Writing or drawing cards and letters for friends is one of the easiest and most common ways that I encourage writing in our home. We don’t do workbooks or worksheets, so all the writing the children do comes from opportunities created by what is going on in our life. This illustrates to the children that writing is a skill that is a necessary and useful part of everyday living and is something they will do as an adult too.From an early age I have asked them to participate in the gift giving and card writing for someone’s birthday and because birthdays are fairly frequent there are many chances to do this.
I will also always mention that they can write their name at the bottom of their picture so that the person knows who it’s from and often it’s just a little scribble to start with. Over time they realise their name has recognisable letters and they might ask for some help to form those letters. Then I’ve noticed there seems to be a variation of their name always used often just a letter, eg H or B or for about 6 months Hannah signed of as HAN and recognised that as her name. Once they had the hang of writing their name in the way they wanted, I’d encourage writing to that person on the front of that card or at the top of the picture, and then Happy Birthday or a message inside.
Through observing their natural learning patterns I’ve noticed that the desire to master a particular skill comes in phases and writing is no different, so there are times where they would rather not write that card or even draw a picture. Which is totally fine, I always give them the choice though. I don’t push it, because as with everything, the process has to be meaningful. They need to be intrinsically motivated to do the drawing even if it was my suggestion. Without that internal motivation creating it is almost pointless.
Over Christmas I posted that Blake and Hannah were both very much into creating and writing Christmas cards. This was one of those rare times where their interests and desires for that type of learning meshed. Continuing to encourage them to participate in birthday cards and letters means that the gap between those phases of bursts of desire is not completely devoid of generating an understanding that writing is useful in everyday life. It’s not about perfecting the skill of writing itself, but about reminding that even in this world of technology and short-cuts, handmade and handwritten notes are so important.
This is another reason why they’re so encouraged here, it feeds into altruism, thoughtfulness, and giving – al very valued principles in our family. Creating something from your own hands for another person is the simplest act of love one can do for another. Even if the children say no, I always write in the card in front of them and wrap the present with their help so that they can use my example as a reminder that giving feels good not only for the receiver but for us as well.
Of-course this is not the only time my children draw or write letters – most of the time that comes through in imaginative play and I also have a post on how our Writing Centre has encouraged writing and posting letters as well. This is just another example of how as parents we can help facilitate meaningful writing opportunities for children in our daily life, while still giving plenty of freedom and choice.