Ways To Use Our Writing Mats
My Little Learner is passionate about helping children learn to write and our writing mats have already helped thousands of children in the UK but there are many ways in which they can be used to nurture a love of writing.
Like in all areas of learning, every child will learn differently and it is good to adopt a multi-sensory approach especially when helping your child learn to write!
So that is why I felt it important to show some examples of different ways my writing mats can be used to promote learning to write while also improving fine motor skills and pen control.
Children are naturally curious and are born with an innate desire to want to learn, so sometimes by just leaving an activity on the table it will evoke that curiosity. Young children learn through play doing activities that they want to do, when they want to do them and learning to write shouldn’t be any different.
So top tips…. keep it fun and light hearted, encourage experimentation and offer lots of praise along the way.
Aid development of those little hands by incorporating a variety of fine motor activities along the way and most importantly eliminate any pressure or expectation… children learn on their own terms, in their own way and in their own time.
The above 'top tip' was featured as one of Twinkl's 9 Tips to Inspire Reluctant Writers to Write
Ways to use our writing mats?
So here we go……. this is the first approach that I adopted when introducing my two boys to their writing mats and it worked!
Just leave the mats on a table with a pen and a cloth and see what happens! A learning activity is always most beneficial when a child wants to participate.
As mentioned above, it is always good to learn in a variety of ways .... not everyone learns in the same way so it's good to mix it up and most importantly make it fun! Doing the same activity over and over again isn’t fun for anyone… make it exciting, new and interesting.
Below are some of the ways that I use the writing mats at home with my children.
Ask your child to use their fingers to trace over the pattern, shape or letter on the writing mat.
Finger tracing is an important starting step when it comes to learning to write. It allows the child to gain control over the finger and hand muscles required for writing and it also helps your child focus on visualising the shape of each letter.
This exercise will help integrate their visual-motor integration system which is vital for handwriting. Visual-motor integration is the ability of the eyes and hand to work together in smooth, efficient patterns.
Use a car or small object to trace over the pattern, shape or letter on the writing mat.
This serves to act in a similar way to the above but adds more of an element of fun.
For example, if your child loves a particular small toy (such as Fireman Sam) use it to walk up and down the letters.
Use a pen to trace over the pattern, shape or letter on the writing mat.
This is what our writing mats were designed for and it's absolutely fantastic to see the look of concentration on the child's face when they do it for the first time and then their big smile when they see that they have written their own name....what an achievement! Make sure you give your little learner lots of praise and also try to encourage that they "start at the star" and "end at the dot".
With practice, letter formation will become part of their motor memory so by encouraging the correct directional movement from the start, this will ensure bad habits don't form....which can be hard to correct.
Directional arrows can be added to our writing mats but if you feel this would be too much for your child then you can download a free printable letter formation guide.
Use the mats alongside play-doh and see if your child can recreate the shapes/patterns or even letters of their name. This is great for helping strengthen the small muscles in their hands and for really making them concentrate on the shape of each letter.
Cover the mat in paint, sand, shaving foam and see if your child can complete the pattern or trace their name.
Use the mat as a prompt and see if your child can write independently in the sand tray.
Letter tracing is great but the end goal is giving your child the confidence to write independently as soon as they are ready. In order to do this they need to be able to commit the letter shape and accompanying movements to memory.
Use cereal or any small object and ask your child to make the letters of their name.
This is just FUN, FUN, FUN and my boys love it!
It's also a great activity to help strengthening their pincer grip.
If you have any pictures of your child using our writing mats then please do send them in...I'd absolutely love to see them!
Please note - when learning to write I believe it should always be fun and interactive with the aim of "nurturing a love of writing" however, as a child grows, develops and becomes more confident it is important to encourage the correct formation of letters using the 'starting star" and "ending dot" as visual cues. By supporting the correct formation of letters, this will prevent bad habits from forming which can be hard to undo later on in life.