Of course, before beginning to actually spell words, acquiring good fine motor skills is necessary for the ability to hold and manipulate a pencil, crayon or marker. Having fun scribbling, drawing, painting, and any other activity that provides practice in manipulating a writing/drawing tool should be encouraged. Paper with and without lines should be available so your toddler can practice writing and drawing within a confined space, attempting to form letters from left to right on lines. You will be surprised, though, at how quickly she will begin “spelling” words.
Studies have shown that the best predictors of success in learning to spell are phonological awareness and print knowledge This means that in order for parents and caregivers to support spelling development, they need to talk about words as they read to their babies and toddlers, and to demonstrate what reading is all about. Making lists, texting friends and family, and writing notes about things to remember will all motivate your child to try to do the same.
Parents and teachers of young children can encourage them to spell words the way they sound in order for the child to be able to pair writing with speaking: if she can say it, she can write it. This type of early spelling is often referred to as “invented spelling.” (see The 7 Steps of Learning to Spell) Of course, you wouldn’t expect your child to spell many words correctly as a preschooler, but you can begin to teach some fundamentals of spelling with some easy tricks to give your child a head start.
You can, and should, focus on spelling frequently throughout the day. Point out the sounds and letters in words as you read to your child – not only books, but also cereal boxes, juice containers, street signs – anything available to read to your child. Don’t expect her to catch on right away. It usually takes years of experience with listening, speaking and seeing written words for children to develop into spellers. By starting early, though, your child can begin school with a head start – ready to read, write and spell.