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Writing Skills in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What are writing skills?

Writing skills are your child's ability to express thoughts and ideas in writing. Your child will begin by scribbling or drawing simple shapes. He or she will then start to write letters. When your child understands how to combine and break apart letters to form words, he or she is developing writing skills. Your child needs strong writing skills to be successful throughout school.

How may my child's writing skills develop through grade 3?

Children learn to write by drawing and scribbling first. This happens during the toddler years. Your child may start by copying shapes, such as circles. Your child may enjoy making marks or scribbles and asking you what he or she wrote. This shows that he or she is developing an understanding of how writing works. By the time your child is ready for preschool, he or she will be making letters instead of scribbles. In school, your child will learn to put letters together to form words. Each grade from kindergarten through grade 3 will help your child learn new writing skills:

  • Kindergarten skills include learning to break down words based on their sounds. This is called phonics. Your child may be able to use phonics to spell and write some words. Your child may also be able to write his or her first and last name and names of people he or she knows.
  • First grade skills include learning how words represent spoken language. Your child may know where sentences and paragraphs begin and end. He or she may know the difference between punctuation marks, such as a period and a question mark. He or she may be able to count syllables in a word, and put together and break apart sounds in 1-syllable words. He or she may also start to know the spelling of some irregular words, such as said .
  • Second grade skills include increasing vocabulary and spelling skills. He or she will learn to spell words that have unusual spellings. He or she may learn suffixes and prefixes. He or she may also learn synonyms (words with the same meaning) and antonyms (words with opposite meanings). He or she may learn the parts of speech. Your child's teacher will begin to have each child read aloud in class. By the end of second grade, your child should be able to read words that have more than 2 syllables. Other skills include being able to recall information he or she read and making connections among different words. He or she should also be able to use capital letters and punctuation correctly.
  • Third grade skills include fluency. Fluency means reading and writing with speed and accuracy. Your child may learn how to use a dictionary. Your child will learn to write for different purposes and readers, and how to revise his or her writing. Your child will build on these skills in grades 4 through 12. By the end of third grade, your child will be starting adolescence. He or she will have more complex writing assignments in school. Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information on writing skills in adolescents.

What can I do to help my child develop strong writing skills?

  • Help your child prepare for school. Help your child learn the alphabet before he or she starts kindergarten. Your child will have an easier time learning to read and write if he or she can say the alphabet and recognize letters. Help your child practice saying words that start with each letter.
  • Practice with your child. Reading and writing skills develop together. Read aloud to your child. Have your older child read aloud to you. Point to the words as you read them. This will help him or her become comfortable with printed words. Ask your child to tell you how to spell words he or she hears, such as cat . Have your child tell you other words that begin with that letter. Your child may be able to write stories about people he or she knows or activities he or she did. Ask your child to read what he or she wrote aloud. This will help with connections between reading and writing. Give your child opportunities to write, such as letters to family members or grocery list items.
    Read with Your Child
  • Help your child build and practice vocabulary. Vocabulary includes all the words your child can understand, read, spell, and write. Your child will learn words directly from teachers or others who tell him or her the meanings of words. He or she will also learn words indirectly by hearing and seeing them in his or her environment every day.
  • Be patient and stay positive. Do not correct your child as he or she reads or writes. Give your child time to find and correct his or her own mistake. If you do need to point out a mistake, try not to be frustrated or angry. Your child may have more trouble writing if your child feels he or she is going to be punished for a mistake. Praise your child when he or she writes.
  • Ask if your child's school has support resources. Your child may have trouble with writing and need extra help even if he or she does not have a learning disability. Your child's school may offer support programs or other resources. He or she may be able to work with a learning specialist. The specialist can help your child build on skills he or she has or develop new skills.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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