Getting people — and kids, in particular — to read and write has long been a passion of mine. You may remember my post, Reading Tricks for Kids of Any Age, originally written for Mom’s Favorite Reads.
Well, I recently came across an article by Abigail Elijah of Knowledge Isle with 20 tips for developing your kid’s writing skills which inspired me to write up a new post, this one on the subject of getting your child to write. I hope you find these tips useful!
12 Ways to Develop your Kid’s Writing Skills
Seven out of ten children find writing particularly challenging. What can we do to support them and help develop their writing skills?
One of the most important things you can do for your kids’ writing skills, is to encourage and develop their passion for reading.
Writing is different than speaking. Abigail shares this anecdote:
A few months back, I traveled to Egypt. An old man asked me, “how can your kids speak English language so fluently?” I softly replied, “Sir, just like your kids can speak Egyptian so fluently and we cannot”.
While speaking, you don’t have to spell the words. We don’t worry when words sound alike but spelled differently, e.g hair & here, there & their, etc. While speaking, we convey our meaning through gestures, raising voices, body language, etc. We can pause, whisper, or shout for dramatic effect. But writing has none of that.
That makes writing a much harder, complicated, and challenging task.
While writing, a good writer can shout or whisper by varying their sentence structure and using classy vocabulary and imagery.
Your kid can improve this quality through extensive reading. The more they read, the more they’ll develop a mature sense of language.
Fairy tales and inventive stories like Cinderella are great for kids. They help them gain the experience they will need to create their stories. They’ll learn to create a plot, speak in various tones through writing, and create whole fictional worlds.
2. Praise your kid’s writing
Admiration and encouragement are the most effective ways of stimulating your kids to keep writing.
A little praise can go a long way. Be sure to give specific positive feedback instead of a general comment. For example, say:
I love the way you portray the event, especially your description of the birthday party balloons and music. I felt like I was having a party with you.
This works much better than a simple, “great story.” Empathize with your child and remember that, just like all writers, she wants more than anything to amaze you with her masterpiece.
Display their writing and drawing art in different parts of your home.
Show these pieces to relatives with a gesture of appreciation. Put their work on the refrigerator, kitchen walls or anywhere in the home. This will encourage your children to share their work with others.
3. No need for perfection
Remember that old saying, if you want to do something, do it right? Well, forget it.
This perfectionist mindset is terrible for authors, let alone children learning how to write. Facing a blank page is hard enough. Asking them to produce a perfect story turns it into an unsurpassable hurdle.
In the beginning, when your child’s writing is taking off, you just have to build up their confidence; not improve their writing.
All they need at this stage is your approval and admiration. After they start thinking of themselves as a writer, they’ll be keen to do it in a better way. When that happens, make sure to ask first if she is comfortable if you make some suggestions. Be gentle and age-appropriate about it. For example, ask:
What would happen if your teddy went to the forest instead of returning home?
How it will synchronize with the structure of your story if your protagonist were to follow Act One with another adventure?
Always encourage your kids to write, not to write perfectly. Time and practice will make their writing perfect.
4. Don’t stress about grammar
This is related to the above. Try to be less concerned about grammar in their writing as they are just trying to write. Stressing about grammar will only frustrate them at this stage.
We learn to speak naturally by ear, then learn to write grammatically correct while we read. Kids who struggle with grammar will fast lose their interest in writing.
The best way to learn grammar is to read a lot, and that will only happen with time.
5. Write yourself
Children will follow our example in whatever we do. Use this to your advantage. Keep a diary, write your family history, write some poetry or letters. Any kind of writing you’d enjoy. When your kids see how much you enjoy writing, they will want to emulate you.
6. Allow them their tastes
Your kid will most likely have a different style of writing than you.
Every kid uses their own thinking style, metaphors, and descriptions. Your little angel may want to write a gross story about death, murders, vampires, or a story where everybody is desperate. Kids with a poetic sense may write silly and childish poems. Sometimes, it will feel like they’re actively trying to provoke you (which may well be the case).
There is no need to worry. Just wait until this initial stage passes. Be appreciative instead of critical. It’s a blessing that your kids share any kind of writing with you.
Just like reading, every kid favors a different flavor of writing. Don’t insist they follow your tastes. Instead, encourage them to write whatever they enjoy. Mostly there are three kids of young writers:
First, those who love to write descriptively and try to write personal records and poetry.
Second, those who are perceptive and write character-full stories and influential essays.
Third, those who are enthralled with factual information and history and try to write difficult plots painted with accurate historical detail.
It doesn’t matter which type of writer your child is. Continuous writing will help them become versatile writers.
7. It all starts with a drawing
Remember that writing can take many forms. Young children love to write with crayons on their books or even on walls. While it makes sense that you will want to limit the amount of destruction on your home, reward and appreciate such little attempts. Steer them gently toward writing on paper but also praise a beautiful sentence, even if it’s written on a wall.
To help save your house, have writing stuff easily available.
Have plenty of pencils, markers, erasers, crayon colors, chalk, or anything they enjoy drawing with. Give them loads of paper to write on.
8. Listen to them
Let your children talk about their day. Encourage them to tell you about their interests.
The strongest inspiration for writing is believing you are saying something worthwhile.
So start listening even to tiny details of your kid’s life when they want to talk with you. For example, say you have the following conversation with your son:
You: What did you do in class today?
Kid: We had a color day, everybody was wearing orange color.
Now try to engage him more so that he elaborates about his day’s activities in further detail. The trick is to show him that you are a concerned and attentive listener while avoiding a barrage of direct questions. So don’t get bored while doing this. Stay quiet for a while to listen to him. If he doesn’t say anything, then ask him about his experience. Did he enjoy it? Was he bored? This kind of attention will give your child the ability to focus on details and emotions.
Listen to your kid. Whatever they want to say, just listen.
Even you can see clearly that you disagree with what they are saying, just respectfully listen to your child. This will boost their confidence. Once children assume that their parents have no respect for what they have to say, they’ll stop sharing. Unfortunately, they will think that they have nothing to say of value.
9. Help them with the sound of different words
A basic skill of a good writer is an understanding of cadence, rhythm, and the sound of words. Help your child develop this skill by making up silly sentences.
Sing those sentences with your children. Read them out loud. Get them to feel the fun part of languages. All this will help them develop a sense of rhythm in their writing.
10. Allow them their feelings
Children will speak honestly and vividly. However, what they say may bother you. Maybe your little daughter tells you that she hates going to school. Resist the temptation to scold her. She can’t change the way she feels, so she’ll only feel guilty or get angry. Try to acknowledge her feelings and discuss what’s bothering her.
Avoid censoring her and her feelings. Instead, encourage her to put those feelings into words.
Learning how to deal with their feelings will not only help children become well-rounded adults, it will also help them write about them in the future.
11. More than one way
We teach children that there is a certain way to do things. Problem is, kids will usually come to think that is the only right way to do things.
So, when their teachers teach them to write in a particular way, they’ll stick to it.
You should gradually eliminate this thinking so that your child can develop diverse thinking ways. Be gentle, and try to say things like “I think there are many other ways to do that thing.” Try to make your child’s thinking open-minded and flexible.
12. Respect their privacy
Finally, respect your child’s privacy. Never read her writing without her permission.
This includes both diaries and notes in her notebook, textbooks, and school papers. Not even notes from her friends.
If you want to read, express your interest to do so without insisting. This will encourage them to write whatever crosses their mind, without worrying about others reading it.