Dhruv started nursery in Nov first week. He is now three and a half years. Until one month back he had been showing no interest in writing or colouring. Give him colour pencils or crayons and he would place them in his digger making them look like missiles. Hand him with a pencil and a notebook and he would give it back to us asking us to draw cars, buses, and trucks for him. On our asking him to take the pencil and scribble on the paper after showing him how to do so, he would turn away making himself busy with his toys. I thought maybe if I started writing my stories on paper or colouring pictures in front of him everyday he might pick up interest. That, however, did not happen.
This was not a major problem at the time we were staying in UK where it is not expected a child to start writing before he turns 4. But, we were to return to India. I cross-checked with my friends whose children are of the same age as Dhruv and who started school long back. My friends, proudly, let me know that their children can write A to Z and the numbers from 1 to 50 on their own without any help. They could draw, they could colour. I enquired what about the reading skills. Does that count in the nursery because Dhruv can join letter sounds and can read 3 letter small words on his own? Those friends seemed to have no idea about it. The problem still remained. Dhruv was way behind other children in his class in terms of holding a pencil or crayons and writing and colouring.
I began my research on alternative and creative ways to generate his interest in writing. I came across an idea on a website to spread shaving cream in a baking tray, writing an alphabet in the shaving cream and asking the child to trace inside the space created. So I did. The problem I encountered was that, contrary to the video, I could not make alphabets clearly in the foam and Dhruv was not ready to sink his finger in it fearing his finger would get dirty. Thus, I had to wash the foam off.
Next, I experimented using semolina on the same baking tray to make the letters. The semolina parted beautifully and I could make clear letters and asked Dhruv to trace them with his finger. Dhruv was enthralled. But, can I ever make him do anything by the book? No, not at all. He refused to trace inside the letters. He wanted to make the letters on his own. When he could not do on his own, he asked me to hold his hand to help him in his creations. His fascination grew boundless. I had realized, by then, I had become successful in creating his interest in terms of writing.
Then graduating further, I introduced the concept of making sleeping lines, standing lines and slanting lines in the semolina tray. He became a pro at making these lines on his own in no time. Yes, making straight lines (crooked in some parts) is not so difficult but the ecstasy in the child creating even simple lines work like a major achievement and confidence builder.
The next day, we carried on with our experiments using moong dal (lentils) and attempted to draw a circle in it. We got several results in this process. In one of the results, I was told “Look mummy, Dhruv has drawn a race track in the dal (Dhruv has this habit of using the third person for himself). Wait, I will get Lightning Mcqueen to race in it.” I had to pester him from turning our writing experiments into a thorough recreational affair.
Taking a cue from my blogger friend, Vinitha’s post ‘The Parents of Digital Kids’ I also downloaded an app in my phone meant for letter tracing and it further boosted Dhruv’s interest in forming letters and numbers by moving his finger.
Later, I pasted big charts on the bedroom doors for both the numbers and the alphabets. Often, I found Dhruv standing at the doors and tracing inside the numbers and alphabets without any direction from me. He would sit down with his books and would leisurely run his finger and pencil over the letters and numbers. The interest has, though, developed but the results are, still, not as per what his school requires. I am patient that eventually, he will get there. It has to be considered in the long-term sense and only the love for reading and writing would serve the long-term purpose.
Recently, we have begun practicing holding pencil in the hand in the correct way. He has also begun to take interest in colouring using crayons and has been wanting to colour each and every page he comes across. The motto these days in our house is ‘Bhar do rang is duniya main’ (Fill this world with colours).
Thanks Vinitha for reminding me to become watchful again of our activities and putting them in words.