With a four year old and a two year old, we aren’t overly preoccupied with traditional academic activities at our house. In fact, my sons don’t even own a single workbook or flash card. Thinking back on my own childhood, I don’t think I owned any, either, until those pesky multiplication tables reared their ugly heads when I was in third grade. While I think the most important learning that occurs during summer vacation is thorough free play, and especially free play outdoors, I do think it’s wise to continue to encourage my four year old’s growing interest in learning to write during the summer months. I think requiring him to sit with a skill-builder practice page from a workbook would be a guaranteed interest-crusher, so here are the ways I’m encouraging him to develop his budding writing skills in more natural (read: sneaky) ways. Please note, for all of these, kids should be encouraged to do what they are ready to do. An illustration along with the initial sound of the word, or the first and last sound of the word (as in “LV” for love, or “DT” for don’t) is totally acceptable as they develop the ability to write and should be celebrated!
- Letter Writing: Kids love receiving mail. My son looks forward to checking the mailbox each day and scanning the mail for his name. I let him in on a secret: if you write a letter to grandma, your uncle, etc., you’ll get more mail. He writes the person’s name at the top of the page, then dictates the body of the letter to me (with questions, so they’ll want to write back with answers!), and he signs his name at the bottom.
- Making Cards: I’m a big card and note writer. My son often sees me sending thank you notes, birthday cards, etc. and likes to know who they’re for and why I’m sending it. He has started to make his own cards for select occasions. My all-time favorite? A card for my husband, who accidently dropped his iPhone in the recycle bin (on trash day!!!) and never saw it again. It was a “Sorry-you-recycled-your-iPhone” card.
- Sign Making: Hey, um, have you noticed preschoolers can be bossy? Channel it! They want to be left alone while they watch a movie? Tell them to make a sign that reminds everyone “Quiet during movies, please!” for the family room. They can’t remember where their socks go? Have them label their drawers!
- Shopping Lists: I am incapable of shopping for anything without a list. I shudder to think what would end up in my Target cart if I free-ranged it in that store. Sometimes, I will leave the list on the counter and casually ask my son to add something to the list…something I’ve already written there since he can’t really write coherently yet…and make a big deal out of thanking him. “Oh, darn, I forgot to add ‘milk’, would you please? Oh, and also, please add ‘cereal’…”
- To-Do List: Ok, so I don’t just make shopping lists…I also obsessively make to-do lists. I’ve started to encourage my son to, also, especially if he wants to do something that we just simply don’t have time to do, like go to the children’s museum at 7 pm. He can write “go to museum” (or some representation of that phrase, such as “GO TO MSM”) on his own to-do list to remind himself that when we have a free day, he’d like to go there.
Feel free to share your own non-workbook ways to get in some writing practice with your kids this summer! Happy writing, everyone!