Writing is one of those essential skills that, if nurtured, can become an enjoyable and beneficial tool, one that can have a personal and professional effect for a lifetime.
Different people seem to have different opinions about writing. Some moan and groan at the thought of it, preferring, perhaps, to walk on nails or visit the dentist. Others are naturally drawn to writing, feeling somehow compelled to put pen to paper and use the act of writing to organize their thoughts and think more clearly.
If you talk to a university professor or employer of recent graduates, you’ll likely hear concern about the apparent decline in writing ability being observed in young adults. What was once considered a quintessential benefit of a solid education is now falling by the wayside.
Fortunately, as a parent, you can easily encourage your children’s writing prowess. The key is to make it fun and meaningful. Here are seven fun ways to encourage your children to practice writing at home.
Write Down What They Say
A wonderful way to encourage young pre-writers or even older reluctant writers is for you to transcribe their ideas for them. With a pen and paper at the ready, ask your children to make up a story, verbalize a letter to Grandma, or conjure a silly poem. Write down exactly what they say. Don’t edit it for grammar or style. Simply allow your children to experience having their exact ideas put down on paper. You can further enhance the experience by encouraging them to draw and color pictures to go along with their new creation.
Finally, put the work to good use. Read the poem or story aloud, frequently. Mail the letter to Grandma. Show your children that what they “wrote” has value.
Share a Journal
Another fun exercise to share with your child is to maintain a you-and-me journal. Simply write to your child in a special journal designated to this process and ask for a response.
Perhaps, you pose a question such as, “What are your top three favorite flavors of ice cream?” or pose a challenge like, “Can you think of 10 other words that mean ‘good’?” Or start telling a story and ask him or her to continue it, beginning a delightful back-and-forth project.
Additionally, vary your entries with doodles, paint, stickers, and other embellishments. Get creative and encourage your child to do the same. There are no wrong answers here.
He or she will delight in this special practice you share together and without hardly realizing it, will be honing his or her writing skills at the same time.
Let Them Copy
Copycats get a bad rap. Encourage your children to copy things down—a joke, a poem, a quote, a passage from a book—anything. The act of copying proper syntax and grammar and (ideally) beautiful and well-written language strengthens the writing muscle in a very simple way. Be careful not to make this feel like a boring school assignment.
Make it fun, perhaps by incorporating it into a craft project, making use of special pens, or doing it right alongside them.
Expose your children to wonderful books. Not all literature is created equal—quality varies widely. Find “best of” lists from sources you trust online and stick to the classics. Allow your children to hear and read rich, descriptive language and make reading a high priority in your home.
Enter a Contest
Find writing contests for your children’s age range and encourage your child to enter. Having a purpose for writing—not to mention a deadline—will encourage your children to stretch their capabilities.
As they work on their entry, support them with the tools and resources they seek and be there for them emotionally as well. As anyone who’s ever created anything knows, the process can have its ups and downs. Cheer them on and celebrate the completion of their project.
Give Them Their Own Journal
Give your children their own personal journal. Aim to encourage a daily writing habit. Lead by example by also keeping your own journal, a process that can benefit your life in many ways. Keeping a journal and a container of pens at their bedside may be just enough to make this an enjoyable part of their every day.
Publish Their Work
As their skills improve, think of ways to put their work into the world. Many online tools make self-publishing something anyone can do. Whether it’s a blog, a neighborhood newsletter, or a printed and bound book, encourage your children to write for the benefit of others.