Sign Me Up! Meaningful Ways to Encourage Preschoolers to Write Their Names

I wrote a while back about a sign-in chart that provides regular practice for name-writing while also providing a record-keeping system to track progress.  Some children really thrive with this method — they’ve recently figured out that they OWN their name, and they want to write it everywhere!  Others however, are more reluctant.  “I already did that,” they may say.  Like the parent who’s constantly cleaning the same kitchen, the child wonders, “Why am I doing this again?  I did it yesterday!”  Sometimes all a child needs is more purpose for the writing.  Writing it today so they can write it again tomorrow just doesn’t always cut it.  Here are some ways you can encourage reluctant writers to leave their mark.

Label it.

Encourage children to write their own names on their artwork or other items.  Remind them that that’s how people will know it belongs to them so it won’t get lost.  This might be as simple as adding a marker to the art table or providing a crayon on a string at the easel for labeling, or it may mean sitting down with your son and relinquishing control of the forbidden and therefore alluring Sharpie marker so that he can label every soccer ball, basketball, and beach ball in the house.  When children realize that writing their name on something is proof of ownership, the task is not only meaningful, but powerful.

Mail it.

Help your child write letters or cards to friends and family members.  Write what your child dictates, and then allow her to write her name at the bottom (“So they know it’s really from you!”).  The mail is a mysterious, wonderful thing, and the hope of receiving something in return is often incentive enough to get your child on-board. 

Mandi Ehman at Life…Your Way has made the brilliant suggestion of using your child’s artwork to share with others in the mail.  (It cuts down on your paper clutter without diminishing the value of your child’s work.)  Just have your children write their names on the back, along with a message they dictated to you, and then mail it off to Grandma.  Art, literacy, name-writing, family connections, and organization all in one shot!

Sign here, please.

Use sign-ins and sign-ups as much as possible!  Want to borrow a book?  Sign here.  Want a turn at the computer?  Write your name on the waiting list.  Do you like dogs or cats?  Write your name in a column on the survey chart.  Instead of telling your children that the sign-in chart is for practicing names, tell them that’s where you sign up for snack today!  Have children sign up when they are waiting for a turn with something.  Tell them that the list lets you know who’s next.  Besides motivating them to write their names, it teaches them about turn-taking and keeps them engaged in something when they might otherwise be growing impatient.

Play it up.

Incorporate name writing into you play situations.  Many children perform much better when working as an alter-ego!  I’ll give you an example.  I worked with a little gal who had little to no interest in practicing her name.  It just didn’t mean anything to her.  What she did love was dramatic play.  She was always coming up with new stories and characters, and it was all very real to her.  One day she asked for a new prop, a doctor’s kit I believe.  I went to my supply closet and pulled one out, but on my way back to her play area, I snagged a notebook and a pencil.  I approached her as a delivery person, saying, “I have a delivery here. I think you ordered it.  I just need you to sign your name here, please.”  She looked at me suspiciously and then scribbled on the paper.  “No, ma’am.  I need your name so I know you got your delivery.”  She looked at me again, and thought for a minute.  Then she carefully wrote every letter in her name (for the first time that year), and staying true to the story we had created, thanked me for the delivery as I handed her the package.

Find ways to make name-writing playful.  Make random deliveries, ask for their autograph, and take orders at the kitchen diner (“Write your name under the picture of which snack you want to order today“).  Play is an incredibly powerful motivator!

What are some of the ways you encourage preschoolers to practice writing their names?

Top photo by Vivek Chugh.



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