Making marks is an important milestone for preschoolers - although this may not always be easy to appreciate when the ‘marks’ are made on a bedroom wall in permanent marker…
Around the age of two, children discover the sheer pleasure of making marks. They pick up any crayon, pencil or pen and they scribble. It’s easy to dismiss the different lines and circles children create as just ‘scribbles’, but actually, children are mark-making, and it’s the first step towards writing.
Holding and controlling a pen takes a lot of skill; skills involving hand-eye co-ordination and muscle control in both hands and fingers. Making marks enables children to develop their hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skills through:
- holding a pen
- deciding what grip suits them best
- deciding which hand feels most natural
- making small controlled movements using the pen
Mark-making also opens the door for children to express themselves in a completely new way. It gives children the opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts without relying solely upon verbal communication. They can share with the adults around them as they draw, and their completed pictures offer an ongoing opportunity for children to keep sharing their insights on what their picture represents.
Mark-making does not just have to involve a pen and paper. Children can be taken outside and draw on concrete with chalks that can be washed away, or they can draw in sand. Making marks can involve drawing on frosted windows, or even dad’s dirty car!
We need to ensure we respond positively and enthusiastically to the marks our children make, giving lots of praise for their hard work. We need to take the time to listen whilst our children explain their picture and share the story they have created. Negative comments, lack of interest, over-questioning the image or trying to correct it, can lead to the child feeling disheartened, which slows their progress towards writing.
Mark making, added together with the encouragement and praise from adults around them, creates a fantastic opportunity for children to make sense of the world and express their feelings in a fun and creative way - all the while reaping in the developmental benefits mark making has to offer.