How to Teach Creative Writing to Children

If your kid is under the covers with a flashlight at bedtime, writing stories and filling notebooks with pages of words  they call their ‘book,’ this post is for you. Your child is virtually begging to be taught how to write creatively, but parents often aren’t sure where to start. Here are the eight best things you can do to teach creative writing to kids.

1. Get some writing board games. Writing board games are a fantastic way to teach children creative writing. Jabberjot is one of the best, but since it’s more complex, it’s best suited to older kids. You’re given three words and three images plus a theme, and you have to fit all of those things inside a story. In the game you’re only given one minute to do it, but for kids, you can let them have five minutes or so. Rory’s Story Cubes is a simpler writing board game and comes with a whole bunch of dice with pictures all over them. You roll the dice and have to combine the pictures into a story. A few other examples include Spark Cards, Tell Me a Story, and Taboo Kids.

2. Encourage reading. You don’t become a writer by writing–you become a writer by reading. Writing always happens after the reading, so if you feed your child’s desire to read, they will have the foundation and creativity that will feed their writing. The only way to have kids today become readers is to limit screen time. If you have the television on, or if they are on their phone or playing videos games, they will never become a reader. Have strict limits on screen time and provide lots of books instead.

3. Attend some local writing workshops. Many cities have creative writing seminars for children, so check your local listings. See if your library has one, and if they don’t, ask if they could start one. A great one is called 826 National, set up by Dave Eggers. The stories are themed wildly, with pirate or astronaut gear, and they have regular creative writing lessons taught for accomplished writers. Writing camps are also a great idea.

4. Set up a special place to write. A designated writing place is one of the most important things to a writer. Place is a trigger that tells the brain it’s time to write, and if you set aside a special place for your child, it will encourage them to write more regularly. A desk is always good, but certainly not required. Try a corner and put some pillows and a blanket in it, and add a sign on the wall that says, “[Child’s Name]’s Writing Nook.” Or set up a small table in their fort or even in the garage–anything they can call their own. It’s also a great idea to buy them a few notebooks of different shapes and sizes, as well as a special pencil or pen.

5. Subscribe to children’s writing magazines. Magazines are a living, breathing example of writing. They arrive in the mail like a present, and they surprise your child with new stories every month. Even better, many of these magazines accept submissions from children. The most important thing for a writer of any age is to feel like they have an audience, and while Mom or Dad are a great audience, children will gain so much confidence if they could publish what they’ve written between the pages of a magazine they love. They will never forget that thrill and confidence boost. Even if they don’t publish, it gives them something to aspire to and makes them realize that other kids are publishing in magazines.

These are three magazines of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction published by Cricket media: LADYBUG, ages 3-6; SPIDER, ages 6-9; and CRICKET, ages 9-14. Other great options include:

6. Praise their writing, but be specific. It’s natural for your child to want you to read what they’ve written, but how you praise their work makes all the difference. The biggest mistake parents make is to praise in general terms. If you only say things like, “I loved your story,” or “that was so wonderful!” or “you’re very talented,” you are complimenting them without giving them any real kind of feedback. Children may be disappointed by general praise because it seems like you didn’t read their story at all, and you’re praising them as a person rather than about the work they’ve done.

When you praise their story, praise specific elements: “I love the way that dragon was both fierce and kind.” “The witch was so scary!” “I could really picture the dog, with his sharp teeth and dirty fur.” And ask them questions: “Why did you have the jewel in the cupboard?” “Was the old man in the story inspired by your grandpa?” “What happens next?”

7. Give them access to writing prompts. If your child is a true writer, they probably have so many ideas in their head already that they may not need writing prompts. But even kids get writer’s block sometimes, and writing prompts can really put the creative spark back into their creative writing. Give them some writing prompts for kids like these or these. If you want to give your little writer a gift, check out this amazing book: The Amazing Story Generator: Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts.

8. Self publish your child’s story or book and have them share. Ask your kids teacher whether a day can be designated when students can read their stories out loud in front of their class. By having your child read their story in front of their peers, they are getting an audience even closer to them than publishing in a magazine. Their peers can tell them what they think of the story, can praise them for how good of a storyteller they are. Then you can even suggest taking those stories and compiling them in a book. Self-publishing is very easy these days–if you send a file to anyone, they should be able to print it without too much cost. You could also go to a local print shop and get a bound copy for even cheaper. When your child sees their own writing in a book, they will really feel like a writer.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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