Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Kids to Write – The Scribbling Stage!

Editor's Note: This blog was previously published, we're re-sharing it as part of our 'Best of' series, a look back at some of our most popular blogs. 


This is a guest post from Rhonda McDonald.  

Young children (2–4 years old) are uninhibited as they share their joy in writing. Expressing an idea is their goal. They are able to talk about what they wrote or drew, sometimes in great depth. Random scribbling is a display of lines, curves, zigzags or circles. Gross motor skills of holding on to a writing tool are developing. The muscles in their hands will strengthen in time, giving them greater control of gripping a writing tool. Controlled scribbling will begin to show side-to-side marks or a pattern of markings. Children of this age have short attention spans and are usually not able to stay with a task for more than a few minutes. Channel their enthusiasm for writing by providing appropriate materials with which to experiment:

  • Preschool-sized or triangular crayons 
  • Large paper and pencils that are easy to grip 
  • Cup of water and a thick-handled paintbrush
  • Large box to inside and write on 
  • Sidewalk chalk 
  • Bathtub crayons or soap paints 
  • Drawing easel with paper
  • Sponges or sponge paint brushes

You may observe a pattern of wavy lines in this scribbling sample. There appears to be limited knowledge of left to right movement. The thoughts of the child have been dictated to an adult.


Children of this age are rapidly expanding their speaking vocabulary. Reading aloud and talking about the stories are pleasurable ways to accomplish vocabulary growth. Wordless picture books allow both participants to express what they see in the pictures. Be a good listener as they express their ideas. Praise their writing efforts and display it in a prominent place in your home.

                                                                There are wordless picture books in the Zoozoo Into the Wild series that could provide a catalyst for conversation. Let’s take a look at the book Me and Mom. This book shows the story of a baby orangutan and its mother. Another monkey takes the baby’s banana. This makes him sad, so Mom hugs him. Then she runs after the other monkey and brings the banana back to her baby. The baby thanks Mom with a hug. A preschool child could talk about how Mom protects and feeds them.

                                                                         After talking about the story, provide them with writing tools and paper to express their ideas. As they draw, encourage them to think aloud about the story or make up a new ending. (To see this idea in action, check out our recent Kids as Authors contest. We invited young students to pen the accompanying story to one of our wordless titles.  You can read the winning entries here!) To make the concept concrete, you could have the child use the five senses of touch, taste, smell, seeing, and hearing to experience a banana. Then ask them to write about it.

This could be an opportunity to introduce colors as representations for real objects. They may wish to draw the monkey. If they have been to a zoo or have other books with monkeys in them, help them to make a connection with their prior experience. Children are wonderfully imaginative and may enjoy using random colors to portray their ideas.

                                                                                                   Another book selection to read with your preschool child might be What Can Go?  from the Kaleidoscope Collection. Children are fascinated by things that go, such as cars, trucks, planes, trains, and boats. Most children will have some prior knowledge of a type of vehicle. They may even have toy models of these types of transportation.

Writing about going somewhere may only require a scribble line for the path or circles for the vehicle wheels. They may be able to write about a place they would like to go. Wavy lines could portray the beach or curves could portray a sliding board at the playground. Above all, you want the writing experience to be positive.

One fun project to do with your child or students would be to make their own sidewalk chalk or crayons so they can scribble away with their own creations! I've shared my own recipes below.  

Homemade Sidewalk Chalk 
1½ cups cornstarch
1½ cups water
Food coloring
1. Mix cornstarch and water well.
2. Pour mixture into muffin tins.
3. Add 2–3 drops of food coloring
4. Stir until color is mixed.
6. Let harden.
7. Release from tins.


Preschool-Sized Crayons
1. Gather all of your old broken crayons.
2. Place in a muffin tin by color or mix the colors.
3. Set in the sun to melt or place in the oven on low heat until melted.
4. Let the crayons cool.
5. Release from tin.
6. ENJOY!!
Variation: create crayons in shapes using old cookie cutters.


This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale



To learn more about Zoozoo Into the Wild, click the image below!