Not long ago, a colleague of mine with a three-month-old son was looking over the five early literacy activities for children ages 0-5. She was going through each activity: talk, play, read, write, sing and checking off the things she was doing with her infant for each of the activities. She talked to her son constantly, played with him, sang songs and read books to him, but when she got to “write”, she realized she was at a loss.
“How do you write with a three-month-old?” she asked.
If you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of child development, it’s definitely a very good question!
When it comes to those five early literacy skills, the term “writing” can be misleading, especially in the context of infants and babies. Obviously, your infant is not capable of writing or scribbling, or much of anything beyond clutching a jumbo crayon while you try to keep him from immediately sticking it into his mouth. That is completely normal. What few people realize is that the building blocks for that scribbling toddler and that preschool student writing his name across his paper, is the honing of fine motor muscles in the hands and fingers. And that is what you can do as a “writing” activity for your baby: help him build all those little muscles in his hands and fingers that he will one day use to control the jumbo crayon, and eventually a pen or pencil.
Making your infant aware of his fingers (toes are fun too) by playing little games like, “This Little Piggy Went to Market” or modeling different fine motor movements by doing finger plays such as, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Patty Cake” with your baby are also great ways to engage him in fine motor movement. If you’re looking for other ways to incorporate fine motor movements with your baby, you can learn to finger-spell the ABCs or use your fingers to demonstrate numbers when you count.
Eventually, he will learn how to use his hands for more than just grabbing and holding on as tight as he can, and the more you play and demonstrate how to use your fingers, the more you’ll be helping him towards those writing skills he’ll need for early literacy.