Getting my kids to write was slightly less painful than delivering them into the world, but a lot more frustrating. Because it goes on for years and years and years …
When I tell people that Dark Omen wrote a novel and is now working on the sequel, they give me this knowing look, like, Well, of course! What did you expect? You’re a writer!
If they only knew.
None of my boys (ages 8, 10, 12) enjoyed writing when they were younger (in the case of Mighty Mite, we’re still in that nooooooo stage of the writing experience). But I’m a patient mom (er, sometimes), and in the spirit of my Twelve Tips for Reluctant Readers post, I’ve pulled together Ten Ways to Get Kids to Write:
When the boys were little, we had a mini-easel that was chalk on one side and marker on the other. It spread chalk dust like crazy and we were always having to clean it, but having writing materials easily available (Way #1) meant we could stop and draw letters or cats (lots of cats) at any time. Later, when they were in school, there was lots of writing time during the year, but during breaks and summer, I stapled together pages of writing paper with a construction paper “cover.” This “book” was theirs to decorate, but they had to write a sentence (or paragraph or page, depending on the age) in it every morning, setting a regular time for writing (Way #2) – interestingly, Dark Omen still does most of his writing in the morning. Sometimes I gave writing themes (Way #3), like Christmas lights or going to the pool, but mostly I let them write whatever they wanted (Way #4), even if it was only “I hate writing.” (They thought this was the height of funny.)
When they were older and could write longer passages, I enlisted the help of writing workbooks (Way #5) – get the good ones, they’re worth it – with worksheets on grammar as well as narrative writing. To mix it up a little, I also gave them assignments (Way #6): write a letter (from a list of our relatives), write a poem, write a song, write a recipe. Here it helped to have a variety of writing supplies (Way #7), from index cards to fancy stationary. The most inspiring writing materials were consistently any notebook or writing material of an odd shape or texture or origin (Way #8), whether tiny spiral bound notebooks or giant sized, cardboard-latched binders. My boys even spent one hilarious night writing secret notes on the backs of fortune cookie slips.
As long as they were writing, I was happy.
Note: most of the time I was not happy because they were not writing. I tried to give them a journal (Way #9) – not a diary – but that was met with scorn. My final Way is not really a technique, but an attitude: cultivate patience and don’t give up (Way #10). Kids all develop at their own rates and it may take time (a lot of time, years worth of time) before they reach the milestones you want. But just like reading, writing is an essential skill that will wither if not actively encouraged.
Now, I have to pull Dark Omen away from his spiral notebook that he relentlessly fills with words and characters and stories. I have to tell him to eat breakfast before writing, to make sure it gets in him before he has to run to the bus and Junior High. And if I had told my younger-parent self that my oldest son would some day be a novelist, I would have had a good laugh.
And I probably needed it, too.
If that’s not enough ideas to keep you from tearing out your hair, Imagination Soup has ten more writing activities for kids.
May the Odds be Always in Your Favor.*
*Getting kids to write isn’t quite as brutal as the Hunger Games, but somehow the analogy seems apt.
What Ways have worked for you?
p.s. Thursday is Blog Hop Day on the Omnific site (open to non-Omni authors as well). Join or Hop, as you wish!