Monday, January 23, 2017

3 tips to encouarge your children to write more

Mom2MomEd Blog: 3 tips to encourage your children to write more
"My hand hurts."
"I don't know what to write."

"This is boring."
"It takes too long."
"Can't I just tell you?"

These are but a few of the complaints and questions I get when tutoring children who dislike writing. As a writer and an educator, these pain me, but I hear these complaints regularly from students. I also hear frustration from parents and other educators frequently about the struggle to get their children, particularly boys, to write more...or to write legibly.

We have discussed some related issues previously in posts about the book The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre, but I wanted to dive into some specific tips and ideas to help you encourage the children in your life to write more.

First, you should know that my own son and I were not immune to these issues.

My son used to HATE writing--H. A. T. E. it! In part, he wasn't ready for the fine motor skills required to hold a standard pencil properly; however, he also had medical issues involving his vision that made writing difficult, and once he entered elementary school, the school district's curriculum didn't jive with my son's academic abilities or thought processes at all.

When it came to writing as a child, my son was a mess.

Now, years later, my son LOVES to write. He writes nearly daily and often for a few hours at a time...entirely by choice.

So, what changed?

Did I force him to sit and work on his handwriting and his composition skills? Not for long...
Did I hire a tutor or ask for after school help from his teacher? Nope (but for some families tutoring can help!)
Did I make him stick to the school curriculum? Nuh-uh (although your child should still do their schoolwork and son did, but we also did a lot of other stuff!)

I didn't really do any of the above, or at least not for long.

Here are three easy ways to help your child with writing...I can't guarantee that your child will love to write, as mine now does, but I do believe these tips can help reduce the stress and frustration around writing (and we'll be sharing a lot more tips in the future!): 

1. Incorporate lots of reading
Yep, my first tip isn't even advice on actually writing! Instead, before your child can become a better writer, your kiddo needs to be a better reader. Quite simply, reading sets up the foundations for writing. Without language skills obtained from reading, writing will be difficult.

You can read to your child, with your child, or have your child read to you. Take turns reading. Have your child read to pets. Let your child bounce on a big exercise ball while reading. Let him hop on one foot while reading, if that's what he wants to do. Let her read curled up on the floor of her closet with a blanket, pillows, and a flashlight if that feels right for her. 

Just get reading into your child's life as much as possible!!!

Be sure to check out THESE posts for tons of tips on helping your children with reading (as well as advice on reading for yourself too!).

2. Get a family mailbox
Invest in a family mailbox--it could be an actual mailbox, a decorative small mailbox, a container with cubbies for everyone in the family, or even just a shoe box that you and your child decorate together.

Put the mailbox in a prominent place in the house where everyone can easily access it. Place some cute stationery and pens or pencils next to the mailbox and take turns writing notes and letters to one another. Make it a point to do this on a regular basis--even put it on the calendar!

Your child may start with brief, one sentence notes, and that's perfectly OK! Don't correct spelling or grammar in these notes and letters and don't make any comments about penmanship. The goal is simply to encourage the act of writing--the goal is NOT to perfect it! Over time, your child may start writing longer letters with more meaningful content.

A nice side bonus of the family mailbox is that your child may tell you things in writing that he or she doesn't feel comfortable telling you face-to-face. You may learn a lot about your child and you may see your relationship with your child grow thanks to your family mailbox!

We had a family mailbox very similar to THIS one (or click on the image below).
3. Keep writing tools easily accessible
It should seem obvious, but your child can't write if they don't have easy access to writing tools! It always amazes me, but I have arrived at many tutoring sessions only to find that not only has my student not brought paper or pens or pencils, but they don't even have any at home!

Hit up the local dollar store for some cheap pens, pencils, paper, and stationery. Grab some lined notebooks or pads of paper and fun erasers. Pop the pens and pencils into a cute jar or fun pencil pouch and set a pile on the kitchen table, coffee table, next to your child's bed, or even in the bathroom within reach of the toilet!

Have writing supplies out and easily accessible, and occasionally do a sweep of the house to gather supplies that may have scattered and return them to their homes. 

Don't necessarily pressure your child to write, but make sure the opportunity to do so is always easily available. A bored child sitting on a toilet may pick up pencil and paper or a kiddo waiting on a snack may decide to practice writing her name.

As I mentioned, the goal here is NOT perfection but rather simple, and gentle, encouragement. Children mature at different rates and if your child is struggling with writing, there may be a valid reason. I mentioned my son's struggles with writing, and I've encountered many other kids with similar issues.

Be sure to check back for more writing tips in the future!

In the meantime, leave a comment and let us know how you have encouraged your kids to write or what struggles your child is facing when it comes to getting words on paper.
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