Writing is an essential skill that is learned through time and practice.  Although smartphones, tablets, and laptops have become prevalent, writing remains a crucial skill that needs to be mastered.  It is a skill that is not only required in school but also in everyday transactions.  It is also a form of expression and an outlet for creativity.

Each child has a different pace of development, but in general, you will notice that your child's writing ability will progress through these stages.

Stages of Writing Development


1.     Random scribbles

Toddlers (1 to 3 years old) love to copy what they see in adults, so they may start to develop an interest in imitating your writing on a paper.

Initially, they hold the crayon in a clenched-fist position. You can see random and hurriedly drawn lines or curves.  At this stage, toddlers love to draw using big motions using their whole arm. 

Through scribbling, toddlers discover that crayons can transfer color into the paper. 

Toddlers may also experiment on how to hold the crayon. They may also keep it using the palmer grasp, in which they hold the crayon with their fingers and use their wrist to have more control.

2.     Shapes or symbols that are letter-like

The preschoolers' writing or drawing become more defined than scribbles around the ages of three or four. They have more control of the pencil or crayon by using the five-fingered grasp. 

Their scribbles evolves to more defined shapes and forms like a circle and wavy lines.

They also show their understanding that symbols or letters have meanings and can be used to communicate. 

3.     Readable letters

Preschoolers start to write legible letters, and they usually begin with the letters that spell their names. Most kids start to write capital letters and do not use spaces at all.  They also tend to write random letters they are familiar with and use them to convey their message.

4.     Letters and Words

Preschoolers start to distinguish and differentiate a letter from a word. The text they write along with their artworks is related to each other.

They may also show interest in copying the words they see from their favorite book, labels, or posters.

5.     Words are primarily comprised of consonants.

At this stage, the preschoolers start to write in uppercase and lowercase. Their spelling is based on their knowledge of the letter sounds, although their spelling may be mostly consonant letters. 

6.     Phonetic Writing

Grade schoolers ages five to seven years old can hold the pencil and can write the letters correctly. They can already spell words based on the letter sounds. They can also spell out common sight words. Expect that there will still be spelling mistakes as they learn more words and expand their vocabulary.

Five-year-old can already identify pictures and write its name.  After a year or two, he/she can already write sentences, short paragraphs, or even poems. They also understand the use of capital letters in names and sentences.

7.     Conventional Writing and Spelling

Older grade-schoolers ages eight to eleven years old can spell words correctly most of the time. They rely on their knowledge of phonetic sounds to spell the words.  They also have an understanding of the uses of letter capitalization and punctuation marks.

Their written works are longer and are composed of more complex sentences.  Their tone and style of writing are also developing. They learn to research information to support their content. 

Because of the schoolwork and assignments, they observe the writing process.

8.     Standard Spelling

Ten years old and older kids continue to learn and develop their vocabulary and grammar knowledge. They understand root words, compound words, and contractions. 

Their written work continues to show more length and depth.  They develop their strategies on how to improve their writing and develop their style.

Now that you know the developmental stages of writing, here are some tips that you can do to help your child gain interest and support their development.

1.     Engage your child in prewriting activities.

Writing requires a firm grasp and control of the pencil, and so their fine motor skills need to develop first.  Check out our article 15 Fun Prewriting Activities for` Toddlers for ideas.

2.     Make writing materials available and accessible at home. 

For toddlers and preschoolers, please give them a variety of writing materials at home.  You can get the papers, pencils, washable markers, crayons, chalkboard, or chalk.

3.     Set aside a corner where they can write.

This corner can be the same area as your reading corner but make sure to allot a child-size table and chair. Ensure that the space is well-lit, quiet, and comfortable for your little one.

4.     Give your child writing exercises.

You can give your child worksheets that he/she can trace and practice writing letters and numbers on.  Make it more enticing by choosing a worksheet that has their favorite character or theme.

Also, you can encourage your child to copy words from his/her book.

5.     Encourage your child to write messages for family and friends.

Writing letters and making greeting cards are fun and thoughtful ways to get your child to write.

6.     Read more books together.

Reading to your child can help expand his/her vocabulary and familiarity with the words' spelling.  Introduce your child to different literary genres.  Exposure to various literary pieces can also influence your child's writing style.

7.     Try different writing materials.

Instead of using paper and crayons, allow your child to write and draw in the garage using chalk. Your child can also have fun writing letters using finger paint or colorful markers.

8.     Let your child see you writing.

Modeling works every time.  You can let your child join you when you are doing the grocery list or the writing on your journal.  Just seeing you regularly with a pen and paper can indeed intrigue and encourage your child to write.

9.      Appreciate your child’s work.

Whether it is a simple doodle, a short story, or a research paper, praise and appreciation of the written work can build your child's interest and confidence in writing.  

10.   Give your child story prompts.

Let your child explore the story and creative writing by giving them topics to write on.  You can read the story together and pretend to be the characters of the story.  Make it fun for them so they'll continue to write.

Writing is a skill that improves through time, and with your support, they can find their voice and style.  If you observe that your kid has difficulty writing, talk with his/her teacher or developmental pediatrician to know what other support your child may need.

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