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10 Simple Name Activities for Preschoolers

Here are some awesome name-writing activities for preschool kids to try at home or school.

Ditch the boring tracing sheets and workbooks and try some of these real, hands-on learning experiences.

How to Teach Children to Write Their Names

Remember these five principles when practising name writing with young kids. They are all important for developing pre-writing skills.

1. Engage the Senses

Children learn through their senses. Involve multisensory activities that stimulate their sense of:

  • touch (e.g. moulding letters)
  • taste (e.g. baking cookie names)
  • smell (e.g. using different materials with various scents)
  • sight (e.g. painting or tracing)
  • hearing (e.g. singing a name song or sounding out the letters as they are built).

2. Use the Large Muscles

Build gross motor skills with activities such as walking the letters of the name or building a life-size name. These allow children to learn their names by experiencing them with their full bodies.

When preschoolers use their bodies, they learn and remember things quickly.

3. Involve Fine Motor Activities

Practise name writing by stimulating fine motor development with simple fine motor activities.

This means allowing many opportunities to handle different materials such as writing tools (paintbrushes, crayons, etc.), playdough or small objects to build with.

Later on, introduce writing letters with a pencil when children have developed a good pencil grip.

4. Model the Name Correctly

It’s essential that you model the correct letter formation of a child’s first name and last name as often as possible.

Update 2022: While it is common practice to suggest writing a capital letter for the first letter and lowercase letters for the rest of the name, some research suggests otherwise.

At the time of writing this article and taking the photos, I followed the former approach too. However, I believe the occupational therapist who wrote this article has a valid point.

Her article on teaching capital letters first explains this.

She says:

“No matter how excellent the instruction, not all five-year-olds have the underlying spatial-temporal perceptions or visual motor skills to support learning lowercase.”

Write children’s names on all their drawings (in the top-left-hand corner) and label some items such as books, clothing or a special bag. The more children see their names, the easier they will be to copy.

It’s important that children see their names written in both formats (EMMA and Emma) often – but could first be introduced to forming the name with capital letters only.

5. Save Tracing for Last

Only once you have provided many opportunities to practise writing names, through hands-on fine and gross motor activities, should you start tracing names formally on a piece of paper.

As this is a more advanced activity kids will need good fine motor control as well as a good pencil grip (tripod pencil grasp.)

At this stage, children should already know how to form the letters, but they will be refining them on paper.

10 Name Writing Activities for Preschoolers

Here are some simple name activities you can try at home or school with preschoolers.

1. Shaving Cream

Name "Tim" written in shaving cream

Pour shaving cream onto a small tray and let children trace their names into it. They will love the texture and the fun sensory experience.

Try these shaving cream activities too.

2. Sandpaper

Use a sheet of sandpaper from the hardware store. Trace the letters onto the rough surface. This provides a good tactile experience and helps the brain to feel the formation of the letters.

You could also write the letters on the paper in chalk and then get your child to trace over your letters.

3. Jumbo Chalk

Start by writing your child’s name in large life-sized letters on the paving outside with jumbo chalk. Ask her to walk along the letters as if she’s walking along a tightrope.

Then, make the letters slightly smaller and ask her to trace them with her fingers. The letters should be big enough that she has to move her arms from left to right and up and down to trace them, crossing her midline while doing so.

4. Rope

Name formed with string

As in the previous activity, form the name in life-sized letters and ask your child to walk around each letter as if walking along a tightrope.

Make sure to teach the correct formation by starting in the right place, as you would when writing the letters. This activity allows children to feel the letters using their whole body.

5. Playdough

Playdough is an excellent material for teaching letters through tactile experience. Build the letters of your child’s name together onto a piece of cardboard and leave it to harden as a permanent nameplate, or bake it in the oven to harden.

6. Finger Paint

For a fun, messy activity, give your child some finger paint and let him “write” his name with his fingers. This will encourage fine motor development of the small finger muscles.

You could also write the name in pencil on a large piece of paper and let him trace over your letters.

7. Salt

Make a salt tray by pouring some salt into a small tray or dish. The salt can be substituted with sand or any similar substance. Trace the name into the sand.

This is a similar experience to the shaving cream activity and will help your child remember the letter formation by feeling her fingers move through the salt.

8. Natural Materials

Why not go into your garden and make use of what nature gives us for free to teach name writing?

Gather small stones, twigs or leaves and get creative by joining them into the shapes of the letters. Provide some wood or craft glue and paste them to make a nameplate to keep.

9. Beads

As an alternative to natural products, build your child’s name out of beads or any similar small items – such as buttons or sequins. Or go into the kitchen and find food items such as lentils, pasta or beans.

These can all be pasted to make cool nameplates. Building a name out of tiny items is far more likely to imprint in a child’s memory than simply tracing it on a worksheet.

Macaroni name activity

10. Painting

Last but not least, provide some watercolours and let your child paint her name. She can trace over her name written in pencil or paint freely.

A fun variation is to give your child a painter’s brush and a bucket of water and let her “paint” her name on the wall outside with water.

The more you encourage these kinds of activities, the quicker your child will learn how to form the letters of her name. With time, she will be writing her own name in pencil or crayon on paper and forming the letters with good control.

Learning to write their name makes good handwriting practice for kids as they usually start with the letters in their own name and then from there naturally progress into wanting to learn the other letters of the alphabet.

Their name is also the first place they recognise the connection between letters and words as representing ideas and things. This is an important principle in learning to read and write.

Alongside actually teaching the letters in your child’s name, it is necessary that your child has well-developed visual perceptual skills, which will help him learn to read and write confidently. 

Are you a preschool teacher or working in Early Childhood Education? Would you like to receive regular emails with useful tips and play-based activity ideas to try with your children? Sign up for the newsletter!

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Naila Nazeer

Wednesday 15th of July 2020

Good site for pre school

Tanja Mcilroy

Thursday 16th of July 2020

Thanks Naila. I like providing useful info for parents and teachers too!

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