How important is spelling? For adults or should I say for some adults this is to be taken seriously. Because you know, you have to use correct spelling of words all the time (calling grammar and spelling nazi!) But for others, as long as the other person reading it can actually read the word and understand what they are trying to say – then problem solved!

But for us teachers I know this is a constant battle that we have to face everyday (hello English teachers, I salute you for your patience) especially when it’s time to read our students’ work.

But how about it early childhood?

I remember back in college, we had this topic about “inventive spelling.” This is when a child tries to spell a word based on how they understand it. This has something to do with their phonetic awareness and how they perceive a word they hear. For beginners, when they try to spell a word they will use lines or scribbles to represent the word they hear. The longer the word then the longer the lines they will make. Until such time that they replace those lines with letters which will eventually form a word.

Inventive spelling is very common in early childhood and should actually be encouraged. I for one strongly encourage this with my children. I seldom correct words that I see misspelled simply because that’s the child’s work. Don’t get me wrong, correcting them will also help but you know inventive spelling is part of their learning process.

When a child attempts to spell and they miss some letters it is normal. Trust me. Relax and don’t feel the need to correct them all the time or get frustrated because they spell the word wrong. Inventive spelling is a sign that the child is processing information on what they know about letters. It’s not easy for a child to multitask so please give them time.

A lot of parents are asking me how come their child spell some words (when they try to practice with them) incorrectly. “Cn u se me?” – What’s up with that?!?! First of all in most cases when a child pronounces a word and try to spell it this is what happens: listen to themselves saying the word, trying to segment, trying to remember the correct letter to match the sound and what it looks like. For a child, that’s a lot of work – that’s multitasking already and their brain doesn’t function yet like an adult. Second they need to understand further how consonant blends and vowels work together. Something that they will eventually understand if you continuously allow them to perform inventive spelling. We need to keep in mind that children are children. They don’t function like adults – not yet. But they will be once they are ready.

Inventive spelling is not wrong, that’s how they spell for that age. Encouraging them to continue doing this will help them big time more than you can imagine. Here’s why:

  • Confidence – when a child is always being corrected, they will rely on adults most of the time. They won’t be able to make decisions on their own because they fear that they will commit mistakes. Same goes with trying to spell. Instead of voluntarily trying to spell a word they will say no. But if you encourage them to try and they see that they can, they will do it without hesitation.
  • Problem solving – when a child does inventive spelling, it also helps them develop problem solving skills. They will eventually learn the connection between letters and sound and later on spelling pattern. Cn will become can because they are able to experiment or try out the spelling patterns they discover.
  • Better understanding of word – how will that happen when they spell words incorrectly?! As I’ve mentioned earlier, dey wll lrn splin patrn as dey kontnyu to prakts inventv speln. Giving them more exposure to books, they will pick up some of the words they tried spelling before. This will help them remember the proper spelling better and will also see how the word is being used in a sentence.

I seldom correct children’s attempt to spelling because I want them to get used to it. I still show them proper spelling of some words sometimes so they can compare and analyze how they spelled the words. So I encourage/suggest/recommend – take your pick – that you allow inventive spelling as much as possible for young children. It’s normal, that’s how they actually do it for their age.

Take note: they perform inventive spelling up until the age of 7. So there is nothing to worry about if your child “cannot spell the word correctly.” Their brain is processing information and it takes time.