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Importance of Mark Making in Early Years for Child Development

Pre-writing Activities for Preschoolers & Kindergarten & toddlers. Pre writing activity for toddlers. upright mark making.

Importance of Mark Making in Early Years for Child Development

I’ve recently written about pre-writing and mark making ideas, so in this post I will focus on the importance of mark making for child development in early years.

When children are begging to write, they need to enjoy it.  It is also important to provide them with opportunities to develop a good understanding of its purpose. Over time, as young children get older, mark making will help them to be more prepared and more willing to join in as they face the challenging task of learning to write.

There are many skills that children need to develop to be able to write. Some basic ones include:  

  • composition (having an idea and being able to hold it in your head)
  • transcription (spelling/phonics and handwriting)
  • vocabulary
  • grammar and punctuation

These are all hard skills to develop and take many years! Mark making and drawing help children to develop many of these skills, particularly composition and transcription. These activities also promote understanding of the purpose of writing, as children begin to see how drawings and marks can communicate and share their ideas and feelings.

Importance of Sensory Experiences in mark making in early years

Many mark making activities are multisensory, helping to engage our different senses.  Sensory activities are hands-on and encourage children to be creative, engage, explore and develop language. As we encounter things with our senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, sound, and proprioception – our sense of balance/place in space), new connections develop in the brain. The more sensory experiences we have, the greater our ability to create pathways in the brain for thought, learning, and creativity (Gascoyne, 2011). New experiences are also engaging for children. They provide a variety of sensory opportunities that can motivate them to practice making marks.

Pre-writing and Gross & Fine Motor Skills to help with mark making child development

Before children begin learning to form letters, they need to develop the ability to make different lines and shapes. Some of this is developmental, but the more practice children have to experiment with making marks, the better equipped they will be for putting these skills together to form letters. These mark making activities will allow children to practice making a range of shapes and movements and to develop gross and fine motor skills as part of this. You can see my post on pre-writing activities for ideas for gross and fine motor activities that will help prepare children to write.

Importance of a Playful Approach to Drawing and Mark Making Activities

For young children, drawing and making marks is their first step in their journey to becoming writers. Taking a more playful approach will allow children the opportunity to find meaning from their early marks and drawings. Research by Ring (2003, 2006) found that children’s early writing experiences (particularly in school) tended to be overly formal, directed by adults, and with little praise for creativity.

When children mark make through play, the focus is on the process rather than the end product or attainment. It allows children to be self-motivated, engaged, and free from the fear of making mistakes (Howard, 2002). It supports them to think and communicate their ideas with others, and in this way, they can externalize their thoughts and feelings (Hope, 2008). For younger children, this is best expressed through drawings rather than words. Pictures and marks can act as a bridge that will help transition children on to writing.

Boys are often more reluctant to write. Howard (2002) found that there are usually few opportunities that attract boys to write in school. They tend to prefer more physical activities with larger movements. These might include writing activities on the floor, on the walls, and on other large surfaces. They can be outdoors as well as indoors and in large spaces where they will be able to make bigger marks.

However, I should also say that it is vital for children to have direct instruction in writing. Anyone learning to write will need to be taught how to form letters correctly, segment words into smaller sounds to spell (phonics), and generally, know all about letters and words and how they work. You can see some of my other posts on activities to help with these other essential writing skills. (Letter formation for Preschoolers and others coming soon).

Conclusions – Importance of Mark Making in Early Years for Child Development

I hope that this inspires you to try out a range of different mark making and pre-writing activities!  If you want some inspiration, see some of my other post on mark making and pre-writing.


Gascoyne, Sue (2016). Sensory Play: Play in the EYFS. Andrews UK Limited.

Hope, G. (2008). Thinking and Learning Through Drawing. London: Sage.

Howard, J. (2002). ‘Eliciting children’s perceptions of play using the Activity Apperception Story Procedure’, Early Children Development and Care 172(5): 489-502.

Ring, K. (2003) Young children Drawing at Home, Pre-School and School: The Influence of the Socio-cultural Context. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, School of Education, University of Leeds.

Ring, K. (2006) ‘Supporting young children drawing: developing a role’, International Journal of Education through Art 2(3): 195-209.

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