This is my take on how to teach a preschooler to trace alphabets, all in 40 easy 😉 steps. One disclaimer, though: This is meant to be a funny piece, enjoy and don’t take it too seriously!
1. With a pencil, write one page of alphabets with the utmost pressure you can muster without ripping the page apart.
2. Then erase the pencil marks leaving behind the pressure lines which are still visible.
- NOTE1: If you are writing both upper and lower case alphabets, then make sure you to write the upper and lowercase version of each alphabet side by side and don’t group the alphabets case-wise. Why? Because as per the preschooler “They are baby and mama alphabets. The baby will cry ‘wah wah’ if it’s too far from mama!” That’s his reason, of course. Yours is simply that it would kill precious minutes if you have to hear the preschooler pretend-cry on behalf of the lower case letters after tracing every single alphabet!
- NOTE2: An easier option to Steps 1 and 2 above will be to use readily available practice worksheets (the ones with dotted lines). But the preschooler I am talking about here is weird! He prefers Step 1 and 2 above to regular worksheets, perhaps because then “Ma too write letters!”.
3. Take the notebook to the writing desk and try to secure all exits. But before you could utter another word, the preschooler succeeds in running away. He squats on the living room floor, Pocoyo Style and protests “I no write”.
4. Cajole and coax him for the next 10 minutes. Offer bribes – stickers, glitter pens, appreciation/car rides from Papa in the evening, extended bath time with extra bubbles and so on. When everything else fails, offer four ice cubes!
5. Repeat Step 4 a few times. Finally, the preschooler makes his way to the writing desk, although quite grudgingly. It’s a small victory, nonetheless. So, don’t forget to heave a sigh of relief. You’ll need the breathing practice (though way more for anger management than for happy relief)!
6. Adjust his chair, his pencil, his legs and all the ten different things that are bothering him and which are “just not right”.
7. Remove all distractions – toys, crayons, sketch pens etc. from within his circle of influence/grasp. Adjust his pencil and notebook again.
8. Say “Please write” and keep staring at the pencil tip longingly, hoping for the first scribble. The preschooler keeps smiling wickedly.
9. Breathe. Repeat Step 8 a few times and if it does not work, change your gaze to an angry glare and start calling the ants to take the preschooler away if he does not write “this very moment”.
10. Continue staring. The preschooler gets it now that you are serious. “Don’t be angry, Ma.” He says. You insist that you are not angry and would just like to see him write. Offer words of encouragement, Dora-style: “You can do it!”
11. After burning a hole in the paper for eternity, the first scribble finally arrives. Yay! You feel like smiling and doing a jig. Resist the temptation at all costs. Show of emotions or any physical movements might induce a similar reaction in the preschooler for the next 10-15 minutes and you will have to repeat steps 6 through 9 all over again.
12. After the first line or so, the preschooler loses track of what he is doing. Write the alphabet again on the margins of the page to show him how it’s done, showing each pencil stroke over and over again. Don’t forget to say “Please look at the pencil here.” from time to time, because for all you know his gaze may have shifted to his toys.
13. Repeat Step 12 a couple more times. Continue insisting that he tries again after each iteration.
14. At long last, the preschooler finishes writing the first alphabet. It’s recognizable. Resist your perfectionist urges to erase it and ask him to make it neater, straighter, better. Offer words of encouragement for the completed alphabet.
15. The preschooler shouts “I did it!” followed by “aawwwwwooooooo” tilting his head skywards like a wolf. It’s his victory song. Repeat it, no matter how ridiculous you feel. Without this acknowledgment, the task at hand may not proceed any further. But make sure to limit the “aawwooo”s to 2-3 at max. Beyond that number, they will start eating into the limited time span (one hour) you have delegated to this entire activity.
16. Repeat Step 8 through 15 for the next alphabet.
17. Barely four alphabets down, two pigeons start cooing outside the window (or any such random noise distracts the preschooler). It’s the preschooler’s cue to get up yelling “Who is making noise?” and run to the window.
18. Breathe. Let him watch the pigeons for five minutes. You also need the break.
19. Then call him to come back to his chair. He might pick up a couple of toys on the way back, stow them away and tell him he can play with them once he is done.
20. Start from step 6 again once he is back.
21. Four more alphabets down, you start getting a backache from sitting in a kiddie chair. Remove the chair and sit on the floor instead.
22. Big mistake! The preschooler notices this, runs up to you and starts insisting “Oh no, chair missing, chair missing. Ma, sit on the chair!”
23. Try to reason for the next 2 minutes on why the chair has to go. You realize soon enough that YOU are the one who is wasting time now. It’s time to accept defeat in the chair battle. Pull the chair back up and sit on it. Then repeat steps 6 onwards all over again.
24. Two more alphabets down. You are exhausted from all the “intent staring” by now. You need your caffeine shot. Before going to the kitchen to get your drug of choice, warn the preschooler not to move from his chair and ask him to continue writing.
25. Five minutes later when you are back from the kitchen, the preschooler is busy playing with his toy cars. The task has not progressed one bit.
26. The preschooler sees your cold coffee mug and wants to lick the froth. Thinking he will hate the bitter taste, you let him put one finger in your coffee mug. “Yum!” he says licking it. It’s your cue to go back to “angry staring” and repeat steps 6 onwards all over again.
27. One more alphabet down. But now the victory song has become boring. So the preschooler includes additional steps. It involves sniffing you like a puppy (occasionally, licking your face too!), then jumping into your lap giving you one big hug (which may topple you over if you are not careful) and finally licking the froth from the coffee.
28. It’s your cue to finish your coffee in a few quick gulps, hide the mug under the table away from his reach and then asking him to write again.
29. He doesn’t care. He makes a see-saw with his pencil and eraser and shows you excitedly “Look, Ma. A see-saw! Up, down, up down it goes.” You feel proud but hide the emotion. You just say “very good, we will play with the see-saw later. Now let’s finish writing.” and hide the eraser.
30. This time insist that he completes the remaining alphabets on the page before doing anything else.
31. There is finally silence and the preschooler gets down to business. But, he is bored by then. His straight lines are wavy and his circles don’t close anymore.
32. Somehow, couple more alphabets are down. The preschooler sees an empty water bottle through the corner of his eye. He is thirsty now (of course!).
33. Run to the kitchen and fetch him a glass of water telling him not to move from his chair.
34. This time he stays put (Thank God!). He takes two tiny sips from the glass. There are no more excuses left, so he gets back to writing.
35. By this time, you are also quite exhausted and your back is killing you. You just hope he will complete the page soon. It doesn’t matter that he will not get to “Z” today, “U” is far enough. Moreover, the time you allocated to this activity is almost up. You need to get on with your chores.
36. At long last, the last alphabet is traced. You are as exhilarated as the preschooler (perhaps even more!). You put a tick mark on the page, write “very good” on the margins and give him a sticker to put wherever he wants it.
37. He insists on a panda sticker, puts it upside down on the page reasoning “that way panda is looking at alphabets”.
38. Try to remember all the promises you made him during the last hour and go to the kitchen to fetch him his four ice cubes.
39. Breathe. You will need your sanity to do this all over again tomorrow. But it’s still 24 hours away. So enjoy the rest of the day!
40. And yes, during bath time, don’t forget to put extra bubble soap into the water.
And that is how you teach a preschooler to trace alphabets, easy-peasy! 🙂
Not how you got the job done? I would love to hear your version too! What are your favored methods of teaching your preschoolers to write? Don’t forget to share!