Place value notation is essential to mathematics learning. This study examined young children's (4‐ to 6‐year‐olds, N = 172) understanding of place value prior to explicit schooling by asking them write spoken numbers (e.g., “six hundred and forty‐two”). Children's attempts often consisted of “expansions” in which the proper digits were written in order but with 0s or other insertions marking place (e.g., “600402” or “610042”). This partial knowledge increased with age. Gender differences were also observed with older boys more likely than older girls to produce the conventional form (e.g., 642). Potential experiences contributing to expanded number writing and the observed gender differences are discussed.