Do you want a sure-fire way to get your child writing and communicating? Buy 2 little blank books – one for your child and one for you. Now you need an interesting subject or thought you can write about. Find something that will be interesting or fun for both of you. Definitely NOT, “Write about what you did today.” Boring!! Try some of these ideas to spark your interest. You will soon be amazed by what you learn about each other and how much closer you feel.
• Look up Dr. Seuss quotations on the internet. They are jewels and get the creative writing juices flowing. Try this one: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Prompt your young writer and yourself by saying, “What makes me so special?” Both of you write about your wonderful traits and then share them.
• Sayings are good for thinking about deeper meanings. How about “Do not criticize another person until you’ve walked a mile in his or her moccasins.” What does this Native American saying mean? Think of someone you don’t get along with, and pretend you are living their life. How does it feel?
• Song lyrics provide good writing ideas. What could you write about using this line? “Into each life, some rain must fall.” When things aren’t going smoothly, this might be a good writing prompt.
• New vocabulary words stretch our thinking. Perhaps your child asks you what a certain word means, like “integrity”. You can explain the meaning (integrity describes a person who tells the truth and keeps his or her word.) Now each of you can write about a person you know who has “integrity”.
• Holidays suggest subjects too. Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? What are we thankful for?
• Poetry isn’t always easy to understand so reading a poem and talking about it can lead to an interesting journal entry. Another idea is to try writing a poem of your own. Begin by looking up some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems or Shel Silverstein.
• Try this writing prompt, “If I share what I have, it will make someone else feel good.” What could you share with someone today? Could it be a “smile” or a “thank you” or an act of kindness? How do you think it would make another person feel? Now, each of you writes your idea, and illustrate it if you want.
• Old proverbs make for interesting writing. “Two’s company, three’s a crowd.” Explain that this proverb means, two people can get along well together, but if a third person joins them, there sometimes can be trouble. Suggest that this may or may not be true. Write about your opinion of this proverb and give some examples from your life. Talk about the difference between an “opinion” and a “fact”.
• Pick a favorite reading book and write a different ending to the story. Suppose the wolf made friends with the 3 little pigs. How would the story have ended differently? How would you have felt? (It’s always good to include feelings into your writing.)
• Quotations and metaphors, along with old proverbs and sayings, stimulate a child’s deeper level thinking skills. Whenever you can find thought-provoking questions, writing goes deeper and uncovers feelings.
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• Share values in life, like “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” This is an especially interesting saying to write about because it’s familiar to children. Share your own experiences and respect your child’s opinions. The child who is just beginning to journal sometimes needs a little help transferring thoughts into words. “I think” or “I feel” are often good starters.
Children who learn to express their feelings by writing, are able to release those feelings and let them go. I remember when my young daughter wrote a note to us when she was angry about something. It said, “I’ve run away, but not too far. I’ll be back. Don’t call the police.” She never ran away or gave us the note. She taped it to the back of her dresser (just in case she might need it in the future!) We didn’t find it until years later when we moved some furniture around. If she hadn’t been a writer, she may have tried running away but by writing the note it helped her reason out the outcome, step by step, and make a sensible decision.
A word of caution – remember that journal writing is not the time to worry about misspelled words, incorrect grammar or sentence structure. No rules! No lectures either! Journal writing is for expressing feelings. If we desire perfection, we will change the dynamics of this time spent together.
The best part of this activity is not just the writing practice, but is in the sharing. It’s amazing what each of you will learn from the other. This is a time for bonding. It seems we spend so much time running around, taking kids to lessons or games, fixing dinner, washing clothes, that we miss the important times, the close time spent together sharing who we are.
I know how difficult it is to carve out a few minutes to spend with each child. When my four children were small the pace was hectic. But being still and sharing with your child will be one of the wonderful things you both will remember and cherish your entire life.