Mark making in the early years – EYFS

Early writing is known as ‘mark making’. It is the process children go through to strengthen their hands and arms and develop the hand-eye coordination they will need to start writing recognisable letters and numbers. The mark making process should not be rushed … children need time and lots of different opportunities to practice their newly developing pre-writing skills.

You should have received an email with information about the steps your child’s mark making will follow from holding a crayon in their fist to pointing a pencil and writing letters. We hope you have found it useful.

Here at Knutsford Childminding we use observations to note how children prefer to make marks so we can support their learning. In our provision over the years we have cared for –

  • A child who mostly makes marks outside
  • A child who likes to sit on the sofa and use a lap tray when drawing
  • A child who prefers to lie on the floor (inside or out) when making marks
  • A child who doesn’t really seem to like mark making at all – he is far too busy doing other things
  • A child who sits at the table and looks keen but can’t make marks independently – they have to have an adult sitting with them.

We want to encourage all our children to make marks through all our areas of provision so we provide as many open-needed invitations to play as we can to support them, for example –

  • During role play children make shopping lists, price labels, take phone messages etc
  • In the garden children use chalk and paint or make marks with sticks in the sand
  • At the table we provide interesting invitations to make marks every day – different shaped or coloured paper, pens or felt tips, stencils or rubbing boards
  • Magazines and comics are purchased and read by adults – they are used to inspire mark making and craft
  • Our messy tray contains a range of resources that encourage mark making such as sand, silly soap, cornflour and water and playdough – and we include things with which they can make marks such as brushes, mark making pencils, sticks, leaves etc
  • Props are set out in different areas of provision – posters, home-made and bought books etc all provide a literacy rich environment which will encourage children to make marks.

This is an excellent article ‘Writing is not just for the writing area’ from Early Years Learning here.

We provide a wide range of easily accessible resources which are well organised and replenished regularly. We try to keep the area uncluttered to promote children’s concentration. The mark making table is in an easily accessible position in the playroom with good natural lighting and children can find lap trays if they prefer to sit elsewhere.  We have taken our inspiration from a number of different places that provide ideas of how to inspire and engage children to make marks – some of our favourites are Reggio inspired blogs. We are also good role models, writing with the children to teach them that marks have meaning.

Resources include –

  • Picture cards and envelopes
  • Paper – different sizes, shapes and colours
  • Pots of sharpened pencils (coloured and triangular writing pencils) and chunky crayons
  • Stickers linked to children’s current interests
  • Alphabet, number and shape posters
  • Colouring books and sheets linked to children’s current interests
  • Books to inspire – featuring paintings, drawings and other artwork
  • Notebooks and sticky notes
  • Clipboard with lined paper attached
  • Old address book and diary
  • Home-made shape book to inspire children to copy and trace marks
  • Laminated name cards for each child – upper case initial letter and lower case rest of name – with a picture chosen by the child
  • An envelope of black and white pictures which can be glued, cut up or coloured – toys, faces, buildings, animals, fish etc.

Any of the resources can be taken to the table and chairs outside by the children – we will help if asked but we do promote independence and store resources so children can carry them easily.

We look after little ones as well as older children so some of our mark making resources are put out of the way to keep little ones safe – the older children know they can be provided on request. These resources include –

  • Scissors – left and right handed
  • Small parts for craft activities
  • Glue and sticky tape
  • Stapler and hole punch
  • Mark making on the computer
  • Felt tips, glitter pens and stampers
  • Tracing paper
  • Storytelling cubes which prompt conversation and story writing
  • Painting pens and finger paints – we have paints and an easel outside
  • Pencil sharpeners and erasers
  • Pipe cleaners to bend and make letter and number shapes

Mark making does not need an ‘end product’ – you do not need to make something or draw something recognisable to have fun making marks. Part of the joy of mark making is that children can create without getting it wrong … they can simply make their marks and receive praise for a job well done.

As children get older, we teach them that their marks – and the marks they see in books and environmental print – have meaning. It is important that this is a slow process if discovery for the children as we talk about letters and numbers and their shapes and take children on a journey of discovery that leads to them writing recognisable shapes. We have made a shape book – zigzags, curves, dots, circles, straight lines, repeating patterns etc to inspire them to make the shapes they will need for writing.

Sharing further information with parents and early years practitioners

You might find this mark making guidance interesting.

I have a mark making Pinterest page here.

There is an inspiring article from Juliet Mickelburgh on the EYFS Forum here.

There are lots of useful links in this document from Early Arts.

If you have any questions about early mark making please ask me!

Chat soon, Sarah.


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