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In our other post on writing, we talked about some sneaky things we, as parents, can do to train our children to be better writers, but the question remains: Are there activities we can have them do to train them up? The answer is obviously yes. And, some of these fun writing activities will help your child learn valuable writing tools without you being a master at writing yourself.
How can we expect to get any better at writing if we don’t write? Keeping a personal journal is a great low-pressure way to encourage your child to make a habit of writing. For some students, asking them to pull their brains out through their noses would seem an easier task than attempting to put words to paper. This task becomes easier, however, the more frequently we try. The frequent writing also helps them organize and sort what thoughts and events are worth telling about and that those thoughts and ideas will one day have value to others as well. Just don’t let them get their hands on old journals until they’re old enough to appreciate them or they might end up in the trash like most of mine.
Stream of Consciousness
This activity might take some prodding to get them to do, but the benefits are wonderful. I strongly encourage this one when your child is upset or stressed. For this activity, give your child a pen, a paper and a timer and have them write everything that comes to mind during a set period of time. This is an activity where spelling, grammar, punctuation and pretty much all the rules go out the window. Its entire purpose is to get them putting the words to paper.
Many times there is a lot of pressure to follow this topic, focus on these rules, do this, do that. It can be overwhelming and more importantly it can freeze up their brains with fear that they can’t do it right or that they don’t have any ideas worth writing. And on top of training them to get words on the page, it is an amazing way to help them vent frustrations and organize their thoughts.
There are quite a few games out there that turn words into play. The game Mad Gab is a great example. This game requires players to describe a word to the other players without saying certain key words that relate to the original word. This gives your child practice in not only words and their meaning, but finding alternative ways to describe things and challenges them to tap into parts of their vocabulary that are underutilized.
Another word game that comes to mind is Apples to Apples. In this game, one player chooses a card that provides a word and a definition. The rest of the players then choose cards from their own hands that resemble or are completely opposite, depending on your sense of humor, of the original card. It is good for a lot of laughs and it exposes children to new words, synonyms, and word association. They even have a junior version for your less experienced readers. There are so many games out there that utilize words and grow vocabulary so they can learn and have fun at the same time.
For some of the younger crowd, the board games might be too much. But you can play games that build writing skills without knowing how to read. My kids can play I Spy in the car for hours. This helps build observation and description skills, which are both key to good writing. Another game my little ones like to play is telling me that they love me more than or like (Insert whatever cute object or comparison here). And the appeal lies in trying to one up the other person. This seems simple and silly, but simile and metaphor are important writing devices that many children don’t get enough exposure to.
Mad Libs provide a booklet full of stories with key words left out. They then ask you to have a partner fill in the blanks with the appropriate type of word (i.e. noun, verb, adjective, etc.) without knowing what the story is. The outcomes are usually very comical and it teaches your child the different parts of speech in a fun way. Knowing the parts of speech isn’t essential to writing first drafts, but it becomes very important when learning more about writing and editing.
Writing can be difficult, but it is also a rewarding form of expression and essential to communication. We need to remember that one of the most effective teachers of any subject is fun, and the more freedom we provide them with to express themselves, the more fun and rewarding the experience will be.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs