Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Mark making activity box for pre-writing and emergent writers


Mark making activity box for emerging writers

When we are thinking about how to help young children become successful writers, there are a number of steps, or pre-requisites,  which must come before the expectation of a good pencil grip and the ability to form letters. The ability to mark make starts with the physical development of the child - esssential elements include building on their gross motor skills first and foremost before moving onto fine motor control and eventually pencil grip. Building up the muscles in their chest, shoulders, arms and hands is a really important process that young children must have the opportunity to go through before being expected to sit and form letters or write sentences - and this starts right at the beginning, through the use of 'tummy time' with babies.
This blog post isn't going to focus on these larger movements, I'll save that for another post! This piece will hopefully give you some ideas of the kinds of resources and activities you can do with children who are ready to start exploring mark making, or who are also getting lots of gross motor development alongside their mark making opportunities. The key, as always, is to keep things fun and interesting!

space ship activity boxmark making activity box

I originally started this activity box for my nephew who has just turned 4 years old and will be starting Reception class in September. Like a lot of young children ( especially boys!) he isn't really that interested in mark making and I wanted to see whether I could encourage him to at least have a try! 

Of course, if i was looking at this from the point of view of making his environment 'mark maker friendly' ( ie, his classroom or other setting) then I would be looking at providing provision areas to encourage writing and mark making in a fun and exciting way. For example, a Maths target practise area where they can shoot and score, with an expectation of recording the numbers they hit.....an 'Accident Reporting Station' for when they hurt themselves....a Wizard Writing Cave to encourage spells, potions and all other manner of writing opportunities.....or these fun homemade DVD whiteboards where you can change the name/words/pictures underneath.

Unfortunately, all of that is out of my control, so I focused on resources he could use in different ways at home with an activity pointer for each one...


Mark Making Resources to include:


1) Chalkola Chalk markers:






These pens use high density chalk ink, working a little bit like whiteboard pens, but they dry within minutes to a chalky finish which doesn't wipe away until you use a wet cloth. They are made for use on non-porous surfaces such as glass, plastic, whiteboards and chalkboards and we had SO much fun testing these out!

They do take a few minutes to get the ink flowing at first use (by shaking the pen and then pressing down the nib, Arthur loved to help with this) and then we were well away. We tried out the regular sized markers, the metallic pens and also the jumbo chalk pens which were perfect for little hands to grab hold of!

Here are some of the different ways we used our markers at home: On our patio doors, drawing our reflections in the mirror, on cardboard as 'paint pens' as Arthur liked to call them and on our different chalk boards...

Chalkola chalk pens on the windowChalkola chalk pens on the mirror

Chalkola chalk pens on cardChalkola chalk pens on chalkboard

Chalkola chalk pens outside

You can buy the Chalkola regular and jumbo markers direct from Amazon here: 
Chalkola Chalk markers and Chalkola Jumbo Chalk markers with a 15% discount for my readers by using the following code at checkout: 15OFFSTR.



2) Finger Light for mark making in the dark


Finger light

This actually came from a set of spooky finger lights for halloween but I thought this would be a great way to encourage children to make letters, shapes, rotations etc in the air when used in a dark room - Arthur loved this and it worked SO well... You can buy the Spooky finger links on Amazon here.

green finger light


3) Photo frame and glass marker crayon, or Chalkola pens


mark making on a photo frame

A lovely way to display your child's artwork straight away, by giving them an empty frame to decorate the display glass with Chalkola markers available to buy from amazon here (please see above for discount code). Easy to clean and reuse again, if you can bring yourself to! So many mark making opportunities with this one...


4) Whiteboard Speech Bubble and Pen


speech bubble whiteboard and pen

A good one to combine with ICT skills in the form of 'selfies' ( we like to use the Vtech Kiddi camera available here) a great way to encourage writing....especially if you let them use words you may not always say out loud ( yes, thats 'poo' obviously!!) Speech bubbles available to buy here.


5) Flashing Pendant light

LED flashing glow stick pendant

This one is a similar idea to the finger lights above, but can be used in the same way as you would a 'sparkler' on bonfire night....encourage those BIG shoulder and arm rotations to help build up those gross motor muscles for writing. Flashing glow sticks are available to buy here.


6) Fine Motor Playdough Tools 


playdough tools
Playdough is a brilliant tool for helping build up the muscles in the arms and hands and these tools are brilliant at helping with the fine motor control needed to become a successful writer. Mark making isn't just about writing using pens and pencils, marks can be made almost anywhere using so many different mediums. Playdough tools are availbale to buy here.


7) Chunky Crayons for BIG writing

chunky crayons

Often, early writers like to grip their mark making materials with the whole of their hand/palm as they develop their shoulder and elbow rotations. Chunky crayons are perfect for this and even better if you can use them with a HUGE piece of paper on the floor, or secured to the underneath of a table whilst they lie upside down......Chunky crayons are available to buy here

8) Envelopes

mark making envelopes

Why not let them pretend to be 'mum and dad' or play at being 'Teacher' by giving them real resources to use such as envelopes to send letters and cards. Everytime I added these into my classroom resources the amount of children wanting to write went crazy! Add in a post box somewhere and you will be well away....writing for a purpose easy! Kids wooden post box available here.


9) Bath Crayons

bath crayons
 Making bathtime AND mark making fun - Arthur loves these! My advice would be to avoid tile grout and stick to the bath or actual tiles though...bath crayons available to buy here.


10) Mini clipboard and pen

mini clipboard and pen
 Mark making is no fun if you have to stay in one place - most little ones like to do things 'on the go'! Why not go on a bug hunt outside, a car tally or take some food orders in the restaurant?? Party bag sized clip boards available to buy here.


11) Finger Crayons

finger crayons

Great for developing fine motor skills, or just making mark making a little bit different!! These finger crayons are available to buy here. You can also buy finger painbrushes here which are just as fab!


12) Rubber crayons


rubber crayons

Let them investigate and work out why these 'crayons' don't make marks like they expect....why not write some words or draw some patterns in pencil and encourage them to make the marks disappear by drawing over the top? Crayon shaped rubbers available to buy here.


 Blank stickers and name tags

blank label stickers

Who doesn't love a sticker?? Even better if you can make them yourself!! Which little one could resist this mark making opportunity?? Easy peel blank labels available to buy here.


 14) Plastic Scissors for playdough

plastic children's scissors

Scissors and snipping are a great way to build up fine motor control, and children love the challenge of making them work. It can be hard to find a safe option for small ones though. These tiny plastic ones are perfect for little fingers and can be used to snip away at playdough which is incredibly satisfying and much easier for young children to succeed at than using paper/card. Crayola also make a set of straight and zigzag safety scissors available to buy here 

15) Playdough


homemade playdough

We always make our own playdough - this means I can guarantee it's safety in case of ingestion, and it also means I can make lots of it!! Heavy pieces of playdough are a great strength builder for little arms and also allow for lots of squashing and squeezing, prodding and pinching which all adds to the development of the hand and arm muscles. You can follow my recipe in my Ice Cream playdoh role play post here

16) Paintbrushes and sponges


paintbrushes and sponges

Again, keeping mark making exciting requires a variety of exciting tools to make different patterns, thin and thick lines and using different mediums such as paint, water, cornflour etc. These paint brushes and sponges are perfect and you can buy a variety of similar resources here.

You can find more of my learning through play posts here.

Disclosure: The Chalkola pens were sent to me in return for an honest review. Some of the product links in this blog post are affiliate links - this wont cost you any more, but I may earn commission on any sales made within 24 hours of clicking the link.


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