Learning to write

'Mark making' is the start of a journey towards being able to write.

child with pen and paper


It's an exciting moment when your child begins to experiment with different-shaped scribbles and patterns. This is known as 'mark making'. It is the start of a journey towards being able to write and is a real developmental milestone.

By providing your child with a variety of mark-making opportunities you can help them develop imaginatively, creatively and physically.

Mark making is important for many reasons. It is a visible way for children to tell stories and express feelings, record what they have to say, solve problems and discover solutions - and sometimes it is just an outlet for pure physical enjoyment.

How CBeebies can help

You're spoilt for choice with fun, mark-making activities on CBeebies!

Start off by visiting Doodle Do, where you can play the Paint Pot Pick-up game and make and decorate your own Doodle Do using a variety of patterns and colours. You can also play a fun tracing game - help develop your child's fine motor skills by getting them to use the mouse to trace over pictures on the screen. Those zigzag crocodile teeth are tricky!

If you want to get creative, check out the Mister Maker pages? His Magic Paintbox game is a brilliant way to experiment with different mark-making materials. Where else could you have the chance to draw with rice, buttons, glitter, grass or even baked beans?!

How to make a magic moment

Take your mark making outside and have fun getting messy!

Get a big roll of old wallpaper, roll it out on the ground and secure the corners with something heavy. Experiment with different ways to make marks on the paper.

Why not try hand and foot prints, rolling toy cars through paint then taking them for a drive across the paper or making prints using natural objects such as fir cones or leaves?

Don't forget to bring out some wipes to help clean yourselves up afterwards... and a camera to record your creation!

Extra information

Children need to develop their motor skills (actions that involve the movements of muscles) in order to be able to mark make effectively.

Give your child opportunities to practise making big movements (gross motor skills) - e.g. climbing, crawling, dancing, throwing and catching balls, and carrying objects.

These activities will help develop the muscle control needed to move on to fine motor movements, such as being able to squeeze play dough into different shapes, use tweezers to pick up small objects, grasp and manipulate building bricks, or play tiddlywinks.

Aim to be a good role model for your child. Children need to see adults writing so that they can pick up on how writers behave and understand that writing is a valuable activity. In the beginning, mark making is more about motivation than ability and we want to show children that writing is fun!

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Expert opinion

Children learn from everything they do but their development depends, in part, on the quality and range of experiences they have received both in the environment of their (school) setting and at home.

In an emotionally-secure environment - where creativity is valued and respected - children will often become prolific mark makers. Through their marks, they are communicating their ideas, expressing their feelings and developing their imagination and creativity.

These opportunities for making 'thinking visible' are fundamental to children's learning and development and should be the entitlement of every child.

Early Years Foundation Stage document, Mark making matters

Top tips

  • In order to encourage mark making, aim for a range of opportunities.Think about how many different materials and surfaces you can provide that vary in feel and texture.As well as pens, crayons, pencils and paintbrushes, remember that marks can also be made with sticks, stones, water squeezed from bottles, toothbrushes and their own fingers and hands!Don't just use paper for mark making. Sand, soil, mud, salt, gloop and foam all provide exciting textures and surfaces for children to experiment on.

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