We are pretty relaxed around here about all things academic. We loosely follow the Waldorf early education model and so have done absolutely no formal introduction of letters or numbers with Silas; saving those things for a few years down the road and instead focusing on open-ended play and motor skills development. So, imagine my surprise when Silas started showing a very intense interest in writing. He "writes" things all the time, on his easel, on scratch paper, on whatever he can find. Sometimes he writes directions to various locations around town. Sometimes he makes lists of what to get at the store. And sometimes he writes letters to grandma, dictating what he's writing the entire time. I guess I shouldn't be so surprised. He sees the communicative power of writing every day; why wouldn't he want to get in on that action?
While we do consider ourselves pretty Waldorf-y, I have no interest in being a purist and I always promised myself that when it came to reading and writing (as with everything else) I would follow Silas' lead. I would not push him to learn, but I also wouldn't discourage him if he showed an interest. He started making "M's" and then asked how to make "O's". It was when he started tracing on the table top to "write" with his finger that I knew it was time to introduce the salt tray.
This is just a small wooden tray filled with salt that he can use his finger to trace in. You could also use very fine sand. It creates a sensory experience and helps to connect the abstract act of making shapes with meaning to the concrete action of using his body to make those shapes. Right now we're not doing letters, but starting with some lines and shapes as a pre-writing exercise, using some laminated cards that I made as a guide.
I have to say, Silas was smitten with this project from the get-go. He was really excited and wanted to do each of the cards multiple times. There is definitely a progression in difficulty between the shapes. The "wave" line in the first picture was one of the hardest, but he didn't seem discouraged, only aware that he was struggling. After attempting the harder cards, he set them aside and went back to the simpler shapes, which were a better match for his ability.