One of my favorite ways to spend time with my daughters is when we are involved in some sort of creative exercise. Of course, for me, writing is at the top of that creative list. As an author and teacher of writing, I’m always looking for ways to engage my girls in writing exercises. So I have created a list of the some exercises I do or have done with them. Like most parents, I want my daughters to learn how they can use writing to express themselves, communicate, persuade, explain, or reflect. The bottom line is to have fun and let them be a part of the design process too!
I started this with my youngest daughter, Juliana. She has the tendency to interrupt me when I’m working and since I do a lot of work from home, this means all the time. So we devised a fun game we played on Fridays. Here’s how it works: first, we crafted a mailbox out of an old shoe box. We decorated it and even gave it a little red paper flag and a small bell that hung from a string. We set the mailbox outside my office and when she had mail for me, she put the flag up and rang the bell to alert me that I had mail. The deal was, once she left me mail, I would respond to it within fifteen minutes. Her letter could be about anything and often times we ended up co-writing poems. She’d start the poem and I’d write the next line. Did I get any work done on Fridays? Not usually, but we had a lot of fun.
We love to have fun and create adventures together as a family. So whenever we go on a vacation, even camping for the night, the girls write a one page paper on the place we are going. They can select a popular attraction, history of the place, cultural tradition, etc. One time, when we were off to San Francisco, they fought over who would write about the history of Ghirardelli chocolate. This taught them a lot about research and delivery because once we got to the place of interest, it was their job to teach the rest of us what they had learned. It’ s also fun to create travel journals and you don’t have to go far for these to work. You could even use your summer trips around town and kids can write about a day at the park or movies. They can glue their tickets on the pages, receipts, photos, etc. My girls still have all their travel journals and love them.
Child as Teacher
I think we can learn a lot from the kids in our lives and it’s such a confidence booster for kids to teach us something. You can use this in a multitude of ways. They can teach you how to do something, for example, how to make chocolate chip cookies. Or maybe they learned a new fact and want to share it with you. After the writing, let them showyou how to complete the task.
It’s a Plan
If your kiddos are anything like mine, they are constantly after something. So, in order to teach them persuasion, I will often ask them to present a plan. For example, if they want to do something a little out of the ordinary, (like go to a midnight showing without me!) then I have them put together a plan that includes all of the details including a movie preview, rating, time ,date, place, friends going etc. Then they must list the reasons why I should allow them to go and this includes anticipating my responses. Believe it or not, we usually end up laughing at some of the reasons they come up with.
Word of the Day
We have a big framed chalkboard in the kitchen nook where we eat. Each week one of the girls is responsible for a word of the day. If you don’t want to come up with your own, dictionary.com will email you one every day. Each night, it is my daughter’s responsibility to teach everyone the word.
Check out a book at the librarythat they haven’t read and review the cover together. Have your child write a short story on what she thinks the book will be about then you can compare and talk about it after she has read it. This is always fun to compare how they perceive the cover and what the pages actually contain.
Co-write a Story
We usually start with a photo in a magazine to get us started. Then my child writes the first sentence of the story based on the photo. I then write the next sentence and we build ff of each other. Sometimes it gets a little corny but it is always a lot of fun! This can also be done with poetry. (Review story elements here.) This list could be endless and I hope it gives you some ideas of things you can do in your own home. Think about what makes your child unique. What does he or she like to do? You can incorporate music, sports, books, etc. And f you make it a game and fun, they will be much more likely to participate. Thanks Melissa to you and your readers for having me. Enjoy the summer!
Melissa’s Note: I’m so excited to try these ideas – they’re practical and engaging, thank you so much, Jennifer! And readers, please, please, please read Jennifer’s YA book book, Tortilla Sun, it’s absolutely beautiful!