A few weeks ago, I mentioned that summer is the perfect time to help kids develop the habit of writing for pleasure, and I encouraged writing letters and journal entries as simple ways to spark kids’ interest. Here, I’d like to outline a few more specific activities that can take kids’ summer writing to the next level.
With minor adaptations, the ideas below work for kids of all ages; younger children may need help from grownups, while older ones can tackle these writing prompts on their own. But whatever the age of your children, these writing exercises will be most fun if your whole family participates. Don’t forget to make drawings, paintings, or even a collage to illustrate your work!
Want Something? Write for It!
Lots of parents ask their children to do extra chores to earn spending money or a new toy. This summer, try challenging your child to earn a special treat by writing for it.
Principal Kelsey DePalo models how to do this in her story about a first grader at Success Academy Washington Heights. When Sienna asked to have a Friendship Day at school, Ms. DePalo immediately turned it into a learning experience. “Write me a proposal and I’ll think about it,” she said. Motivated by her desire to celebrate friendship, Sienna wrote a five-item proposal and brought it to school the very next morning.
So when your child asks for a package of water balloons, a trip to the amusement park, or even a new privilege like riding to the park, ask him or her to put that request – and the reasons why you should say yes – in writing. You can respond by writing back with your concerns, and see if you can be convinced. (Just make sure you’re prepared to follow through—our scholars can be very persuasive!) And, if you find yourself refereeing a sibling dispute, have them duel it out—with words.
From Another Perspective
Whether you’re watching Frozen for the 12 millionth time, visiting the grizzly bears at the Central Park Zoo, or checking out the Arms and Armor rooms at the Met, challenge your child to write a story, letter, journal entry, or interview from the perspective of a character, animal, or historical figure. This can be especially powerful when kids explore the point of view of the “bad guy.” Encourage your child to research the topic and add as many accurate details as possible.
Take a Sensory Walk
New York City is a bright, noisy, and sometimes smelly place! Walk down your block, around your neighborhood, or through a park, noticing and talking about the sights, sounds, smells — even tastes and textures, when appropriate.
Take turns using interesting words and phrases to describe what you see. Practice personification, imagining that a building or object looks or acts like a person. (For example:.The mailbox’s blue mouth yawns open.)
Encourage your child to listen to noises and make a list of onomatopoeia, words that sound like what they mean. There might be the BEEP BEEP of a truck backing up, the WHOOSH of a bus braking, or the BONG, BONG of a church bell. Remember to have fun making your voices imitate the sounds!
Turn a Lamp Into a Poem
Choose an ordinary object in your home – refrigerator, lamp, desk – and tape a piece of paper on or near it. Every day, challenge yourselves to think about this object in a new and creative way and write down a word or phrase to describe it. Think literally and figuratively! Challenge yourselves to make your words more descriptive, elegant, and precise.
Approaching everyday experiences as discussion starters and/or writing prompts not only keeps kids’ writing skills sharp, it also helps them develop curiosity about the world around them, observation skills, and a boredom-busting attitude. With a book, some paper, and a pencil, any summer day can turn into a joyful, creative learning experience!