Thursday, 18 October 2012

It is all in the name

                                    How to encourage your child to learn their name

Starting pre school has had another profound effect on my daughter. Not only has she changed with her imaginative play as I mentioned the other day, but she is now forever looking at writing telling me she has found her name!! She even "writes" her name at the top of a piece of paper she is drawing on!!

When she goes into preschool each session, she is encouraged to find her name and place it on a board on the door as she enters the room. It hasn't taken her long to recognise her name, and will even pick it out of other words when written on paper. I have been really encouraged by this to help her enhance this interest and so, during a nap the other day, I found our big roll of paper and wrote her name in huge letters for her to decorate. I offered her pencils, crayons and stickers to use how she wanted and she created a lovely name sign which has pride of place in her playroom!! She was so proud of it, she had to show her Daddy the next morning!!

But how do we encourage children not only to learn their name, but how to recognise and write it? Aside from this idea, there are other things you can do.  A baby usually begins to recognise their name at around 4-6 months old. You can encourage this by repeating their name when playing with them, talking to them and even singing their name to them. Even a game of peek a boo can help them learn their name by saying "where's .........gone?"

In terms of speaking their name, well this can begin anywhere from 13 months old onwards. It does depend on the child's development and also on their name!! Longer names can be a little difficult to say and may take a while to master!! Again, by using their name when playing, you can encourage them to begin to say it. Turn taking games are good as you can say "Mummy's turn" then "......'s turn" It works quite well if you gently touch them on the shoulder as you say it too, so they begin to realise that that name is theirs and how they are referred to.

Once a child shows an interest in writing,  their name is usually the first thing they can write! This usually occurs anywhere from 3 - 5 years, although some studies have shown that many children are actually unable to do so at 5 in the UK ( ) I have come across many activities in preschool rooms which help with children learning to write their names. Having their name around the room in different forms of print is a good start, such as in written form or typed form, using different fonts. Some places I have visited in the past actually had a box of childrens' names available for the children to stick on their work when they had created something, helping with name recognition.

I some pre schools and nurseries, name tags have random pictures on them (my daughters name has Easter eggs above it!) Whilst they look good, it can encourage the children to recognise the picture rather than their name. This is why in the settings I have worked in, name tags had the child's photograph next to or above their name, so to allow them to recognise the name and the fact it belongs to them rather than a picture of a fish!!

Tracing letters, writing over dots and lines etc is a good start, but there are so many other fun ways to teach a child to write their name, like writing their names in sand, shaving foam, mud and even in the air!! Of course, strengthening the hand muscles helps to give them the basis for writing their name, with activities such as threading, using pegs and painting with a range of tools.

The most important thing to remember is to do this when they are ready. The only reason I have started name related activities with my daughter is because she has shown an interest in it at home. The fact that she is so proud of her name and creating things which have her name on, is really making me proud. It means for now at least, we picked a name she likes!!

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