Three Ideas For Introducing Writing Into Play Situations

The Clipboard:

clipboard2 284x300 I find that clipboards are just about invaluable in any play situation (and many real life situations such as a trip to the shops).  If you make one available at all times, preferably with a pen attached to it with a short piece of string, children will leap at the chance of putting pen to paper.  There is something magical about being in charge of a clipboard that confers real status upon the writer!  Keep a clipboard in the play house and in the dressing up box.

It actually doesn’t matter how well a child can write, they are getting practice in putting pen to paper and having fun at the same time.  Very young children who are still ‘emergent’ writers are often the most enthusiastic, happily making marks which represent ‘meaning’ within the context of their play.

First aid kits give rise to doctors and nurses who have to make ‘notes’ on their patients.  I love listening to toddlers making serious ‘mmm’ noises and muttering ‘oh dear’ to themselves as they write!   Slightly older toddlers who have some idea of what goes on at school love to make and take registers.  If you’ve got out all the pretend play food then set up a cafe and get your child to take your orders. Shops where deliveries need organising often inspire writing, for example, a flower shop – you can have lots of fun making all the flowers, as well as little message cards, before the game even begins.  Setting up a bank, post-office or travel agent in a corner of the living room will also give rise to lots of opportunities for writing.

Invisible Ink and Secret Codes:

secret code 300x225 From about the age of six you notice a divergence in the way boys and girls play.  Girls tend to continue using writing and drawing in their play.  Boys on the other hand tend to adopt more physical forms of play.  As boys grow older, they need extra incentives to use writing in their play.  Invisible ink always stimulates the imagination.  To make your invisible ink mix lemon juice with a little water, dip the end of a cotton bud into it and use this as the writing implement.  To reveal invisible messages hold the paper near a light bulb or a gentle source of heat (not for little ones I’m afraid!) and the message will gradually appear.  You can also buy UV pens for this purpose.  One of our Little Sparks was once given one of these as a Christmas gift.  It was  in the form of a Doctor Who ‘sonic screwdriver’. There are now secret, but fortunately invisible, messages written all over our house!

Most children also enjoy making up their own codes by inventing new symbols for each letter of the alphabet – they could base these on hieroglyphs or ancient runes, or make up their own entirely.  They soon learn that to crack codes it is best to work on the short, high frequency words such as ‘the’ and ‘and’.  Without even realising it they are learning valuable lessons about the nature of the English language!

Speech Bubbles And Action Heroes:

action man on washing line 150x150 I’ve often found that speech bubbles are useful for all sorts of language work, but in this particular instance it is about channelling what is often slightly aggressive play, (much loved by six year old boys charging around with action figures) into something more constructive and hopefully very enjoyable.  Having said that there is absolutely no reason why Barbie and the girls shouldn’t have a day out!  Join in your child’s play but have a ‘point and shoot’ camera at the ready.  Take it in turns to take shots of the action figure as it performs various feats of daring, or indeed meets various sticky ends.  Make a montage of the photos and stick on some blank speech bubbles for your child to fill in.  This is a lovely way to make books and encourage both writing and reading, especially for those children who are reluctant to engage with text.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Marina at My Busy Children April 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm

great idea
I use NoSpamNX WP plugin – it works great
Marina at My Busy Children recently posted..Teaching kids to eat vegetables- make veggie drinksMy ComLuv Profile


mandy April 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Hi Marina, thanks for getting in touch and letting us know our spam plug-in was gobbling up everybody’s comments! Still, teething problems are nothing new to me!


Angie June 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I love, love, love these ideas! You are right, clipboards are mesmerizing to children, as is invisible ink. I have made stop action animation movies with dolls and action figures, but never thought to take still pictures and add captions! What a brilliant idea. Thank you!


Mandy June 10, 2011 at 7:51 am

Our pleasure Angie! :-) Thanks for stopping by.


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