A few weeks ago, my older daughter read a book in which the main character types a newspaper on a typewriter, and she decided she really, really wanted to do the same thing. Not one to say “No” to our girls when they’re really excited to read or write something, I told her we’d see what we could do (turns out used typewriters that work are hard to find and expensive!). But, being friends with an OT with every trick under the moon up her sleeve pays off, as my friend Courtney from OT OuTside has an old typewriter that we borrowed. And for the two weeks that it lived on our kitchen table, both of our girls wrote newspapers stories, letters, and notes on it every single day.
Which got me thinking about how I needed to share this tip with you all! No, I’m not saying you need to go out and find a typewriter for your kids to play on. But, I am encouraging you to think about what out-of-the-box tools you have around that can make writing fun and exciting for your emerging or reluctant writers (because, just like with reading, the more kids enjoy writing, the more they’re going to write, and the better they’re going to become). Read on for a few other ideas of fun, unique writing tools to get your kids excited about writing!
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Unique Writing Tools that Make Writing Exciting
old typewriters — In addition to just being so incredibly unusual and different that children really love to use them, using typewriters has TONS of early learning benefits, too! Among many, you can count on children learning letter recognition and increasing finger, hand, and shoulder strength. And, because typewriters are usually old, your children might get an extra dose of patience and resilience while they pound away to try to make the keys strike correctly.
clipboards — I wrote a whole love letter to clipboards here, so check it out if you never saw it. If you don’t have any in your house, consider making the small investment now, because it’ll give you years of returns in the realm of making writing fun and accessible for children!
dry erase whiteboards — Whether full-sized and mounted on a wall or personal-sized and portable, whiteboards are just fun. Yes, your children are more likely to just color on them, but you could throw in some quick letter recognition or site word practice while they’re coloring. Or, use them to write letters back and forth… The possibilities are pretty much endless when you can erase and restart so easily! And, if you have dry erase markers, you could consider letting your children write on your windows — changing the location to make it exciting AND build some shoulder strength!
mailboxes — We had these Melissa and Doug mailboxes for a while to inspire letter-writing between our family members, but you don’t even have to be that official with them. After we got rid of those mailboxes, our older daughter just taped folded pieces of paper to both girls’ doors to serve as mailboxes so that they could write notes to each other. After all, think about how excited you get when you open the mailbox and have something that’s personal amidst all the junk — your kids will feel the same way about their mailboxes, too! On this note, our five-year-old is currently obsessed with envelopes and writes “letters” to friends and family every single day just so she can put them in an envelope, so you might want to stock up on those, too!
Sharpie markers — Yes, you might want to keep an eye on your children while they learn to use these, but… Because a permanent marker tends to be a “forbidden” tool for children, they get extremely excited when they actually get to use them! We actually keep our Sharpies out and accessible for the girls every day, and they’ve learned how to use them responsibly to keep that privilege. But even with this accessibility, they are still thrilled to use these grown-up writing tools every single day!
magnetic letters, alphabet stamps, and alphabet cookie cutters — You likely already have some or all of these, but if not, consider adding them to your toy collection and keeping them freely accessible. Simply playing with letters is a wonderful way for young preschoolers to start to build letter recognition, and you can, of course, do more “formal” writing activities with these tools as children get older.
Whatever you choose, keep its location in mind as you bring it into your house and find a place for it to live. Just like with the books we want our children to read, writing tools need to be accessible to children so that they can actually use them. Our beloved front-facing bookshelf has storage compartments on the top, so our children always have access to clipboards, paper, pencils, pens, markers, and notebooks (yes, even markers… and they’ve had everyday access to them since our older daughter was tiny… they’re actually pretty unlikely to ever draw on walls or furniture, and if they do, that’s a situation ripe with logical consequences to help them learn!). Our letter stamps, alphabet stickers, staplers, crayons, colored pencils, and more all live in a nearby art drawer, where the girls can get them whenever they want.
And just as the location and accessibility of the supplies is important, be flexible with where your children can do their writing! Some do indeed prefer to sit in a chair at a desk/table surface, but others will want to lie on their stomachs or lounge on the couch. Remember that your goal with these emerging and reluctant writers at home is to engage them happily in writing, so follow their leads!
So, what unique or engaging ways do you encourage your children to “make their mark” and share their ideas in a written way?