and their dad gazing at each other), love that is Absolute (a wedding photo), travels Abroad (photo of London), and Aquarium (photo of them staring at some sharks at the city aquarium)....etc, etc. Obviously not words he could read, but he understood the concept that letters make special sounds and are important. That helped him. Now he's 4 1/2 and does know how to write, and he thinks that's pretty cool. It does take time though. I don't think any child sits down and says "Let's learn to write today" and just sit there for long. (I'd suggest 10 minute blocks because for many little boys-mine included-10 minutes is a long time).
LOVE Sam I Am's rainbow letter idea. That's cool! I'm going to start doing that. :)



answers from Seattle on

Shaving cream on a sliding glass door or a mirror was my son's hands down favorite.


answers from Erie on

I never heard of those window crayons...i'll have to look for those!


answers from St. Louis on

Shaving cream - you can have him do this in the tub (with or without water) or on the kitchen table or island. It cleans really well and smells great, too! Have him practice writing letters that you say or his name.

Use food to make letters - veggies or dough or anything you can 'mold' to make letters. Then have yourself a snack.

Anything with arts& crafts would be fun - yard, cutting out letters, tracing with different markers and crayons, etc.

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