Getting children to sit still for more than five minutes is a challenge in itself! So how on earth can we motivate kids to sit, think and then write an entire story that makes sense? On top of that, how do we know if what they’ve written is any good? And then there’s the question of how can we get them to improve their skills with creative writing?
Well actually, it is a lot easier than you think. And all it takes is a little connecting and quality time with them.
Think Peter Pan
Adults are attracted (and in some cases, addicted!) to books, films and tv shows which provide escapism and whisk us into a world where our troubles seem far away. For kids it’s much the same, but there is a fundamental difference to take into account: Children’s minds are growing, seeing and learning things often for the first time – this is really important because studies show that children learn best from memorable experiences more than anything else. So the key is to make every time we sit down with them even better than the last time. Fun, quality engagement with our kids is what we want as parents. They want the same thing too.
Five steps to inspire children with writing:
1. The key to it all is storytelling: This is what we have in common. Parents and children love great storytelling!
2. Story time is something we remember as kids: And is what our kids need now more than ever. Reading leads on to better writing – and there is no better substitute.
3. Read together and take turns: Make story time a rival to Broadway! Assign characters, put on voices and act out the story as if you were performing a play. This adds colour and texture to settings and characters and powers the imagination.
4. Read books and then watch the film together: The promise of watching a Disney flick or Roald Dahl movie is motivation enough. Ask your children if they think the book or the film will be better. You’d be surprised at the power of their imaginations!
5. Make writing tasks fun! Once you’ve got them to appreciate the storytelling again, use simple and easy tasks to build their creative writing skills step-by-step.
Once your child is engaging with you with frequent reading sessions and the odd writing session, in no time they’ll form a great habit and be ready to write on call! When ready for the real deal, Alison Wilcox’s Descriptosaurus series is something to both admire and make the most of: Each book is packed full of great ideas – this could be the best buy ever for your kids and is well worth the investment in the long run:
So what next?
Seeing that we’ve discussed the various ways to get your children interested in storytelling (that is, by spending some much needed quality time with them), we now need to put the work in and actually get something done. We also understand just how tricky it can be to get kids to actually write stories (and anything else, for that matter).
To help out and start forging the habit, here are five great little projects you can work on with your kids straight away – and get started with putting ideas onto paper. We are sure they will love at least one of these: All you have to do is work your way through the questions with them and in no time your kids will soon love describing characters and settings and plots…and all that good stuff!
Family Writing Project 1: The Magician’s School
Imagine you are asked to go to a magic school like Hogwarts. Write a story detailing your adventures at your new school. Don’t forget to describe the teachers and the subjects they teach. Do they teach maths and English or do they teach special magic subjects? Which is your favourite teacher? Why? Do you have many friends? What are their names? What do they look like? Do they have any special talents?
Family Writing Project 2: The Time Travelling Machine
Pretend you have gone into a time-travelling machine and ended up in the past – or perhaps, future. Write a story about your adventure, don’t forget to talk about: What do you see? What does the place look like? Who do you meet? What do they look like? What do they eat and drink? Where do they live?
Family Writing Project 3: There’s An Alien Under The Bed!
Write a story about an Alien hiding under your bed. Don’t forget to talk about: What does the alien look like? Is it tall or short? Friendly or Angry? What does the Alien sound like? Smell like? Feel like? How does it walk and move? Where has it come from and why is it in your house!?
Family Writing Project 4: A New World
Imagine you have landed a spacecraft on a new planet. Write a story about your adventure. Try to include things about what can you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Do people live here? Are there animals? Are there plants?
Family Writing Project 5: The Secret Formula
You have been given a special drink by a silly scientist; he wants to explore what happens if you drink it. Imagine what happens when you drink this secret formula. Try to describe what it tastes like, smells like and looks like. What happens if you eat or drink the scientist’s crazy concoction, what will happen to you? Write a story about your adventure.
Ask your child which one interests them most and start with that. Our kids might not like writing to begin with but they love to copy us – so for the first one we recommend you do the writing and let them copy you later.
Should you need further inspiration, ideas or some specialist intervention, check out the various ways you can engage your child at 11 Plus London. In the meantime, there are a wealth of books and websites that can help with quick and easy activities guaranteed to get everyone’s cogs whirring.