Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Tips to encourage your children to become natural writers

Image of a child's hand holding a pencil and writing on paper with text overlay that says Tips to encourage your children to become natural writers
A version of this post first appeared on my original blog, M and J in a Nutshell. On that blog, I documented a variety of things, but I kept a strong focus on education and homeschooling. This post features several updates.
Many children, including mine, don't have a natural enthusiasm for writing. For years, it was a chore to get my now adult child to write anything that wasn't absolutely necessary. By the time my child was 13 years old, however, they were writing every day -- and without prompting or instruction from me.
So, what changed? Did I force my child to sit and write daily? No. Did some other teacher or tutor make my kiddo write every day? 
No. Instead, I changed a few of our family habits and my approach to teaching my homechooled child to write. I believe some of our initial struggles stemmed from a rigid writing curriculum used by my child's school district prior to our switch to homeschooling and due to my child's predisposition towards extreme rule following. We switched from public school to homeschooling halfway through fourth grade and it was a game changer.
While we used some specific writing, grammar, and general Language Arts curriculum in our homeschool program, the most effective things have been the least academic.

Here are some tips, based on our experiences, that might help your child become a better or more engaged writer:
First, make sure your children have the tools to write! And, make those items as easily accessible as possible for your children. As obvious as this may seem, I am amazed when I arrive to tutor a student and there are no pens or pencils to be seen. No paper. No notebooks. is one to write without the tools? 
Put out a pencil or pen jar, a tub of fun erasers, and a pile of notebooks or paper. Make it easily accessible. And, those pages that you print off, then toss away? If the other side is blank, put it in a box for scratch paper -- my child frequently used such paper for sketching out new ideas or making notes.
You can even go a step further and have your child help to decorate containers to hold their pens, pencils, and paper. Let them use fun pencils or pens. Let them use color! This is non-academic writing, so color and fun can be part of the process.

Writing and art supplies on top of a small cabinet.
Provide a variety of notebooks from basic lined notebooks to fun, colorful journals, and even sketchpad style notebooks. July and August are a great time to stock up on notebooks, journals, and writing supplies since most stores will have great back-to-school sales! You should be able to find a wide selection of notebooks, pens and pencils at very low cost. Notebooks are great for journaling, writing stories, keeping lists, and more.

As an avid writer of letters, and with several pen-pals throughout the world, I am often asked about finding pen-pals for children. Honestly, I think it is a great idea, but children don't make very good pen-pals without extensive parental involvement and encouragement. Most of the time it is the parent who wants their child to have a pen-pal, and the child has little interest. Wait until your child is asking on their own about pen-pals, then investigate options. That said, I do have a few tips on encouraging children to write snail-mail letters...

Get a fun, colorful box and fill it with cute stationery and postcards. The local dollar store usually has a good selection at a low price. Even better, take your child to pick out their own stationery! Your computer also probably has some cute fonts, backgrounds, and clip art to create your own. When you see a rack of postcards, buy some! Anytime you travel, be sure to pick up postcards too. 
Have your kids use the stationery and postcards to write to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even to you. Have them write silly notes to their best friend or the child that lives next door. Your kids are more likely to keep writing to these people than to a stranger from a pen-pal exchange. If your kids are writing to friends and family that live nearby, you don't even need to mail the cards and letters. Have your kids walk next door or take them with you to deliver their notes in person. Your kids will love seeing the faces of their friends and family light up with joy...and, they will be encouraged to write another letter or postcard!

Our family mailbox...I don't recall where we found it!
Set up a family mailbox. This can be just an empty shoe box, or you can go all out and buy an actual mailbox at the local hardware store! Set it somewhere easily accessible to everyone in the family, and let the kids decorate it. Whenever they have something to tell you, but for some reason they don't want to just say it, they can write a note and put it in the mailbox. This is fun for sharing jokes, silly secrets, or a simple "I love you", but it can also be helpful for starting difficult conversations too.

These are fun ways to engage your child in writing, without the stress of academic assignments. 
The key to having your child continue writing is to be non-critical of fun, non-academic writing. Your child's spelling, grammar, and content will all be addressed by their teacher or when you go over their schoolwork. Your child's journal, letters, postcards, and notes are informal expressions that they put their heart into. Expect them to make mistakes, but also expect the lessons from school to eventually work their way into their informal writing. 
Be supportive and encouraging so that they keep it up for a lifetime!
Are your children natural writers? What have been their best and worst writing experiences?
Interested in buying a family mailbox? Check out the options below from Amazon! Please note, these are affiliate links and may result in a small commission for me if you purchase through them -- thank you in advance.


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