Young children are naturally creative and curious; however, studies show that creativity in children can decline as early as age five. Helping your kids discover a love for creative writing can help them exercise their creativity well beyond their childhood and develop a lifelong passion for writing.
Writing is an activity that children can do just about anywhere, and developing skills in creative writing comes from utilizing experiences in the classroom, at home and beyond. Becoming a great writer involves so much more than sitting down with a blank piece of paper and pencil. At home, you can prepare your child for creative writing through play, conversation, reading and exploration. Here’s how:
Get their creative juices flowing. Encourage your child to think outside the box through imaginative play. Encourage role play, dress up, and create pretend situations that involve opportunities to solve problems, make choices and experiment. Ask your child open-ended questions that engage their imagination and open up a dialogue on hypothetical scenarios. What would happen at their perfect birthday party? What would they do with a million dollars?
Look for inspiration from familiar sources. Use favorite books as templates. Don’t be afraid to borrow the structure of a beloved picture book and help your child think up ideas for her own version. For example, if your child loves “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” have her fill in the blanks (If You Give a _____ a _______…) and create whole new adventure. This is one way you can encourage your child to retell the endings to their favorite stories. Or, try challenging your child to tell a tale from a different point of view. For instance, what does the story of Snow White look like from a dwarf’s perspective?
You can also look to inspire them to write about their family story. Collect photos of relatives from as many generations as possible and help your child create an informal family tree or timeline, weaving in as many memorable tales as you can throughout the process. You and your child can also start a family storybook: ask her to write down some of her favorite anecdotes and put them alongside related photos or mementos in a bound book. Add additional pages as she continues to learn more about your family’s history.
Encourage your child to carry a notebook and write down ideas and interesting things they see throughout the day. Being an active observer of the world is critically important to becoming a gifted writer. You can even have them record what they dream about at night as another source of inspiration.
Brainstorm ideas for stories. Although most children spend very little time preparing for writing, studies show that skilled writers spend much of their time brainstorming and planning out what they will write. Helping your child generate ideas will exercise their creativity before they even pick up a pencil.
Have your child gather old photos or pictures from magazines and encourage them to make up a story based on the images, or have them make up stories for photographs they have taken of things that catch their eye. Challenge them to create a story for a wordless picture book. Prompt your child’s interpretation of the images they see with questions. What’s going on here? Why does this character look worried? You can also start a story and then turn it over to your child. After your child describes what should happen next, take turns adding events to the story. Jot down some story starters (I never expected that one day I’d open my closet and find… Today was the day! I finally was going to …) and have your child build on one that sparks his imagination.
Set aside a special time and place to write every day. Many families enjoy a daily reading time, and in a similar way you can weave in some writing time—even if it’s just for ten minutes. If your child isn’t writing yet, you can take this opportunity to transcribe their ideas. In addition, encourage your child to find a special “writing place” where they feel inspired to write or think: it can be in bed, at the kitchen table, a favorite chair, or even outside. Introducing them to a little writing every day can expand their interest and skill in the area much more than doing so only sporadically.