Children begin their journey towards writing by simply making marks.
Mark Making is more than just a scribble. It is the first step in your child’s journey to writing and important for their development in handwriting, creativity and coordination.
What is Mark Making?
Mark Making simply refers to the different patterns, lines, textures and shapes your child creates.
Typically used to describe the scribbles that early years children make on paper with pens, pencils or crayons, mark-making gives them the opportunity to express themselves and explore new materials.
One of the first signs of mark-making comes when they begin to play with their food or drink, using their palms and fingers to create patterns and swirls.
Mark Making is part of your child’s physical development. Learning to control any mark-making tool such is hard and requires many skills. Children need to develop their whole-body muscles (gross motor skills) to control their upper body and shoulders as well as develop the desire to sit still and concentrate.
As their muscles and control develop, children progress to using crayons, pencils or chalks to make big circular or straight lines. This is often dismissed as scribbles, but it is actually an important step in learning to write and the skills that emerge with practice.
These initial skills can be supported by play through being active and being outside. Hand-eye coordination is also key for writing in order to build up control in their hands and fingers.
Why is Mark Making so important?
Research has shown that mark making is crucial for a child’s development and learning. It both teaches them how to hold a pen correctly as well as helps to develop their handwriting skills
Mark Making can also represent a child’s thoughts and ideas. It gives children the opportunity to express themselves creatively and communicate through their drawings and marks
Brain and Language Development
Giving children the opportunity to explore different mediums of mark-making engages them in sensory play. Sensory Play helps to develop a child’s critical thinking, brain and language development as well as gives them the ability to build towards more complex learning tasks in the future.
How to encourage Mark Making
Start by providing different types of writing tools, crayons, felt tips, pencils, chalks and paints. Don’t worry about buying paper, use materials such as scrap paper, leftover wallpaper rolls and the pavement.
Once your child begins to show interest in writing and begins to acquire the skills, let them watch you write. Model both upper- and lower-case letters so they can see a range of different ‘shapes’ and develop certain writing skills from you.
You can also play sequencing games and puzzles with them to support left to right coordination.
Messy play and Sensory Activities also contribute to early signs of mark-making. Activities such as playdough, baking, cornflour, sand and water are a number of activities that encourage fine motor control and exploration through mark making.
Pen like tools are not necessarily needed, as you can use objects such as lollipop sticks, playdough tools, kitchen utensils etc to experiment with.
It’s helpful to remember that learning to write takes a few years – patience and support are needed over time.
Children who are corrected too often or asked to write ‘properly’ may lose interest. Alternatively, those who enjoy the mark-making process and ‘writing’ are naturally praised and so progress quicker.
Let them go at their own pace.
Some children display the necessary motor skills for writing at around 4 years old but bear in mind all children develop different skills at different times. Make sure your early years setting encourages your child’s individuality and be sure to support their interest and abilities.