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The Importance of Writing for Preschoolers

toddler in high chair writes symbols and letters on a piece of paper

Written communication skills can emerge and be practiced earlier than you might think.

By Amber Fujita, Library Assistant, Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library

Encouraging Emergent Writing

According to “Promoting Preschoolers’ Emergent Writing” in the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) Young Children journal, children as young as 2 years old begin progressing through the stages of learning to write. These first attempts at the writing process — beginning with imitating it by creating representative drawings and symbolics markings — is called “emergent writing.” 

The stages of emergent writing include all types of early visual and written communication, from drawing and scribbling to invented spelling and eventually sentence writing. Encouraging preschoolers’ practice of these activities also helps them gain fine motor skills, understand the expression of ideas through written words, and learn to identify and recognize story structure patterns in text.  

Fine Tuning Motor Skills

Developing fine motor skills can be easy and fun, especially with support from your library! The Tysons-Pimmit Regional branch offers a Make and Take craft called “Design a Shirt for Tacky the Penguin,” which prompts children to draw and fold a shirt for a penguin. Kingstowne Library invites preschoolers to express their ideas in a monthly drawing display on themes such as rainbows or flowers. An added bonus? Handwriting their names to label drawings for display provides children with extra emergent writing and fine motor skills practice. 

Practice fine motor skills with this printable tracing activity!

Putting Ideas Into Words

In her article “Understanding Beginning Writing Skills in Preschoolers” on, Kristin Stanberry writes: “The goal is to help children understand how writing works, that it connects in meaningful ways to reading, and that it communicates information, through words and symbols.” 

Go beyond read-alouds and let you preschooler tell you a story. Write it down and let them draw the illustrations. This is a great example of self-expression and encourages young children to identify with the world around them and identify the connection between storytelling, illustrations and the written word. 

Recognizing Story Structure Patterns

Storytimes are about more than immersing yourself in a fairy tale or singing songs. Interactive storytimes also teach children to recognize patterns in the story structure by listening to and following story prompts. They also highlight early literacy skills and practices that can help caregivers increase children’s awareness of written words. Search the FCPL events calendar to find an in-person storytime near you or virtual storytime options!

Picture Books That Support Writing Skills

Drew Bigelow, a library aide at the Kings Park branch, recommends these picture books from the FCPL collection to support children learning to write and to demonstrate what children can do with this skill:

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen Still learning how to write, a boy creates a story through letters and squiggles. Phoebe Sounds It Out by Julie Zwillich Phoebe gets a start on writing by practicing her name through sounding it out, out loud. The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds Jerome gathers words and learns how to use them in both quiet and powerful ways.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant