If your child struggles with writing, it’s important to find new and fun ways to encourage the skill. Here are some creative strategies you can try.
1. Write a “Convince Me!” letter.
Writing isn’t just about telling stories or reporting on books. There are many ways your child can use words, including trying to convince others to agree with a particular issue or opinion. It helps to let kids practice this type of writing by letting them argue with you — in writing!
Choose a topic you don’t agree on, such as allowance or bedtime. Have your child write you a letter trying to convince you to change your mind. The catch? Your child has to use facts, quotes, and logic to back up the argument.
2. Play a game with pictures.
Photos and images are great story sparkers. Do a web search and find a few interesting images. Or cut out pictures from magazines. The pictures can be realistic, such as a photo of students on a playground. Or they can be fantastical images, such as a superhero flying in space.
Glue a few pictures into a notebook. Then ask your child to write about one of them. You can prompt by asking, “What do you see? What are the people thinking or doing? What will happen next?” Or, just let your child’s imagination run free.
In this activity, your child pretends to be writing to a space alien who doesn’t know anything about our planet or way of life. This alien does everything exactly as it’s said or written.
Your child’s job is to choose an everyday task, like brushing teeth or making a sandwich. Then, your child will write step-by-step directions for the alien, describing how to do the task. When your child is done, you get to be the alien and try to follow the steps exactly as they are written. Your child may be surprised at what was accidentally left out! And you both might end up in giggles.
As kids learn to write, they also learn other new skills. Making an “I Can” book will help your child practice writing skills and keep track of other accomplishments. Staple together a bunch of blank sheets of paper to make a book. When kids reach a new milestone, like learning to tie their shoes or hit a baseball, they draw a picture on a new page of the book. Younger kids can then write, “I can tie my shoes.” Older kids can write a few sentences about what they’ve accomplished and how they feel.
5. Play “Fortunately/Unfortunately.”
This turn-taking writing game is based on a classic kids’ book, Fortunately, by Remy Charlip. In it, something lucky happens and then something unlucky happens. Each event is introduced by either the word fortunately or the word unfortunately.
To play, take a piece of paper and write a “fortunately” sentence, like “Fortunately, it was a sunny day, because I wanted to play outside.” Pass the paper to the next player, who will add an “unfortunately” sentence, like “Unfortunately, I had to clean my room.” Keep going until the story is too silly to continue.
6. Write an “I Remember” poem.
This can be an easy, free-flowing way to allow your child time to self-reflect. Start by writing “I remember…” on several lines of notebook paper. Your child will finish the sentence. For younger kids, you might ask for five “remembers.” Older kids can handle more.
Ask your child to pick a recent experience and write the sights, sounds, feels, smells, and tastes from that memory. For a day at the park, kids might write, “I remember the sound of the wind blowing,” or “I remember the smell of the grass.” Older kids might add more. How did the grass look and feel? Was the wind blowing hard?
A journal doesn’t have to be a diary. It can also be a book where your child writes about ideas or answers questions, like “If you could do anything next summer, what would you choose?” A journal jar is a place to keep all those ideas and questions.
Wash and decorate a jar, like one that used to contain peanut butter. Then, write or print out journal prompts on slips of paper. Ask your child to pull out one prompt each day and write about it in a journal.
8. Create a family scrapbook.
A family scrapbook is a great way to save memories and jump-start your child’s writing. Use an inexpensive photo album to keep souvenirs of things you do together. This can include photos, ticket stubs, and found objects, like pretty leaves.
Your child can begin by writing the date and a line about where you were and what you did. Then, you can work together to write a more detailed summary of the experience. Don’t forget to include funny or even annoying moments!