How writing develops

How Writing Develops     

Young children move through a series of stages as they are learning to write.

The stages reflect a child's growing understanding of literacy, including letters, sounds and spacing of words within sentences.


  • Most children begin their writing by scribbling and drawing.
  • Grasping the crayon or pencil with a full fist, a young scribbling child is exploring with space and form. They are creating a permanent record of thier ideas and thoughts. These first scribbles can be proud accomplishments! Thick markers, crayons, and unlined paper are good resources to use at this stage.

Letter-like forms and shapes

  • At this stage of writing development, children begin to display their understanding that writers use symbols to convey their meaning.
  • Writing begins to include shapes (circles, squares) and other figures.
  • Your child in this stage may write something and ask, "What does this say?" There's little order of forms and shapes to space (i.e., they appear in random places within the writing or drawing).
  • Tubs of markers, crayons, and paper remain good writing equipment at this stage.


  • As your child's writing continues to develop, they will begin to use random letters.
  • Most children begin with consonants, especially those in their name.
  • Pieces of writing are usually a few upper-case consonants, without attention to spaces between words or direction
  • At the beginning of this stage, there remains a lack of understanding in matching the sound the letter they have drawn to the sound it makes.
  • Later efforts may include letters for the actual sounds in words and include their own name.
  • Different types of paper, including memo pads, envelopes, lined paper and some smaller pens and pencils are good resources at this stage. Tubs of foam letters and letter magnets are also handy.

Letters and spaces

  • As your child starts to practise their craft, they are learning many ideas about writing.  
  • When a child points to individual words on a page when reading, and works to match their speech to a printed word, a concept of word is developing.
  • This awareness of the purpose and existence of spaces separating words and that spoken words match to printed words is known as a concept of word. This is an important stage in your child's writing journey.
  • At this stage, children write with beginning and ending sounds. They also may begin to spell some high frequency words correctly. Vowels may be inserted into words.
  • As your child transitions to more conventional writing, they will begin to write words the way they sound.
  • Punctuation begins as writers experiment with forming sentences.

Conventional writing and spelling

  • At this stage, children spell most words correctly, with a reliance on phonics knowledge to spell longer words.
  • Writers use punctuation marks correctly and use capital and lower case letters in the correct places.
  • Writing for different purposes becomes more important.
  • Storybook language, "Once upon a time," and "happily ever after," become a part of writing samples as the child joins the league of writers with a storytelling purpose.
  • As your child progresses through the writing stages, various pieces become more automatic and fluent. Handwriting becomes easier, as does the spelling of a majority of words.


At all stages, it's important to celebrate the writing efforts of your young child. Find opportunities to have your child share their work with others. Display efforts on the wall or on the refrigerator. You could ask your child to read their work at the dinner table or by sitting in a special author's chair