Tobin hates to write. With some prodding, begging, and gnashing of teeth (mine, not his) I can get him to write his own name on a birthday card, or possibly, “zoo” or “mom” on the whiteboard in our kitchen, but that is about it. He doesn’t like to draw. He doesn’t like to color; to the best of my knowledge, he’s never made his way through an entire coloring book page. As a toddler he would scribble a bit, but he rarely does that now. He does occasionally like to write in his workbooks, but he won’t do any page that isn’t either a maze or drawing a circle around the correct answer. Unfortunately, he’s getting to the point where it’s hard to find workbooks that aren’t too easy for him conceptually, but still meet his criteria of only drawing lines and circles. Most of the kindergarten and first grade workbooks that I have seen expect the kids to start tracing and writing the numbers and the letters of the alphabet. Tobin always wants to skip those pages, but then we quickly run out of pages to do.
So my only major homeschooling goal for Tobin this school year is to try to get him writing. He’s known his shapes, colors, alphabet, and numbers for years now. He can add and subtract. Learning to read just seemed to happen naturally. I can’t even pinpoint how or when it happened. We read to him frequently, but I didn’t really have to actively teach him how to read. On a daily basis, Tobin surprises me with the words he is already able to read without any help.
Initially, I thought that Tobin’s aversion to writing stemmed from a lack of small motor skills, but I really don’t think that is the case. A videogame controller is putty in his hands. He can manipulate very small Lego pieces. He plays with Play-doh and can use all of the little cutters and other clay modeling tools we have. And, although he doesn’t like to color with crayons (except occasionally his bathtub crayons), he does very much like to paint. He takes quite a bit of care when he paints. I often buy those little flat wooden cut-outs from the craft store, and Tobin pays very close attention when he paints the edges and makes sure to cover every bit of the wood surface with paint. Sometimes, he even tries to paint the various parts of the cut-outs in different colors, attempting not to overlap two colors where they would meet. I am hoping that the act of maneuvering a paintbrush will naturally evolve into managing a pencil better.
This week, I have been brainstorming more ways to help Tobin get closer to writing by himself. He will occasionally write on his whiteboard although he prefers that I write everything on it myself so that he can just read it. Hoping to entice him to use the whiteboard a little more frequently, I bought him a new package of dry erase markers in different colors. I also have some finger paint that I would like to try to get him to use. I was thinking that perhaps he could practice forming letters of the alphabet in the paint with his index finger. Because writing with a finger in paint is most likely easier than manipulating a pencil, it is my hope that this will instill some confidence in Tobin regarding his writing abilities. My only concern with the finger paint is that he is sometimes picky about getting his hands dirty. When Steve was in preschool, I remember his teacher bringing in cheap shaving cream that they squirted out onto the table for the kids to practice writing their letters of the alphabet in. That could be fun too.
If anyone else can think of some other activities that would help build motor skills for writing, please feel free to share them. Tobin can thank you with a handwritten note…perhaps in finger paint and shaving cream?