How did we learn to write? It happens so naturally for most of us that we would find it difficult to say. However it will help parents to know the different stages that children go through, so that we can support them as they develop.

Children begin to learn the process of writing from an early age.


As with speaking, they begin to write by copying the people around them and they soon begin to know the difference between writing and drawing. Children go through definite stages of writing before they reach the level that adults are at

Stage 1

Before children can write, they have to have something to say. They need to have gained some understanding of the world around them to talk about their ideas and feelings. They have to know that talk can be written down for themselves or for others to read. They need time to draw and play to develop their hand and eye co-ordination. Children's early attempts at writing look like scribbles. Praise and encourage their attempts at writing

Stage 2

At this stage their writing maybe represented by lots of circles or little marks, which begin to look like letters.

Stage 3         

This is the stage that we would expect an average child to enter reception at.Gradually, you may notice that some of the shapes look like letters. It is common for the first letters written by a child to be the letters in their name, and often they are written in capitals.

Stage 4

This is when their writing begins to look more like real words, even though the sounds don't always match and may only have one letter to represent a whole word. The writing begins to go from left to right and is formed on lines.

Stage 5       

The following forms the basis of all literacy work covered in the reception year.

As children learn more about letters and sounds, they begin to include this knowledge in their writing. Children initially write the first sound in the word. Then more letters appear, some middle sounds followed by final sounds, and words become recognizable. Some may be spelt from sight, some from sounds. Children must remember to compose their sentence before they begin writing and to keep rereading their work in order to determine the next word and to check that their writing makes sense. Work on simple punctuation is also covered i.e. appropriate use of capitals, full stops and finger spaces.

This is the stage that we would expect an average child to leave reception at.

Stage 6

Children build up a bank of common words which gives them the skills to make their writing easier to read, and they begin to progress towards using standard English. This usually happens throughout Years 1 and 2. Remember not all children develop at the same rate and some may take even longer.

In school children are given different types of writing to do and begin to write for different audiences. These may include stories, lists, letters, invitations, rhymes and poems.


  • Let them see your writing. Encourage them to think of messages that they can help you to write down. Get them to think of something that you need to buy at the supermarket and add it to your shopping list
  • Provide them with different kinds of paper and a variety of pencils, paints crayons and chalks for them to explore
  • Make sure they hold a pencil correctly, lightly between their thumb and first finger about 2cm from the point
  • Once they are using some recognizable and repeated shapes introduce some handwriting patterns
  • Encourage them to trace letters following the correct formation
  • Help them to recognize, trace and copy their name, using only a capital letter at the beginning
  • Encourage your child to have a go and do play writing, by filling in their own forms, writing shopping lists, catalogue orders, greeting cards and letters
  • Hold your child's hand to start with and write it together, talking about letter formations and directions
  • Write letters on their back using your finger and get them to guess what it is
  • Encourage your child to point out letters in print around them discussing their associated sounds
  • Involve them in writing for real and interesting purposes, such as signing their name on a birthday card, writing a list of friends to invite to a party  or a letter to a relative
  • Create a place for them to write where there are notepads, labels, paper cheques, a chalkboard, little writing books or a register
  • Encourage them to say what they want to write and write it down for them to trace initially then copy underneath
  • Encourage them to play at writing and have a go independently. Write it out correctly next to their attempt for them to see
  • Find out what practice activities your child enjoys (tracing, copying, drawing, using chalks or felt tips)
  • Always encourage your child to form letters properly as this saves having to break bad habits at a later date!


  • Remember to praise children's attempts at writing
  • Don't correct every spelling or they will lose confidence. Pick out a few easy words that they use often and try the look, cover, write and check method
  • When they ask you to write a word get them to have a go first by sounding out, then if need be write the correct spelling for them to copy
  • No child learns to write at the same rate as another