Most kids, and adults for that matter, find writing to be a major drag, even a chore. Getting your children to practice writing is probably like pulling teeth: torture for everyone. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Many people take great joy in writing or find journaling to be a solace. You can instill a love in writing in your kids, especially if you start early.
Writing is a very important skill for your children to learn. Reading and writing make up the foundations of literacy. To be literate, you need to be able to write, and to be successful, you need to be able to write well. For obvious reasons, writing is important as a communication tool. To be able to express yourself in writing, you need to be able to write persuasively and clearly.
What is less obvious is that the actual act of putting pencil to paper is crucial to good brain development in young children. Contrary to what many people think, typing out words is not enough. Youngsters need to form letters, words, and sentences the old fashioned way in order to develop strong cognitive, or thinking, skills.
No matter what the ages of your children, you can take this very important academic and cognitive skill and turn it into a fun project. Make writing something your children love to do and watch them blossom.
For the Youngest
For your very young children, even infants, writing begins with simply holding an implement and extends to scribbling. Although it may look like nonsense to you, those scribbles are the beginnings of writing. Children who are just beginning to write actual letters or who are mastering the basics of handwriting, there are several ways to make the exercise more fun.
- Change up the implement. Allow your child to experiment with a variety of writing tools. The more choices they have, the more fun it will be. Try using pencils, pens, markers, crayons, chalk, glitter pens, finger paints, and anything else you can think of.
- Branch out from paper. Remember that thick lined paper you used as a kid? How boring and repetitive it was to write letters over and over on that brownish newsprint. Give your child different materials. Use cardboard, construction paper, different colored lined paper, a chalk or white board. Write in the sand with a stick. The more creative you get, the more fun it will be.
- Add music. Music not only makes tasks more fun, it also makes them easier to remember. When working on letter formation, come up with rhymes or little tunes that describe how to make each letter. Whenever your child forms that letter, the song will help it come to mind quickly.
- Letter crafts. Classrooms in elementary schools have the alphabet displayed for a reason. It helps children remember their letters. With your child, get crafty and create an alphabet for display. A temporary, but fun way to make the alphabet is to make shaped cookies. Peanut butter cookies work well for this. Your child can shape the dough into all the letters and then eat them.
For Older Writers
Once your child has gotten to the point of being able to write complete sentences on their own, you can try more complex writing activities. The ideas below are appropriate for different age levels and some of them can be modified for different abilities.
- Make lists. Let your child help you make lists. Lists are a practical example of the importance of writing. Explain how you use them on a daily basis and encourage your children to make their own lists for daily chores. Grocery lists are also fun to make. They have the chance to write down what they want to buy!
- Have a scavenger hunt. Scavenger hunts are always fun and can be used for so many purposes. They can be tailored to match just about any lesson or subject. For instance, if you are teaching shapes and geometry, the kids can be hunting for objects that represent a certain shape. The writing comes in when you make up the clues. Your kids can take turns writing clues for each other. They will need to be able to write them clearly so that they can be read and they also need to be creative.
- Have a writing-only day. Set aside a day on which everyone will communicate by writing only. Each child can carry around a pad of paper and a pen. They are not allowed to talk. If they want to tell you something, it must be written. (Of course, make sure that they understand that if there is an emergency, they should break their silence.)
- Create a family story. Start a story by writing a page or a paragraph. Pass it on to one of your kids to be continued. That child will pass it on to the next one until the last one writing concludes the story. Each child should be given a certain length to write depending upon his or her ability. For instance, a six-year-old may be expected to contribute a sentence, while a twelve-year-old could write a page.
- Find pen pals. Getting your kids pen pals is a great way to practice writing and learn about other cultures. There are probably many pen pal programs today that use email, but you can certainly still find old-fashioned letter-writing pen pals too. An excellent way to find pen pals is to check with a local assisted-living community. Many of the residents would love to receive letters. Writing letters is an experience your children likely don’t have these days, but it is a fantastic way to practice writing and is really fun and exciting as well.
- Become cryptologists. There is nothing more fun than writing in code. Have your children come up with their own secret codes. For a younger child, it could be as simple as substituting numbers for letters of the alphabet. Encourage your older children to come up with more complex codes. They can then write to each other and try to figure out each other’s secrets. A fun (and historic) type of cryptology to try comes from Cardinal Richelieu. He used to create cards with holes in them. He would place the card on paper and write a message in the holes. Removing the card, he could then fill in the rest of the spaces with writing. Only someone with the right card could read the hidden message. This is a great activity for older children to try.
- Try poetry. Some children who find writing paragraphs a chore respond very well to verse. There are plenty of formulaic poems that are easy for children to try, like haikus or acrostics.
- Make your own mad libs. If your kids have never seen mad libs, get them a book to try out. Mad libs are great for making reading more fun. To translate that fun into writing, have them make their own mad libs. One kid can write a mad lib and another can fill in the blanks. Then they can switch.
- Handwriting analysis. Analyzing handwriting is a real skill and one used by those who solve crimes. Learning about handwriting analysis is a great way to merge writing with something practical. Together, you and your kids can learn about the importance of this type of analysis and how it is done. Then you can practice analyzing each other.
- Keep journals. Get each of your children a notebook or diary to keep as a daily journal. Writing every day is a great way to become better at it. And most kids will enjoy the introspection of writing at the end of the day—it’s why so many teenage girls have enjoyed keeping diaries! Explain that the purpose of a journal is to get your thoughts down and to reflect on the day. No need to emphasize the fact that it is good writing practice as well!
©2012 Off the Grid News