I have always been a big proponent of keeping any schooling that I do with Ali all about “play” and as unguided as possible since she is so young (she just turned 3).
For instance, I don’t push school – I let Ali guide it. That way, she thinks it’s a game. When I’m busy doing the dishes, she’ll “Play States” or “Play Presidents” by herself. She’s always asking if we can “play school”, which is exactly where I want to keep her excitement level.
However, my casual approach wasn’t working too well in my efforts to teach her how to write letters. She would ask me to write things, and I would. If she wanted to write, I’d cheer her on, but she usually wouldn’t write any letters but the ones in her name.
I knew she COULD do it, but it just didn’t seem like the activity was holding her attention.
After her birthday party, I decided to experiment with a little bit more of a formal, guided task: writing thank you notes.
I didn’t think she’d do too great since she hadn’t really written anything, but I was completely shocked! Having a purpose and knowing WHY she was writing seemed to make all the difference to her.
She happily made letters that I had never seen her write before to make AJ’s Thank you note:
“AJ”, “Game”, “Ali” (and her creative addition, a smiley face.)
(Yes, A’s are still upside-down. And I kinda like them that way.)
On the second one, I started to get a little frustrated with her because she kept writing the letters out of order and all over the page.
Then I realized: duh – she’s never written on lines before because I’ve always just let her “free-style” her writing.
I explained to her how you write on top of the line and showed her how it should look.
Sure enough, we started over and she did great:
“Nathaniel”, “Game”, and a very messy and a bit out-of-order “Ali”
(My patience was not, however, high enough to get her to write ALL of those names, thanks to Greg and Julie and their long-winded kid names. Nathaniel would suffice.)
We’ve made several more, and I was really surprised at how eager she was to do them (and even asking me if we could make some later), considering her former pushback about writing.
“Brooks and Claire”, “Fairy Outfit”, “Ali”
Although I still think that casual learning is best for her age, I learned that sometimes having a purpose in learning can excite and motivate a toddler more than just keeping it as a game.