Autumn has arrived here, and the season of sweet little hands bringing gifts of wildflowers has given way to one of exploring the treasures of fall. I have always loved how Aiden is so enchanted with the simple beauty of creation, and I want to foster that love for nature as he grows.
I also want to encourage my child to use his imagination and love for creating things to bless others throughout his life. One of the ways that this has come naturally to him is that he absolutely loves sending mail to his friends and family! I love snail mail. It makes me happy to know that I can genuinely brighten someone's day with a simple card or letter letting them know I am thinking of them. Aiden became fascinated with mail early on, as he developed a penpal relationship with his second cousin, and has received gifts from long distance relatives.
So, today we combined these two great loves of his... the treasures found in nature and sending mail... to create a cute fall leaf fishbowl greeting card for his grandparents in Missouri. He was quite attached to his "pet" leaf fish, and I actually had a bit of a hard time convincing him to mail it! He is all about pets right now, and since we have none of our own (no pets allowed in our building, although we do have a couple neighbor kitties who visit him outside) every day there is a new stuffed animal or random object that he decides he needs to care for. It is darling, really. I assured him that Grandma and Grandpa would take good care of his fishy though!
The project was simple. The leaves on our bushes that are changing to shades of red and gold made a perfect little fishy. He also found little berries that he used for rocks in the bottom of the fishbowl, and some weeds that made great aquatic plants. When he was done with the fishbowl, we asked Daddy for a cheesy greeting to add. Matt came up with "It's o-fish-al" for the front, and inside it says "I love you!"
Aiden was excited to take his mail up to the mailboxes, especially because it meant getting to put the red flag up. Checking the mail is one of his favorite activities, and he did laugh and wave by the neighbors that drove by while his silly mama was standing in the street taking photos.
I do think that Aiden's love of writing and creating is largely just part of his nature, but we have also done several things since he was young to encourage this interest. Here are a few tips for encouraging young writers:
- Give them the tools they need at a young age. It is important to make sure children have easy access to books, but there is more hesitation when it comes to giving them free access to writing utensils at a young age. Of course every child is different, but we have had great luck keeping washable and non-toxic crayons and markers within reach from the time he could hold a crayon. (Yes, there was that one time he chewed on a green washable crayon and it made a big mess, but it was also easily cleaned up. Oh, and there was that phase where he gave himself kitty whiskers every day with a marker, but again it just washed off. If you give them the right tools and keep them reasonably supervised there isn't toooo much damage that can be done!)
- Try different kinds of writing utensils and paper. Don't assume that coloring books will hold great interest for every child. Aiden was always happiest with blank paper. Because that early coloring is important for developing pre-writing skills, make sure to offer a variety of choices until you know what your child prefers.
- Don't discourage repetition by trying to show them the "right" way early on. If your child wants to spend endless amounts of time drawing little circles all over a piece of paper (Aiden did this all.the.time as a toddler), don't interrupt them. Whatever their current fascination is, let them run with it. What seems monotonous to us is important developmentally for them.
- Provide your child with a writing space that is the appropriate size for them. While laying on the floor to color is not a bad thing, when it comes time to begin writing they really need to sit at a table where they can have a steady surface and good posture. We got to an in-between stage with Aiden at one point where he was too big for his toddler table but too small for a real desk. During that time he would sit on the piano bench (because it was higher than a chair) with his feet on a footstool since they didn't reach the ground. Get creative with what you have!
- Ask friends and family to send simply written letters in the mail. Mail is exciting, and the desire to respond can be a motivator to write. Don't get into the habit of letting them reply to written correspondence with digital replies (as I have been tempted to do too often!) If they aren't writing yet, let them color a picture to send back.
AND... If you are perfectionist mama (like ME!) take lots of deep breaths and don't stress about flaws early on. As Aiden grows, and I am in charge of his education, I am certainly helping him learn to improve his writing. However, if I had let myself get stressed about it early on when he was learning because HE wanted to, I think it would have put a damper on his interest. Yes... I had to remind myself of this when he wrote his "S" backwards on this card. He almost never does that anymore, and that part of me that wants everything just right was tempted to be disappointed. Instead, I reminded myself that his 5-year-old handwriting will be something I miss someday. I did let him know it was backwards (because he is old enough that he needs to know that) but I didn't make a big deal of it or insist that he start over. I know that sounds extreme, but when I was in school I would literally rewrite full pages because of one mistake. I do NOT want Aiden to end up like me in that respect, ha!
Linking up with Social Butterfly Sunday, Sunday Blog Hop, Celebrate It Sunday, Let Kids Be Kids, Dream Create Inspire, The Wednesday Showcase, Fall Into Fall
What are some ways you encourage your young learners? When was the last time you sent someone snail mail "just because"?