Name play activities for young writers

Name play activities

Written by Amy Anderson of Let’s Explore.

Often, one of the first things a young child learns to write is her own name. From the first scribbles to finally mastering a tricky e, name-writing is a very satisfying confidence-booster!

When my girls were preschool-age, I wrote their names on large index cards and laminated for durability. They loved to carry around their name cards, trace the letters with their fingers, and scribble on the cards with dry erase markers or crayons.

Here are a dozen playful ways to explore forming letters and name writing. Of course, if your child is not interested in his name right now, and would rather spell and write dinosaur or butterfly or Grammy, those are fun words to practice, too!

1. Put salt, sand, or cornmeal in a shallow box or pan. Trace letters with finger, stick, or Q-tip.

2. Use fingers to draw letters in finger paint, shaving cream, or pudding (yum!).

3. Offer a variety of writing toys, such as a doodle board, chalkboard, or dry erase board.

4. Form letter shapes using yarn, play dough, or Wikki Stix. Yarn sticks nicely to sandpaper and clear contact paper.

5. Write letters in the dirt, mud, or wet sand with a stick or rock. (I can still remember my girls’ preschool playground filled with the kids’ autographs – it was awesome!)

6. Use alphabet stamps and a washable stamp pad for practicing letter recognition and order.

Alphabet stamps for name practice

7. Make big letters with sidewalk chalk outside. Try writing your child’s name with chalk, then letting her paint over the letters with water.

8. Try paint bag writing – place a small amount of finger paint in a sturdy freezer zip-top bag. Smoosh it into an even layer, then use as a writing and tracing pad.

9. Write your child’s name on an index card and cut the letters apart for a simple name puzzle activity.

10. Paint or write your name at the easel. Some little ones find vertical surfaces easier for writing, as their fine motor skills continue developing.

11. Spell your name with cooked spaghetti noodles. Sauce is optional!

12. Provide real opportunities for name-writing, such as signing cards or artwork. Writing your name with purpose is quite motivating for little ones.

Quick Tip: Markers are great for beginning writers! They don’t require a lot of pressure for good results, unlike pencils, which can be frustrating for little hands.

Have other name play ideas for little writers? Please share!

About AmyA

At her blog, Let’s Explore, Amy shares her family’s experiences creating, imagining, and playing together. You can read about her homeschooling journey at Early Bird Homeschool.

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  1. These are great tips Amy!! I especially like the Paint Bag Writing one…it’s messy enough for her to have fun, but avoids requiring a 30 minute bath afterward! I look forward to trying several of these this week. 🙂

  2. Wonderful ideas! Thank you so much for sharing them! I made a variation of the yarn/sandpaper activity using velcro:
    Courtney {A Life Sustained}´s latest post: Steve’s Farm Beanie

  3. I did some of the similar tech. in teaching my two year old Thoren to read and write. He now knows how to write his own name… Video link here:
    He also knows the whold alphabet, can write most of the letters, can count to 40’s, knows all the parts of his body, colors, starting to sight read words like cat, dog, big, ect, and is starting to use the computer and mouse lately as well. He amazes us everyday thanks to useful techniques like the ones you’ve shared. We do ALOT of interactive play,and are always reading, writing, drawing.

  4. So many great ideas – thank you! We’ve gotten hours of fun out of simple alphabet magnets on our refrigerator. I bought one set years ago, and amazingly, we haven’t lost any letters. My mom actually saved the alphabet magnets she had on our fridge when I was a kid, and we use those, too. Lots of fun spelling different words, but always the most favorite is each child’s name.
    Courtney´s latest post: The Purple Tutu

  5. Some fabulous ideas here. Love the spaghetti idea. My kids would have a ball with that. We have a large chalkboard on one of our walls and the kids LOVE using the chalkboard to write on. We also use blocks and sticks to spell names.
    Natalie´s latest post: Elephant Teether, wood toys for babies and kids – Teething Toy by Rewoodtoys

  6. These are all such great ideas! My two year old loves letters, but is so hesitant to write with pencil or marker. Thank you to your ideas, (number 1 and 5) he is now writing the first letter of his name! There are enough ideas to keep up busy for a while too! Thanks!
    Debbye´s latest post: ADHD? Or, Could It Be A Sleep Disorder?


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