Ugh. I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall right now. My husband and I are getting feedback that our daughter’s writing needs improvement, but we haven’t been able to find a way to get her to practice that doesn’t resolve in wailing and gnashing of teeth. Until now! Check out these great tips for fostering writing skills–and helping your child to love writing.
Dictation: Children (usually) love to help. Use that desire to help them practice writing. Ask your child to take dictation for you as you craft your to-do list or grocery list. You could even ask them to write a short, dictated message inside a greeting card or a note that you’re sending. If you’re looking for a way to make it a game, you could play office and have your child be your assistant or secretary. Bonus: If your child has written the grocery list, have them read the list back to you and check off items as you shop together.
Parent-and-Child Journaling: Whether you want to use a plain notebook to send each other notes, or a journal with prompts, join your child in their writing adventure by being part of a parent-child journal. You could get all mushy and share feelings and notes of encouragement, or you could pass notes talking about a movie your saw or book you watched together. Talk about favorites (foods, places to go, activities, sports teams), remind each other of memories you have and things you’ve done together, make plans for the next day off school—the possibilities are endless! And the keepsake you’ll make together will be priceless.
Get a Pen Pal: I’m totally showing my age, but having a pen pal was such a big deal when I was a kid. There are lots of ways you can help your child find someone to correspond with. My daughter’s next closest cousin in age is in college, and she and my daughter are—admittedly irregular—pen pals. The college kid loves to get mail, the elementary kid loves to get mail; it’s a win-win situation! And relatives are an easy place to start. How much would your kid’s grandparents love getting a note in the mail from Junior? Has your family moved? Your child can write to friends from their previous home. Do you have friends who have kids similar in age to your own? I have friends with a daughter six months older than mine, but the girls have never met. Encouraging them to be pen pals is a fun way to foster a friendship between the two of them!
Try to Become a Published Writer: Okay, when I came across this tip, I thought, “No way!” Too much pressure, not possible, who’s going to publish the average kid, etc.? But think about it. Is there a kid’s magazine your child or family enjoys? How about a local newspaper or even a school newspaper? A writing contest at the public library or local bookstore? I can still remember how proud I was as a fourth-grader when I had a poem accepted for publication. Some of us—even as grown-ups—do better when we have a goal in front of us. Encourage your child to create a work to submit for publication; that’s a goal they can achieve even if they don’t actually get published. (And it might seem like cheating, but you can “self-publish” your child’s work using kits or even something as simple as Shutterfly or ArtKive. This might be less of a goal for them to shoot for and more of a surprise for them when they write their first story or complete a book of poetry.)
Written and Directed By…: Encourage your child to write a story in play or screenplay form. Then they (and their friends, the family, favorite toys) can use the script to put on a performance or record a short film. Whether a live “stage” production that you record or a movie, you can record it to share with friends and family far and wide. I still have a VHS tape—which, of course, I have no means of watching—containing multiple shows from a TV channel that my sister, my cousins, and I recorded more than two decades ago!
Let Them Be the Boss of You: You’ve heard of the Exact Instructions Challenge that’s recently gone viral, yes? For this challenge, a child writes down instructions to complete a simple task. It could be making an ice cream sundae, coffee, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or something like brushing your teeth. But, you must follow the instructions exactly as written—no adding or skipping steps. So, put your kid in charge and let them give you a set of written directions, then see what happens! Because even when the Exact Instructions Challenge is no longer cool, your kid is sure to get a kick out of seeing you try to make dinner when they neglect to write down that you have to take the pasta out of the box…
Teach Them to Love Office Supplies Early: Okay, this is my one last tip. Do you love starting a new journal or planner? Enjoy buying new stationery and note cards? Get giddy when you open a new pack of pens? I do, I do! And I know I’m not the only one. I’ve loved art and office supplies since I was a kid and was collecting all the different varieties of Crayola markers, or later, gel pens. (Dating myself again, am I?) Use writing tools to make writing fun and exciting for your child. Let them pick out pens/pencils/fine tip markers to write with and choose special notebooks and paper to write on. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down—and specially chosen writing supplies can help make writing more fun for your young writer!
So, these are some of my favorite tips for encouraging a love of writing in your child. I hope you’ve found something that will inspire your writer here. Share your favorite tips in the comments!