Mark making or putting pen/crayon/pencil to paper, whatever you want to call it, was never something my boys had much interest in when they were young. If we talk about table activities - then mine love crafts and painting, cutting and pasting, gluing and sticking, but are/were not huge colouring fans or 'mark making' fans. My 4 year old started kindergarten and still wasn't interested. A tiny piece of me worried a bit, as much as I told myself not to. A few months into kindergarten though and he was writing up a storm. His letters are hard to read and all over the place with size and shape, but that part really doesn't worry me. He likes writing. That matters. He enjoys it. That matters.
I thought with my younger one perhaps I needed to present more opportunities to draw and colour. I was on the ball with early letter recognition (see my last post about having the alphabet in about a hundred places in our house) but maybe I didn't pull out the pencil enough? Who knows...it is all trial and error with parenting because each kid is so different.
I thought it would be a good idea to use my older son to help out in a way. His little brother LOVES to copy whatever he is doing, so I tried to think of an activity that would be fun for both of them. It is pretty tricky to set up something that works well for a 2 year old and a nearly 5 year old. Luckily this worked better than I could have imagined. The idea came to me a few nights earlier when we were reading Postman Bear by Julia Donaldson. We have the lift the flap version that comes with 3 stories titled Tales From Acorn Wood.
So on the weekend I set up a table with the book, some blank paper, crayons and envelopes as well as our English post box (an adorable gift from a friend in the UK - I'm sure you could make a simple version out of a box though, just hit up pinterest). Then I just watched to see what they did. My older son immediately wanted to write letters to the characters in the story. I loved this idea! At first my toddler just grabbed a truck and tried to roll it over what his brother was writing but soon he grabbed his own crayon and started to scribble along. When older brother finished writing the letter, he folded it up and tucked it in the envelope. My little one loved copying this. They licked their envelopes closed and tried to stuff them in the post box.
Unfortunately the toddler decided to poop then, so I took him to their bedroom to change him. While I was in there, there was a knock on the door and a little voice shouted, "Postman here with a letter!". Then the door opened and I had a letter flung in my face. Then the voice whispered through the door, "Mummy, you are frog. The letter is for you. Read it!". So I let little one help me open it and we read it out loud. Would you believe I was invited to Bear's birthday party? He was using the plot and role playing the characters. It was so sweet. Normally I am stuck being a villain while Captain America and Batman sneak up and attack me. This was a very nice change!
He asked me to stay in the bedroom because there was more mail to deliver. My toddler wanted to be postman too, so off he ran with his brother. I waited and soon I had two more letters come flying through the door. This went on for a good period of time (until we ran out of envelopes!) and then they decided to open up the post box and play with it. There are nice little slots in it and the toddler loves popping play money in through the holes. My older one pretends to work in the post office and the younger one keeps giving him money. They loved it.
I think if I do it again, I might even start to show my 4 year old what a written address looks like or point out the basic parts of a letter format. This time though, it was just so lovely to watch them run with the idea and have such a good time together. The little one chose to do a bit of mark making as well, so an overall success.
If only every playtime went so smoothly!
Hello! I'm Deb
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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