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Teaching Preschoolers to Write Their Names

teaching name writing

Teaching preschoolers to write their names is an essential task for life in kindergarten.  But, did you know that teaching children to write their name is so much more than just writing? Important prerequisite skills have to come first before successful name writing can begin. So, let’s dive in- how to teach preschoolers to write their name…

Fine Motor Skills

Before children can begin to tackle teaching preschoolers to write their names, we need to provide ample opportunities for children to use the hand, finger and eye muscles needed to complete this task.

By doing activities with pinchers, pipettes, finger puppets and small parts we are encouraging children to build up those fine motor muscles… another big benefit of play driven learning.

But, there are also some other considerations we should take in when observing a child’s fine motor skills

  • Object Manipulation-Can the child manipulate the writing utensil once in their hand?
  • Does the child have any visual concerns that might hinder the practice of fine motor skills?
  • Are there any sensory concerns when it comes to using fine motor tools?
  • Hand Division- Does the child have the ability to separate some finger sfor different tasks?
  • Crossing the mid-line- Can the child reach his/her right hand to left foot?
  • Hand Dominance- Child may not choose a dominant hand to write with until age 6.

Name Recognition

The ability to see one’s name and know that it is theirs.

Before any name writing takes place, be sure that each child can find their name out of a sea of names. Can he/she find his/her labeled cubby, coat hook or name on the wall?

If the child is unable to identify his/her full first name, start with recognition of the first letter.

Orally Spelling

Helping children to spell their name aloud, while touching the letters in his/her name is helpful. When you do get to name writing, it is good to have an oral reminder of what letters come next. By having children practice looking at and saying the letters in their name you are helping them learn what that letter is called and what it looks like.

Constructing Names

This is where students put the letters in their name in the correct order.

To start, help the child match up the letter in his/her name first. Have a paper with their name written on it and individual letters in their name. Have them match the individual letters to the letter on their name paper. Be sure to say the letters aloud as the child matches them.

Then, help see if the child can place the individual letters in order without having to match them up, like a name puzzle.

>>When all the above areas are observed, it may be time to start teaching children how to form the letters.

Some considerations about handwriting and preschoolers…

  • Since children’s hands are smaller, use smaller writing utensils like broken crayons or golf pencils.
  • Provide a whole sheet of paper for students to begin writing on. No lines to start.
  • Help each child find a functional grasp that works for them
  • Teach children how to start letters at the top, not the bottom.
  • Teach children about starting at the left and moving to the right when writing.
  • Teach how to hold the paper with the non-dominant hand.

Name Tracing

Begin with having children just trace the first letter in their name. This gives them a feel for how the letter is formed. Be sure to be next to the child, walking through the steps of forming that letter. For example, if we were working on the letter ‘M’ I would say “The first letter in your name is M, let’s trace it. Start at the top, big line down, pick up your pencil, slide down, slide up and another big line down.”

Once the first letter is done, continue with the rest of the name!

A note on tracing: I prefer to write student’s names with a highlighter first and have them trace over it. I am not a fan of dotted lines and little arrows. It just looks confusing and could inadvertently teach children to from letters out of dashes and not strokes.


Teaching Children to Write their Names

When starting out on the name writing journey, make sure to just start with the first letter of the child’s name. Use a full piece of paper, as young children may not have the control to stay within lines just yet. Use the dialogue you used when practicing tracing and encourage the child to make the letter on his/her own. Slowly make the paper the child is using smaller and smaller or create a box for children to try and write their first letter in.

Then, move onto forming the rest of the name. It is a big debate in early education on whether or not to teach children to write their names in all capitals first or to use lowercase letters after the first capital letter. I am in the camp of teaching students to write the name with a big letter first and little letters after. When teaching first grade I saw too many children that just could not break the habit of writing in all capitals. Everyone has an opinion- so you do you!

Practice, practice, practice

When children are first learning to write their name it takes lots of practice! But, pencil and paper aren’t the other ways to practice. Try these ideas out…

  • Large bulletin board paper on the wall with crayons for writing BIG names!
  • Salt tray and dry paintbrush
  • Sidewalk, water and a paintbrush
  • Chalk and a chalkboard
  • Dry erase board and markers
  • Wet cotton swab on a chalkboard
  • Shaving cream in a tray
  • Small paintbrush and paint

While children need to practice name writing, please observe them to know when they are done. No good work happens when a child is frustrated, tired or just plain done with an activity!

Wow, that was a lot of information! Need a checklist to help the process of teaching preschoolers to write their names? Me too.

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You can find this Roadmap right here for free!

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