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.
Top tips for encouraging mark-making
- 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. Chalk on the drive or path also works really well.
- 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!
Developing writing skills
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 lots of opportunities to practise making big movements (gross motor skills), for example by climbing, crawling, dancing, throwing and catching balls or 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, grasp and manipulate building bricks and hold pencils or crayons for mark making.
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. You could include them in writing the shopping list, for example.
In the beginning, mark making is more about motivation than ability and we want to show children that writing is fun!
Mark making activities from CBeebies
There are lots of mark making activities on the CBeebies website and the CBeebies Playtime App. There are also Make a Picture games for many CBeebies shows, which are a great introduction to mark making for little ones - they can create pictures and greetings cards featuring their favourite characters using paint, crayons, pencils and even glitter!
These masterpieces can then be printed or saved to your computer or device. It can be fun to get your little one to talk about their artwork and tell you about what the different marks mean.
The Get Squiggling Letters game on the CBeebies website is designed for children who are starting to make the transition from mark-making to letter formation, preparing for writing.
We consulted with early years teachers in the development of this game, who told us that often, when children start school, they have already been taught to form their letters incorrectly and it can be really hard for them to unpick this later.
The Get Squiggling programme and the online game are about familiarising little ones with the look of the different letters, and build their awareness of letter names and letter writing.
In the game little ones can explore each letter and practice writing it as well as identify objects that begin with that letter. Making these letter shapes also helps develop your child’s fine motor skills.