Write on! Tips to help your child flourish as a writer

February 14, 2012 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

My 7-year-old son’s aversion to writing is somewhat surprising, given that he’s the child of two professional writers. Yet, his second-grade teacher’s comments at our parent/teacher conference were not totally unexpected. We’re familiar with his pattern. His idea of expanding a sentence is to change “It was fun” to “It was really, really, really, really fun.” Sometimes, if there’s enough space on the page or he’s feeling particularly creative, he’ll add more reallys.

However, writing is an important life skill – most jobs require some type of writing – so we are determined to help him develop in this area. Plus, reading and writing go hand-in-hand, so we know the more he does of each, the better he will become at both.

If you have a reluctant writer, consider the following tips to nudge him or her along:

Make writing part of everyday life.

Leave notes for your child and invite her to write back. Hang a whiteboard or chalkboard where you can jot notes to each other.

Play word games.

Rhyming games and spelling games are an entertaining way to pass time and expand vocabulary, which is helpful for writing. Play “I see something” using letters in place of colors. “I see something that starts with the letter ‘b’,” for example. Ask your child to try to spell the word once either of you have solved the other’s clue, then think of two or more words that rhyme with that word. It’s a great way to show your child how to have fun with words.

Make up stories and write them down.

Write sentences on several pieces of paper, leaving room for your child to draw a picture. Make a cover out of heavier stock paper, like construction paper, and include a title for the book as well as your child’s name. Ask questions such as “what happened next?” or “why did the character do that” to keep them thinking.

Let their writing plug into their interests.

Writing even a couple of sentences in a journal a few times a week about something that happened at school, or their latest adventures with Mario in a video game, will get children in the habit of writing on a regular basis. Choose a colorful notebook and pens to make it extra fun.

Share stories with other family members.

If your child completes a science project or gets a grade he’s proud of, suggest he write a letter to grandparents. Not only will it give him practice writing, it will provide a welcome surprise in the mail for grandparents. (Email is OK too!)

Expand a sentence by using the five W’s and H

who, what, where, when, why and how. A simple sentence grows in detail when you use this strategy. For example, “The boy (who) ate his dinner (what)” can be expanded by adding W and H details. Ask your child, “How did the boy eat his dinner? Where did he eat his dinner?” etc. The sentence can become: The boy quickly (how) ate his dinner in the kitchen (where) after his baseball practice (when) because he was hungry (why).


  • PBS Kids has word games for younger children (about ages 3-7). Check out www.pbskids.org
  • “Tips for Parents for National Day on Writing,” developed by the U.S. Department of Education, can be used anytime. www.ed.gov
  • “6 Traits of Writing: Online Writing Lab for Elementary Students.” www.edina.k12.mn.us

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