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What is in a name?

October 16, 2008

Trace name using shaving cream

Starting with your child’s name, he will begin the long process of learning to correctly form letters.


  • Scribbling is important for your child to experience. It shows an interest in communicating information to others and he is ready for the next step to learn how to write actual words.


  • The goal is for your child to be able to write his own name with an example.

card stock
Vis-a-Vis or other wipe off marker
laminate, sheet protectors or clear contact paper
print your child’s name PDF

First you will need to decide on the alphabet form you will be using with your child. There is Zaner Bloser, D’Nealian and a variety of other similar fonts for you to choose from. If you will be responsible for showing your child, it is your choice but keep in mind some fonts are easier for children to recognize and to make consistently. However, if you are giving your child a jump start, check what form of writing your local school requires. It is sometimes difficult for children to change the way they form letters.

  1. Create a name card:
    • Once you have chosen the letter format, you can write your child’s first name with upper and lower case letters on a sheet of card stock (it will hold up longer than just a piece of paper)PDF. Since your child will use this example for a while, you may want to put it in a clear sheet protector, cover it with clear contact paper or have it laminated.
    • You can use a number of on-line programs that are free to create your child’s name with dot letters.
  2. Your child can trace his name with a wipe-off crayon or Vis-a-Vis markers every day until he can do it without the dots.
    • While he is tracing his name, have him say the letter name. This will help imprint it in his brain.
    • Start off with his first name only but once he is familiar with it, add his last name. It is very exciting for a child to write his own name.

Re-enforcement Activities

  1. You can also make letters with sandpaper or gravel (glued onto a piece of poster board) for your child to rub his fingers over gently.
    Materials needed: sandpaper to cut out the letters in your child’s name (if he enjoys this activity, you might want to make sandpaper letters for the whole alphabet)
  2. Using the name card, have your child make play dough shapes to cover the letters. He will need to roll and pinch and use his fingers which will help him later when making the letters with a pencil.
    Materials needed: name card, homemade play dough or Play-Doh Case of Colors or Melissa & Doug Shape, Model and Mold
  3. After he is familiar with forming the letters, you can also put the name cards on a cookie sheet or tray with an edge then cover it with a thin layer of sand or shaving cream. Have him trace the letters in the shaving cream or sand. He will enjoy the texture and it will seem more like play.
    Materials needed: name card, cookie sheet or tray with edges, sand or shaving cream
  4. You might consider purchasing tactile letters for kinesthetic learning, such as: Tactile Letters or Magnetic Foam Letters


Your child will get more comfortable with his name with practice. You’ll want to watch your child as he makes the letters so you can guide him on the proper way to hold the pencil and how to form the letters.

Parent Tip

Children like to be able to identify themselves and their belongings. Placing their name on their bedroom door, on a place mat, or on other objects that they look at daily will help them recognize their name when they see it in print.

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