Helping Children Write Their Names
Every child deserves the chance to learn to write their name. As an occupational therapist working with children for over 35 years now, it’s something in which I firmly believe. I pride myself on making name writing fun, developmentally appropriate, and an obtainable goal for all students.
The key to successfully meeting this goal is to make sure you are meeting the child at their developmental level regardless of their age. I want the child to take pride in their name so they are also motivated to learn this skill.
How I Teach Name Writing
Here’s how I start to teach name writing:
I always begin with the prewriting strokes and capital letters. Developmentally, it is easier for a child to write a CAPITAL letter than a lowercase letter. Capital letters can be made with big lines, little lines, big curves, and little curves. These strokes are developmentally easier than writing a lowercase letter. A child needs to change direction in their stroke to form a lowercase letter. This is more difficult.
When teaching name writing, my goal is that the child can independently write their name in title case. Title case is defined at a capital letter first then lowercase letters. When we first shared the video above on our Facebook page, the most frequently asked question was around how to progress children to being able to write their names in title case.
I also define "independently" with the child as not relying on a visual model. This is crucial for functional name writing.
The other skill set is that the child needs to remember all of the letters in their name in the correct order. I always start with CAPITALS because they are easier in the writing world. Once the child has mastered their name in all CAPS with access to a visual model, I graduate them to title case with access to a model. I slowly fade out the visual supports, so the child can achieve functional name writing.
Key Things to Remember
- Build a rapport with the student. Get them excited about learning to write their name. Make sure you know what name the parents want you to teach. For example, is it a nickname?
- Determine hand preference. Hand preference needs to be determined before direct instruction for name writing. If the child is still switching hands often, then they might not be ready to write their name.
- Develop a strong foundation. It's important for the child to have a strong foundation with prewriting strokes prior to writing letters. The child should be able to imitate a vertical line, horizontal line, circle, cross, and then diagonal lines come last. Diagonal lines can be successfully imitated between the ages of 4-6. Young girls often develop fine motor skills sooner than boys. If the child's first letter in their name contains a diagonal stroke (A,K,M,N,R,V,W,X,Y,Z) this might be challenging for them.
- Equip them with the right tools. Make sure before you start to teach name writing that the desk/table fits the child and the writing tool is the right size for their hand. Providing strips of paper or boxes can often help children control the size of letters.
- Demonstrate and Imitate. The key to success is demonstration and imitation. The child needs to see how the letters are formed. We often take a child to copying—also known as guided practice—too quickly. Before that stage, it is important that the child actively sees how the letters are formed.
- Remember to go letter by letter. Take it slow and progress letter by letter.
- Be consistent. Use consistent terminology when giving verbal instructions on how letters are formed.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the best age to teach a child to write their name?
It entirely depends on the child's developmental abilities. If the child can imitate the prewriting stokes, then I start to progress them to their name in all capital letters knowing that some letters will be easier than others.
- Do the same rules apply for left-handed writers? Is there anything I should do differently?
Left-handed children should be expected to hold the writing tool the same way as right-handed children. The tripod grasp is the most efficient grasp for a child, no matter what hand they write with. The only difference for a left-handed child is that the visual cue for their name is better positioned to the right of their writing. However you will always start with imitation, so the visual cue will be top to bottom.
- How often should we practice writing their name?
I like to add name writing throughout the child's day. Often I will have children write their names when they are going to a different center, snack tickets have to be signed, attendance can be taken from the daily sign-in sheet, a list of all of the children's names with their pictures is available in the art area.
Learning Without Tears Can Help You Teach Children to Write Their Names
LWT has so many amazing resources to support name writing. All of the multisensory materials will fully support the goal of a child being able to independently write their name.
Here are some of my favorites:
I believe that a child learning to independently write their name in title case is a crucial, functional life skill!