For the Love of Clipboards

I write a lot about the importance of making reading and books exciting, engaging, and accessible to children (see this post, this post, and this post). But recently, a friend asked me why we always have clipboards around our house, and I realized I should share easy ways to make writing accessible, too! So, today is all about… clipboards!

In our house, our girls have had free access to materials that will allow them to “make their mark,” whatever that may look like, since they were each about 1 year old. Our front-facing bookshelf has 3 storage compartments across the top– one of these compartments usually holds seasonal/themed craft supplies; one holds colored pencils, crayons, and markers; and the third is used to store writing materials.

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In that third compartment, our girls can almost always find a variety of pens, pencils, and erasers for writing. We also typically have paper in various sizes and colors, blank and lined notebooks, and clipboards. (Continue reading for links to some of our favorite products).

I am a HUGE proponent of providing clipboards for young children as they move through developmental stages of learning to write, and I love these tools for a variety of reasons. Many small children prefer to write standing up. While you may have a small table that is an appropriate size where they can stand and work easily, a clipboard allows them to make use of any surface– couch, woven stool or chair, bed. With a clipboard, kids can get cozy, lying down to color or placing it across their legs when they’re sitting cross-legged. Clipboards allow children to move around with their writing, which can encourage diving deeper into creative play and understanding of everyday, authentic writing (our oldest likes to use a small clipboard to “take orders at a restaurant,” and our youngest scratches notes on hers as if she’s a doctor). Kids can also take clipboard writing on the go– in the stroller, car, train, or airplane. When it comes down to it, we encourage children to read throughout the day and place books in various places to engage them in reading– why wouldn’t we also find a way to encourage writing?

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So what kind of clipboard should I get?

Definitely get the old-fashioned wooden ones! Trust me on this… The cute, pretty, colored clipboards snap, crack, and break pretty easily while kids use them. Ten years in an elementary classroom proved this to me!

We have two sizes of clipboards readily available to our girls all the time (well, almost all the time… except when they’ve used them in the stroller, car, their closets, etc. and forgotten where they had them last!). They almost always grab the standard, letter sized clipboards,  but we also have these 6″x9″ “mini” clipboards that are perfect for little hands.

We also love these writing tools: (all are linked through my Amazon Affiliate account)

  • erasers
  • pencils— this is the brand most teachers and schools I know use… They are great pencils and hold up well for kids to use (the lead on the “pretty” pencils often breaks easily…)
  • pencil sharpener— this is the BEST pencil sharpener (once again, this is my biased opinion from years in an elementary classroom). And yes, my girls have regular access to this and use it independently
  • mechanical pencils— wonderful for helping children gain an understanding of pressure needed to write
  • twistable colored pencils— we also have standard colored pencils, but these allow you to skip a pencil sharpener if that’s not your thing
  • multi-colored pens— because who wouldn’t want to be able to write in multiple colors??? A ballpoint pen like this also requires more pressure from the child in order to make a mark, strengthening their hands and fine motor skills.
  • composition books— I really like unlined paper for small children… When they’re learning how to write, trying to stay on a line or in a space is very, very difficult!
  • unlined, small notebooks— notebooks with no lines give children freedom, both in writing words (see comment above) or to draw pictures instead of words (still encouraging written communication)
  • scraps of paper
  • stapler— my 5.5-year-old LOVES to make her own books, so we keep a stapler close to our writing supplies, too. Make sure to get a sturdy one that will withhold children slamming it to try to get it to staple!

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Need more reasons to get clipboards?

Putting paper into clipboards develops hand strength, essential to writing skills (and to so many life skills children need!). Clipboards can be used at an angle, helpful to some children while they’re developing hand, arm, and shoulder strength and mobility. And lastly, they’re just plain fun! Children get really excited when they can mimic adults and use a clipboard. Who doesn’t want to make writing more fun for your children???

For more information on writing tools, stages of writing, and how you can encourage writing at home and at school, check out:

Promoting Preschoolers’ Emergent Writing (I especially love the chart on “Stages of Emergent Writing” in this article, published on the National Association for the Education of Young Children website. Also, if you make it towards the bottom of the article, you’ll notice clipboards are suggested tools in almost every preschool center– see chart entitled “Learning Centers: Adding Meaningful Writing Materials and Literacy Props.”)

Emerging Knowledge About Emerging Writing (This article has lots of practical ideas for encouraging writing in preschool classrooms that can also easily be implemented at home. I really like the purple box at the very end, “To Correct or Not To Correct? The Answer May Surprise You.”)

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