How to Teach my Child to Write their Name the Easy Way

There is no hard and fast rule as to when a child should write their name.  But usually by Grade 00 your child’s peers are starting to write their names on their art work, and that can either light the spark, or can even put them under pressure to feel like they should be able to write their name.  The South African CAPS curriculum seems to indicate that children should be able to write their name by Grade R.  Read on for practical tips for: “how teach my child to write their name.”

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Lower or upper case letters for for when I teach my child to write their name?

In South Africa we use lower case letters for learning to write children’s names.  Our handwriting approach in this country is to learn lower case letters first, and the upper case or capitals, come later.  In some countries they teach uppercase first, but when in Rome do as the Romans do!  Besides, I believe the lower case are easier to get into the habit of forming with a continuous stroke, rather than the multiple pick-ups that are a feature of the upper case letters.

When should a child be able to write their name?

Developmental abilities are more important than age when to comes to learning to write your name.  Letters are made up of lines and shapes.  If your child is struggling to draw basic lines or to replicate shapes, they are going to struggle to write their names.  Learning to write your name is a huge developmental achievement and we want our children to be successful at it.  If they they try and fail, they are going to be reluctant to go there again, and when it comes to tasks they have found difficult, our children have excellent memories.  If we put the cart before the horse and try to teach them to write their names before they have mastered the basic lines and shapes, the chances are that it isn’t going to be such a successful venture.

Checklist: is it time for me teach my child to write their name?

  1. Is your child able to draw a vertical and horizontal line, a circle and an upright and diagonal cross?  If so, you can move on to the next step.  If not, you need to spend some time working on developing the lines and strokes before you get going with learning to write their name.
  2. Is your child able to draw the basic shapes: a circle, square, and triangle?  If they can, you are ready for the next step.  If not, spend some time developing the basic shapes.  The investment will be well worth it when to comes to learning to write your name.
  3. Is your child able to hold and manipulate a writing tool?  If they can’t do that, it is not the time to be learning to write their name.  Invest some time in teaching them to cut, and developing the muscles and movement patterns for developing pencil control for handwriting.
    All of these in place?  You are good to go!
    Oh, sorry one more!
  4. And that is Developmental readiness.  Developmental readiness is your child being ready to tackle the task in terms of interest.  All the foundation skills may be in place but if your child is just not interested it is not the right time.  They will get interested when they see others writing.

Dentia Dinger from Play Counts says the following:

“Parents if you are THAT anxious about your child writing . . .then put down your phone, walk away from your computer and WRITE.  The majority of children bring what they learn from the adults in their life and their experiences into their play. . . If you want your child to be kind: MODEL kindness.  If you want your child to be patient: MODEL patience.  If you want your child to write: MODEL writing.”

So, if your child is not interested in learning to write their name, it may be time for you to be intentional about doing some writing.  Write their name on their pictures and art work when you hang them up with the other 100 pieces of artwork that are hanging precariously from the magnet on the fridge.  Write a shopping list.  Write labels for your sugar and tea.  Even if you don’t want labels – that is not the point.  You want your child to see writing by hand as a grown-up, adult thing that they want to emulate.

And now: time to get going teaching your preschooler to write their name!

Seating and page positioning for name writing activities for pre-schoolers.

It is best to seat your child at a size appropriate table and chair.  Or, an adult size chair with a booster seat, and foot rest.  Children do so much better with learning to write if they are well-seated with the table at the appropriate height.

The page needs to be slanted and not parallel to the edge of the table.

paper positioning for handwriting correct hand position of writing positioning the paper correctly for handwriting

Teaching preschoolers to write their name : use letter sounds.

Use the letter sounds and not the letter name when teaching your child to write their name.  Every letter has a name: a, b, c.  But it also has a sound.  If you are not familiar with the sounds of the letters, find a friendly preschool or foundation phase teacher who will be only too glad to run you through it.  And once they have, you will realize you knew it all along – you just weren’t sure what I was talking about here.  A for Annie, B for Bongani and K for Koos.  You are going to need to say the letter sound as your child is learning to write each letter.

Learn to write your name tips: starting positions for letter formation.

Starting positions of letters are critical and if you can get this right when your child is learning to write their name, you can give yourself a gold star!  Our starting point at The Happy Handwriter is The Doughnut®.  It is the open circle on the letter.  And every letter starts from The Doughnut.

How do I teach my preschooler to write his name: letter formation patterns.

We have letter formation songs which children can sing as they form each letter. Listen to the song here.

Why teach my child to write their name with a name grid?

Here at The Happy Handwriter, we believe in repetition in the correct formation pattern to establish the “motor maps” for letter formation in the brain, in the correct formation patterns.  If your child practices their name over and over, but they make the “d” by making a circle and then adding a line, it’s going to establish that as the formation pattern for a “d”.  It may look correct but when it comes to letter formation and handwriting later on, they are going to have to re-learn their letter with the correct formation pattern.  It is always easier to learn a motor pattern, than to unlearn the old one and relearn the new.

Using a name grid will eliminate this pitfall and ensure that each time a letter is practiced it is done in the correct formation pattern.  And so begins their journey with rainbow letters and numbers®.  Firstly they trace all the letters with their green colour.  Then all of them with their red.  And they keep adding colours until they have created a rainbow name.

In the beginning you are going to need to sit with your child, point out the starting position, and sing along with the song as they form each letter.  Once they have got that, they will need less direct focus from your side.

Once they had mastered the initial stages, I used to put my children at the kitchen table (well-positioned, I might add!) while I was cooking and they could make a “place mat” out of their name grid.  And they loved that.  And by the time the novelty had worn off, they had mastered their names.

A multisensory route is always the best way to go when it comes to learning letters.  If you want to go that route then take a look at how we incorporate the visual, auditory and touch input, without creating a huge mess.

The are many creative ways you will find online to work on helping your child to learn to write their name.  When choosing, just be sure that you following the principles of ensuring that each time they write the letter they do so in the correct formation pattern.  You don’t want to be relearning that and “n” is not a bump with a line added, later on.

Learning to write their name is a rite of passage for a child.  They feel such a huge sense of mastery and accomplishment and it is a special milestone you can share together.  Learning to do it with the correct letter formation patterns is going to ensure they can learn it “the right way the first time®”, preventing them from having to re-learn it later on.

©Bunty McDougall
Occupational Therapist

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