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Building Muscles for Writing

Your little one can use her hands and fingers to play with toys and to do many things for herself. This helps her develop the muscles and coordination needed to begin writing. Here's how.

Give them homemade toys to play with.

Make a simple puzzle for your toddler by gluing a picture to cardboard and cutting it into five or six pieces. Provide dress-up clothes with buttons and zippers. Offer scrap paper to be torn.

Make play dough that your toddler can roll, pound, and squeeze. Mix together 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water, and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Put food coloring in the water if you like. Add more flour if the dough is sticky. Store in an airtight plastic bag or container.

Let an older toddler borrow your safe kitchen tools -- a wooden spoon, plastic knives and forks, a cookie cutter -- to use with play dough.

Let them do things for themselves.

Plan your day so there's time for your toddler to wash, dress, and feed himself. He may take longer to put on sneakers than you do, but "Me do it" is a mark of pride.

Make your home "toddler-friendly." A refillable pump soap dispenser is easier for your child to use than a bar of soap, and a small plastic cup fits in her hand. Keep her toothbrush where she can reach it.

Help them learn about writing by scribbling, watching you write, and seeing words around them.

Look for inexpensive large pads of paper and large, nontoxic crayons and washable markers. Save scrap paper and paper bags. Keep a supply of drawing and writing materials where your toddler can reach them.

Ask your child to get some paper and crayons so you can write together. He will learn about writing by watching you make a list, sign a check, or do a crossword puzzle. His scribbles are a way of copying what you're writing.

Talk to your young one about her scribbles. "You made a line and a dot. This line is thicker than that one. You used two colors, red and blue."

Point to written words around you and read them out loud to your toddler. "Here comes our bus. It says 'Northside' on the front. That's where we're going." "These diapers are too small. We need a box that says 'over 30 pounds.'"

Source: America Reads Challenge: Ready*Set*Read for Families, America Reads

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