Many of the topics on this blog are about how to improve your own writing, with specific tips for different types of fiction and nonfiction content across a range of media. However, what about those young writers who might just be starting to find their creative spark, or those who might not have even begun putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) yet? Creative writing and storytelling can be deeply engaging for highly imaginative children, allowing them to express and explore all manner of ideas. There are huge benefits to introducing creative writing to children, but how do you encourage kids to write creatively?
Encourage them to read
People who love storytelling usually love stories, so encourage children who already love storytelling to read a lot more. Reading is a very healthy hobby that should be boosted by parents/family members. Reading with kids at set times, such as after school or bedtime, can turn reading into a lifelong habit. People who read a lot also tend to become better writers as their imagination and vocabulary expands exponentially.
Help them tell their stories
If your imaginative child shows a penchant for creative storytelling, help them to convert those stories into formats that they can read and share, even if they’re too young to write them themselves. There are tools such as picture bookmakers from Studentreasures Publishing that allow you to work with your child to digitally format a book that can even be printed afterwards. It can be an exciting moment for a child to see a story that they imagined become a tangible book they can read and interact with. Any writer revels in the joy of seeing their completed work on the page, kids and adults alike!
Give them time and space
Being creative is a process that requires focus and attention. If your child wants to write their own stories, then offer them the chance to do it in peace. You can get great writing desks for kids at places like Kidadl – children will probably have a much better chance of writing productively in a dedicated and peaceful environment, sheltered or divided from the noise of the household. Of course, you can’t force them to sit in a particular space to write, but creative writing isn’t something you should be trying to force in the first place. Encouraging a child that already wants to do it is always the best way.
Play around with ideas and prompts
Your child may have some favourite stories that they keep coming back to. This can be important in their growth as a writer. Many of us have ideas that we nurture within us for years. With enough time, those ideas become so intimate to us that we can create truly unique pieces of writing. Exploring different ideas with children can be an excellent way to jumpstart the creative process and get their brains investigating different styles and concepts. Take a look at these lists of creative writing prompts and story starters that you and your child could play around with. You’re guaranteed to find at least one that fires their imagination.
Talk to them about stories
Writers do more than enjoy the stories they engage with to fuel their own creative pursuits. Over time, an understanding develops about what makes stories great in the first place. It’s this understanding, and then applying it to your own writing, that makes for great tales. Working to deconstruct stories, even in the most basic form, with your growing child can help them understand what makes their own stories work. Of course, children are likely to find all manner of elements fun, such as magical creatures and swashbuckling adventures, but teaching them what makes their favourite stories so emotive or amusing or dramatic can help them begin to better play around with those elements in their own writing.
Join writing groups and workshops with them
As your kids start to get older, you might want to help them get more serious about their writing ambitions (if they are that persistent.) To that end, it could be time to start exposing them to stories and ideas outside of the bubble of you, school and the library. There are plenty of places to find local writing workshops (though some might not be open to the public quite yet). In the USA, 826 National offer basic creative writing lessons as well as the opportunity to enjoy all kinds of exercises that can get the creative juices flowing. In the UK, The Story Room has writers’ clubs and book clubs and online work shops available. A quick Google will no doubt bring up many more options both locally and nationally.
Encourage their descriptiveness
We all know what it’s like to be faced with a page of purple prose. However, your child shouldn’t be scared of using descriptive language. One of the most valuable skills they can learn is ‘show, don’t tell‘ when it comes to creative writing. However, it’s not an idea that’s easy to instinctively understand as a young writer. Instead, you can encourage them to be more descriptive by thinking about how things look, smell, feel, sound and taste when they’re writing. Instead of describing things in the most obvious way, they can learn how to ‘paint’ them on the page so that the reader gets a good picture of precisely what they’re ‘seeing’ in their mind’s eye.
If your child shows all the signs of being a creative thinker and loves telling stories, consider encouraging them to write their stories down. As they grow up, you can help them develop a lifelong love of creative writing that will improve their language skills at the very least, and open up a whole new world of personal development at best.
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