Much of early writing literacy is the development of fine motor abilities in the fingers and hands. Playing while exercising fine motor skills, engages hand-eye coordination as well. Think about using tools like washable chunky crayons, markers, scissors, tweezers, tongs, chalk, paintbrushes, etc. Even tearing paper will strengthen those small muscles in the hands! Fine motor can also be developed using Duplo® blocks, playdough, finger paint, squeeze balls, etc. If you are concerned about safety, use water instead of paint or markers. While any age baby can experiment with fine motor activities, it is not until about 12-18 months that children have developed the hand skills required to grasp and control writing tools with enough coordination not make intentional marks on paper.
Provide your child with washable, chunky tools and welcome his scribbles (along with a creative mess)! Make writing social and talk to your baby about the process: “Tell me about what you made,” or, “I see you’re carefully choosing your colors.” Be sure to respond to your child’s intent, regardless of the final form. For example, if he says the random marks are a letter, “read” it with him!
In terms of skill level, most 2-year-olds can make a ‘v,’ a circle, and vertical or horizontal lines, although not with utmost control. By three, some children will be trying to write some letters or make “tadpole” people, which marks an important transition to representational uses of symbols. Children will mimic writing that adults do, so make a point to let your child know the ways you use writing, such as shopping lists, birthday cards, etc. Be sure to leave (safe) tools in easy reach for children to use, present a diversity of writing and drawing items, and proudly display their artwork!