Published On: Mon, Sep 17th, 2012

Cat, Mat, Fat, Sat – How to Encourage an Interest in Print

Danielle Mantakoul

Danielle Mantakoul

BA of Ed Early Childhood and Editor at Mummy Weekly
She's described as one of the most engaging & dynamic speakers in the early childhood industry today, now having educated hundreds of thousands of parents & teachers. She has lectured for organisations such as KU Children’s Services, Only About Children, Qantas, National Australia Bank, Child Protection Australia, Goodstart and hundreds of council & private centres. She also developed and ran the popular parenting series for the Australian Financial Review.
Danielle Mantakoul

Some parents wanCat Mat Sat Fatt to encourage an interest in writing and print in general, nothing wrong with that, but it can be the way you go about it. Lots of parent like to write down words for kids to copy. Cat, mat, sat, fat, well how boring is that! For kids that are already interested, this can be quite fun, but not for a child who is not there yet. If you want to encourage an interest in the world of print, there are a few ways you can go about it which will lead your child to a wanting rather than whining.

Before children start school, it can be helpful for them to already have an interest in print, even if it is minimal. Their is no criteria that I know of anywhere that says kids need to be able to write before they start school. What you want to see in your child in relation to print and writing before they start kindergarten is an emerging interest. To identify this, ask yourself if you see the following in your child.

  • That they ask you at times to write words for them.
  • That they are interested in words they see around them such as the stop or give way signs.
    That they will comment on numbers they see for example in lifts or on houses.
  • That they use words associated with print including number words even if they are wrong. For example “that is
    number one and million and twenty six and hundred and million”. Just having the language there is helping
    them in the right direction.
  • That they will write their name on their drawing or at least try.
  • That they comment on similar letters they see around them that are in their own name. Some kids like to tell you
    what their favourite letter or number is.

If you are seeing very little of these things, below you will find a list of things you can do to make the world of print more interesting for your child.

  • When next walking, point out the numbers on the letter boxes and see if they can tell you what these are. You
    can also do this when in the car with spotting numbers or letters on number plates.
  • Get your child to sign their own name on birthday cards or even in emails to  family and friends, and if your child
    is having a party, encourage them to write their own name on their invitations.
  • Find some great apps that give exposure to print. There are plenty out there that make writing & reading loads
    of fun. You will find some of these in our recommended app section.
  • Read to your child every day. This helps to show them that print is enjoyable and something worth sharing.
  • Get kids to help you write the shopping list. When kids feel that their writing will actually serve a purpose, they
    are far more likely to want to participate. Keep it at their level. If they can’t write “bread”, can they do the “b”,
    and if this is too tricky, draw the bread. Learning to read through pictures is a print learning strategy in itself.
  • Little notes in the lunchbox also encourage reading. Like “I love Bella” or “Hi Bella”.
  • Sit and draw with your kids, but keep it simple, nothing flash, as this can discourage making it feel unachievable
    for them. Try different types of lines, shapes, simple faces or houses.
  • Make sure your kids have easy access to pencils and paper. keeping these materials in sight can encourage
    kids to use them.
  • Kids first learn to read pictures, so any continuation on with this is helpful. Getting kids to help you read a recipe
    for example. In a lot of cook books it shows you through photos the next step, even on the back of a cake mix
    box it can have pictures of what you need, ie pics of ad egg, butter, milk etc.  Encourage this reading of pictures
    to follow an instruction.
  • Undoubtedly, the most powerful thing you can do is to pull in on your child’s interest to get them to write. If they
    really love fairies, write fairy words, if they really love trucks, truck words, and if they really love dinosaurs, well
    yes Tyrannosaurus is a long word, but perhaps we can write the “T”. Keep it fun, and keep it achievable.

Can my child know too much about writing and print before they start school?

There are different schools of thought when it comes to this question. Parents can be concerned that if a child is interested in print and learns a fair amount before they actually get to school, that they will get bored due to already knowing what they are being taught.  I want you to remember that kids love repetition, how many times has your child watched Toy Story?  A few I bet. I feel it is far more likely that when the teacher writes “t” on the board that they will be raising their hand with gusto, because they know what it is. Kids are far more likely to feel a confidence boost knowing the answers in kindergarten, rather than thinking “gee not this again”.

It is true that kids who are progressing at great pace with print before they get to school can bring to kindergarten some bad habits. Forming letters using the wrong font, or starting from the letter from the wrong point are two of these. This though shouldn’t mean that we stop our preschoolers from writing. When it comes down to it, the most important thing at the preschool level with writing, is that kids are willing to have a go. To draw, write their name, and continue to build up their fine motor muscles through a variety of activities that don’t even involve print. Activities  such as threading or manipulating playdough.

Many kids write their name in capital letters. Parents can often get the blame for this and there is a good chance if your child is asking you to write something for them, you’d be writing it in capital letters. Realise it or not, we think we are making it easier for them, cause when you think about capital letters a lot of them are just straight lines, but you’re not. Kids can also write capitals because this is what they see every day. if you think about the adult world, the stop sign, street names, logo’s a lot of these are written out in all capitals, and kids pick up on this. Point out the lower case, but, if your child tells you where to go, LEAVE THEM ALONE. We don’t want to hound our kids about their writing, you can chase them away from wanting to try at all. Leave it to the kinder teacher, and as most of us are aware, our kids react differently to instructions from us to instructions from the teacher. Don’t ya hate that. Most kinder kids think their teachers are Gods and know everything, so are far more likely to follow their instruction with things such as correct font.

Your child’s preschool or long day care environment are more than likely exposing them to the correct font they will be taught at school. Don’t make the mistake of hounding your kids with writing and print. While there is nothing wrong with testing the water, if they show no interest, drop it and try again in four to six weeks time. Listen to what you r kids are telling you. Push the interest, you can chase the child away and lead them to believe writing and print is anything but fun.

By Danielle Mantakoul
Copyright 2012
www.mummyweekly.com.au 

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