If as a parent, you think you have detected a potential talent for creative writing in your kids and you’d like to encourage this possible ability, here are a few suggestions. These are not creative writing exercises. Many of them don’t even involve writing. They are general activities for parents and children to do together that parents can adapt to their children’s specific circumstances.
The goal is for parents to use these ideas to help their kids develop a deep love for expressing themselves through stories. Encouraging this love for stories as a form of self-expression will do much toward encouraging a reluctant writer to make the effort on their own someday. Although these ideas are fun activities for any parent and child to do together, I’ve made a special effort to make sure all the ideas in this list are dyslexic-friendly, because children who have difficulty with reading and mastering the mechanics of writing so rarely have the time, energy, or desire to attempt something that involves as much work as creative writing.
Write a story together. Pick two characters – one for the parent and one for the child. Pick a setting. Pick a situation. (Example: Two boys visit Scotland and find themselves in a situation involving the Loch Ness Monster.) Take turns telling the story as the parent writes (or types) it out. This is an obvious writing activity, but I include it because I have so often mentioned the benefits of reading with children and I can only imagine the even greater benefits that could come from writing with children. Alternate idea: Let your child dictate a whole story to you while you write or type it for them.
Think like a movie-maker together. Use storyboarding technique to map out the events of a story together. This activity may involve more drawing than writing, but the important thing is to develop characters and to tell their story. Put the drawings up on the wall or into a booklet and have your child narrate the story to you out loud from the pictures.
Think like an author together. Maybe no one’s in the mood for storytelling one day. That’s okay, it happens a lot to writers. But here’s a fun on-going activity that can lead to a future story. Even professional authors do this, so that’s why I can recommend it. Find an empty notebook. Then get a bunch of old magazines and look at pictures together. If you see a picture that looks like the setting of the story, cut it out and stick it in your notebook on the settings (or scenery) page. If you see a picture of a chair that the mom in your potential story inherited from her grandmother, put it in your notebook on the Mom page. Your story will grow and change as you add different pictures, but it will flow quickly when you do get around to writing it down. (or having it dictated to you).
Develop characters together. Create a character. Start making a list (written or verbal) about the character. (Let’s say you pick a girl.) What is her name? How old is she? What is her favorite color? Who is her best friend? What is her favorite television show? This can go on for as long as you want it to. (I read somewhere of an author who actually put together a Pinterest page for a character in one of her novels, where she collected pictures of fashions her character liked, vacation spots the character wanted to visit, etc.)
Make question stories together. This is something you can do on the go or while you’re waiting in line. Give your child a setting and a situation in the form of questions and have them tell you a story about it. For example: What if you were a small elephant lost in the park? How would you feel? What would you do?” Use “What if” and “What happens next” questions. Throw an occasional complication into the story. “What if you (the small elephant) almost stepped on a dog?” Tailor the settings and questions to your child’s interests, of course. The small elephant is only an example. Older kids will need more complicated questions/scenarios.
These are just a few ideas to help kids learn to love using stories as a means of self-expression. You may have some ideas of your own. Please feel free to share them here.