One of the most eager questions parents ask is – when do kids start writing?
It’s an understandable question. Everyone wants their child to be a savant and turn into the next Shakespeare. But the truth is – all children are going to follow a relatively similar pattern in their path to becoming literate.
So before we dive into the different stages, let’s briefly look over all the complex competencies required to be able to write:
Skills needed for kids to start writing
Writing is a far more complex task than you might believe. As adults, we find it laughably easy to grab a pencil and jot down some thoughts – but it’s WAY more complicated than that.
First, your child will need to develop motor skills, linguistic understanding, the ability to recognize words, and then the association of sounds to shapes.
Your child needs to do ALL those things before they can even learn to write their name.
Once your child starts to develop those skills, then we can move on to more complex writing competencies. In other words – it’s a long process! So you’ll need to have some patience and understand that every child is different.
But to have a general understanding, let’s go through each developmental stage and figure out typical writing skills a child may have. But remember – this is just a guide, not a firm rule.
At this first stage, when your child is 1-2 years old, the first thing they’ll start to practice is their motor skills. At this age, they’ll be able to hold a utensil (like a crayon) in a clenched fist.
So they won’t have any refined writing abilities, but they’ll be starting to work on their hand-eye coordination.
At this stage, they won’t be able to truly recognize letters or words, but they’ll be in the first stages of understanding that words represent the world around us. They might start to know what the word “cat” means, but they won’t be able to read it.
So at the toddler stage, the best thing you can do is simply allow them to explore their motor skills and practice coloring and “writing”. This helps develop the hand-eye coordination they need once they’re ready to start reading.
When children are 3 or 4 years old, they’ll start to get better at using crayons. They’ll understand what utensils do and they might be able to make different shapes and lines using a crayon.
Here is where you’ll start to see the first true breakthroughs. Many children at this stage are able to start writing some letters, and possibly even their names. However, it’s a very basic understanding and it’s likely they’ve memorized the patterns, rather than truly grasped the underlying concept.
This is the perfect stage to start reciting and practicing the alphabet with your child. Make sure to repeat and practice often so that they’ll start to associate the letters with sounds and be able to recognize full words.
Ages 5-7 will show some of the biggest improvements in reading. By this age, they’ll certainly be able to connect letters to sounds, as well as be able to write individual letters – although it will still need some refining.
They’ll be able to write basic words and perhaps even very simple sentences. In the later stages, they should be able to start writing their opinion such as “My favorite food is …”.
Their reading abilities should also start to establish at this point. They’ll be able to learn basic phonetic structures and be able to sound out words. Likewise, they’ll be able to recognize words that aren’t phonetically obvious.
In the later stage (ages 6-7), they should be able to sound out a simple book, even if they have difficulty understanding it or reading complex words.
Once kids are aged 8-10, they’ll start to become more independent with their reading. They should have less difficulty with simple sentences and will be able to infer meaning (i.e., read between the lines).
They’ll also be able to understand grammatical concepts such as prefixes, root words, adjectives, nouns, etc.
This is also a key stage to start teaching your child how to plan, write, and edit a text. It’s a critical point to help your child understand that writing can be systematic and vary in effectiveness and clarity.
This is the final stage of elementary linguistic capabilities. By the end of elementary school, they’ll be able to read most texts – even if they find unknown vocabulary.
At the middle school age (10-13), children will start to be able to develop more complex understandings of the language.
Their writing should start to include more accurate vocabulary and grammatical complexity. They should also be able to write detailed narratives of personal events and opinions.
The middle school age is a critical step for several elements. Firstly, they should start to effectively plan and revise their writing, as well as be able to search for information to include in their writing. They should be able to understand that citations are important and they need to back up their claims with other sources. At this stage, they’ll also be able to develop their typing skills – a crucial point that is fundamental in this digital age.
Finally, they should also start to understand the different purposes of writing. They should recognize argumentative papers, opinion pieces, and different types of literature. They should also be able to do a basic analysis of more simplistic works of literature.
In high school (age 13-18), children will continue to work on their complex understanding of the language. They’ll considerably develop their ability to type, recognize vocabulary, and improve their grasp of grammar.
At this stage, children will need to be able to effectively use language to write complex papers in subjects outside of their Language Arts class. This way, they’ll be able to become more flexible with their writing skills and use it as a tool to improve their comprehension of other topics.
Planning and structuring will improve greatly. They should be able to understand how to structure a text based on the topic at hand, as well as understand the appropriateness of different registers of language.
In their English classes, they’ll be able to interpret inferred meaning from complex writings. While some works may still be too complicated, they should at least be able to develop a surface-level understanding of literature.
After High School, a child should be able to adapt their writing sufficiently to achieve most daily tasks. They should be able to write letters, read books, and handle formal documents. While they may not be experts in literature – especially if they don’t find it interesting – their writing skills should be complete enough to write clear, coherent texts.
Have Your Kids Start Writing Today
Your child is going to hit many milestones along their journey to becoming literate. And you should make sure you take the time to celebrate each of their steps.
Remember that your child will go at a different pace from others – so don’t stress if it takes them a bit longer in the beginning. Instead, make sure to encourage them to find joy in writing and to work with them in a positive, loving way. Here is an article about 《How to teach kids to write？》
Because the truth is – your ability to write effectively never stops growing. Even adults are constantly learning to improve their writing competencies. Whether you are working on creating more appropriate emails or writing short stories – it’s a lifelong journey.
So encourage your child to enjoy that journey, and don’t worry so much about when do kids start writing!