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Understanding Developmental Stages Of Writing

Children begin school at various stages of development and, because of this, will go through a variety of stages in the development of their reading and writing skills.

The range of your child’s writing progress in the early school years will vary from the scribble stage all the way through to your child writing some (or all!) words spelled correctly and in their conventional form.

Young children will often progress through various stages of development in their writing, some of which are listed below…

Writing Stages


Horizontal scribble “writing” style with loops and bumps

At the scribble stage, your child understands that writing is made of of repeated patterns, curves, lines, and dots. This is where they will try their best to write by doing what they think writing is — this means that you more than likely won’t see any actual letters, but you will likely see components of letters like the curve from the letters B, D, or P for example.

Invented Letters

Invented letters “writing” style with letters very loosely resembling L, Y, E, O, A, and V.

At the invented letters stage, your child has progressed to understand that letters are often their own distinct and separate shapes and not a continous flow of lines and squiggles. There may be a mixture of real letters, letters that are close to real ones, and letters that look like they could exist in another language or an alien language.

Strings Of Conventional Letters

String of conventional letters “writing” style reading “Detimie”

At this stage, your child has grasped the alphabet (or a decent portion of it) and has started to string these letters together one after another. There may or may not also be letters resembling real words in among what they have written.

Groups Of Letters With Spaces Between Them

Groups of letters with spaces between them “writing” style reading “fscba crd gl”

This stage is where your child starts to show an understanding that sentences are formed in groups of letters with spaces between them. They may include real words in the sentences they form, especially if they are shorter or simple words they frequently encounter.

Sound Symbol Correspondence

Sound symbol correspondence “writing” style reading “mi dadi kam wif me to skool”

At this stage, your child is starting to reveal their developing knowledge of sound symbol correspondence. This means that while your child may not be correctly spelling what they are trying to convey, you are likely to understand why they have chosen the letters that they are using.

Understanding Spelling Conventions

Understanding conventions “writing” style reading “I love my cat. She came to school with me.”

At this later stage, your child is demonstrating a clear understanding of spelling conventions and although their spelling and grammar more than likely won’t be perfect the whole way through, you will be able to easily understand the meaning they’re trying to convey. From this stage onwards, your child will go on to further refine their spelling abilities, vocabulary, and grammar.

DOs and DON’Ts

  • DO encourage your child to write at home.
  • DO ask your child to read his or her writing. Be interested in what they’re doing.
  • DON’T expect adult standards. You need to allow your child to progress naturally through the above stages.
  • DON’T worry if your child is still at an early stage of development. All children progress at different rates.
  • DON’T let your child feel like a failure when writing. Praise any and all attempts they make. Keeping their spirits high is a must.


Other than ensuring that your child is regularly given opportunities to read and experience words, we have some additional resources specifically focused on helping your child to write.

  • The Magic Pencil
    A magic pencil demonstrates how to make the letters in a word, then draws a picture of the word.

Final Note

Remember that children learn to write by writing. Doing all you can to ensure that they’re given the opportunity and encouragement to write is going to be the best way you can help them on their journey in writing and literacy.