Mark Making Really Matters in the Early Years

Mark making - early writing - role play - small world play - chalk houses - kerris childminding - mark making resources

Mark Making Effective Practice

Mark making is an incredibly important aspect of early years development. It allows children to process and record their thinking and gives us a unique insight into their thoughts.

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The Mark Making Matters document, published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in 2008, makes several recommendations for effective practice. If you haven’t come across this document or it’s been a while I highly recommend checking it out. Effective practice includes:

  • Time and space to focus on mark making including mathematical graphics, drawing and writing opportunities
  • Stimulating, purposeful environment to encourage mark making both indoors and out (If you’d like ideas for outdoor mark making here’s a link to one of our most popular blog posts here)
  • Careful involvement from parents/ practitioners in children’s mark making including modelling
  • Ensuring a plethora of varied resources for children to explore making marks with

Meaningful Mark Making

In my experience, encouraging mark making in children happens more naturally when children are invested. Going with their genuine interests is a must. Providing carefully considered resources that give solutions in their play is when children become truly engaged. What do I mean? Consider a hospital role play area with patients and beds. How will we know which bed is which? What could we do? Give beds names or numbers maybe? How will we record what their temperature is or if they’ve had any medicine? Often by modelling in these situations it encourages children to have a go themselves.

Modelling and Immersion

Modelling and immersion in mark making is also a very important alongside the valuing of marks made. An environment rich in mark making will encourage children to see their value. A range of printed, handwritten and child made marks on walls, displays, reading areas and in play show it’s importance and value in the environment. Galleries where children can choose what they would like to display let them have ownership over the marks they make. We have hooks and bulldog clips in our house so we can change what’s on display easily and Floss can choose what is displayed and for how long for.

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The Unique Child

Children’s interests develop at different times, some children mark make early and for others it comes later. For some it is not that they do not have an interest, but that they are not as confident in holding and manipulating the tools to mark make. This is where ensuring a range of media and materials are available becomes especially important. Opportunities to use electronic media can be very beneficial for children whose fine and gross motor skills make it more difficult to mark make. Use of a tablet or interactive white board where pressure is not needed, just the movement to make marks.

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Chalk Board Houses

For Floss our daughter she’s dabbled a little in mark making, but she’d not shown a keen interest until recently. This interest came out of the blue after I set up a little invitation with Kerri’s Childminding Chalk Houses. They come as a set of eight, two large and six smaller houses. They are very sturdy, stand well and have a chalk board surface on both sides.

Thank you Kerri’s Childminding for letting us use your lovely image.

We were gifted these wonderful little houses as a brand rep for Kerri’s Childminding. Kerri’s Childminding are two sisters (Kerri and Amy) passionate about giving the little ones in their care a wonderful, learning through play, experience at their setting through carefully thought out activities and experiences. Do check out their Instagram and Facebook accounts bursting with inspiration for at home or in your settings.

Thank you Kerri’s Childminding for letting us use your lovely image.

Mark Making Invitations

Floss loves numbers, small world play and solving problems. I set up a little invitation which I thought would incorporate all of her favourite aspects of play.

The premise was her favourite fairies had got their house keys mixed up and needed help to get into their house. I had three houses with numbers on and three keys with corresponding numbers. Floss loved matching the keys to the houses. Then, on her own, she decided she wanted to extend it. She disappeared off and came back with another house and one of her chalky pastels. The mark making began! She told me what numbers she was writing and asked me for more keys and labels. OK, so the numbers didn’t look like the numbers, but this was real, purposeful, child-initiated mark making. The delight on Floss’s face was incredible to see.

Room for Improvement

Since then, mark making has exploded in our house and her favourite resource is still the chalk board houses. I believe a lot of the appeal with the chalk board houses is that the mark making can be wiped off and changed easily and that they are perfect for small world play. Sometimes children worry about the permanence of their mark making or want the ability to be able to hone skills before they are ready to show others what they have done. The chalk board houses are the perfect resource for this. I use them to add words, letters, numbers and pictures to our play set ups, so that a rich immersion in mark making is present. Sometimes I’ll leave them blank and add marks as Floss’s play evolves. At times she’ll want me to add an idea she has first and then she’ll have a go.

You can get in touch with the lovely Kerri’s Childminding ladies through Facebook or Instagram and their houses are available to purchase through Etsy here.

Mark making - early writing - role play - small world play - chalk houses - kerris childminding - mark making resources

Mark Making Opportunities

Careful observation of what a child likes and how they play can give you ideas to encourage mark making and mathematical graphics. If you have a child who enjoys playing in a role play kitchen/ cafe you could suggest making a menu for customers to choose from, an open/ closed sign for the shop or a receipt for purchases. A child who enjoys playing in the sand with construction toys could make traffic lights, road and warning signs or a tick list of jobs to be completed. It’s very much about going with their interests and extending their play through watching, listening, making suggestions and carefully considered questioning. If you’d like some ideas for mark making ideas feel free to leave a comment letting me know what your child/ren enjoy and I’ll give some suggestions. Alternatively, email me at What mark making do your children enjoy?

Thank you Kerri’s Childminding for letting us use your lovely image.

Top Resources

Here’s a list of some of our favourite mark making resources as well as our chalk houses:

  • Range of sizes, shapes, colours of pens, pencils, crayons
  • Paints, paint brushes and sponges
  • Clipboards
  • Whiteboards and white board pens
  • Chalk boards and chalks
  • Paper, card, boxes
  • Magnetic boards
  • Sand, rice and other materials that can be manipulated to make marks
  • Spray bottles with water are great for outdoors
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Recently, we’ve been playing some matching letters games with our houses and you can find more in our phonics blog series here. Look out for a couple of weeks time when there will be a post about all the fabulous ways you can use these wonderful chalk board houses in small world play. If you can’t wait do check our Kerri’s Childminding social media accounts for wonderful ideas. For small world, outdoor play ideas you can check out our blog post here.

Thank you Kerri’s Childminding for letting us use your lovely image.
Mark making - early writing - role play - small world play - chalk houses - kerris childminding - mark making resources

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