How to Encourage Our
Children to Write
By Kelly Sage
We grab our journals.
Clark’s, a classic black and white composition book, mine a recent gift
of writing prompts. We sharpen pencils; I make sure Sophie has something
to do if she doesn't want to join us, and together, for ten or fifteen
minutes a couple of times a week, we write.
For over a year now, once a month, Clark and I
write together in a homeschool writing circle, but I wanted to encourage
him to write more often. He loves to write when he’s in our class but
rarely chooses to do so at home.
Challenge greets me when I feel like it’s a good
idea for my children to know or practice something. I want the
motivation to know or do something to come from them. I didn’t want to
tell him or make him write, but I felt like once he got into the habit
of writing more often, he’d continue to find the joy he finds once a
I knew first I needed to create space for writing,
for him to want to choose writing. So I thought about the differences
between our writing circle and our home, and I remembered my writing
practice became more of a practice when I started writing weekly in
community with other writers.
It was worth a shot. One morning I just asked him,
“Want me to grab my journal and we can write together?” and he said,
“Sure!” as if it was a normal thing we’d always done. We set a timer, as
we do in our class. I asked him if he wanted prompts. “No, thanks,” he
said pencil already in motion.
We wrote until the timer went off. Not wanting to
push, I casually asked if he wanted to share what he’d written. He
happily read to me and listened while I read what I’d written to him.
While we aren’t to the point yet where he asks me
to grab my journal, when I ask, he usually agrees. When he does ask
(a mama can hope!), I’ll make sure I say yes too.
Ten Ways to Encourage Our Children to Write
1. We grab our journal and theirs and ask if they
want to write with us. Just write. For fun. To shake out ideas and
story. Then we sit somewhere quiet together and do just that.
2. We let our child pick a subject or prompt for us
to write about, and then give whatever they choose a shot, even if they
pick something silly or gross. While we may not like the idea of writing
about boogers or wearing underpants on our head, the more we play with
writing, get out of our comfort zone, the more they will too.
3. We write with our children in mind and offer to
share what we wrote with them. We have to be okay with modeling what raw
writing looks like without being harsh on ourselves. We don’t want to
start out with a disclaimer, “This is dumb, but I’ll share it anyways,”
(because they will do that too), and we also don’t want to read
something they won’t understand or is not for their ears.
4. We ask our child if they want to share and are
okay if they don’t. It may take time for them to feel good about sharing. We ask again next time. By not pushing a writer out of their
comfort zone, we allow them to motivate themselves when they are ready,
and for writing together time to stay fun and encouraging.
5. If they share, we listen. Writers who feel like
they aren’t being listened to stop sharing. We make sure there are no
6. We only offer feedback on our children’s writing
if they want it and we make sure our feedback encourages more writing by
not focusing on mistakes. We don’t offer criticism or critique. A quick
way to shut down a writer or sharing is to say something like, “That's
nice but...” This does not mean we gush. Saying, “This is the best thing
I've ever heard!” can also discourage writing.
“Encouraging our children to write might not always
be as simple as grabbing our journals, but there are ways to offer
support, and by doing so, we can build and foster a love of writing.”
We might say, "Can I ask you a question about your
piece?" And if they say yes, ask questions like:
What happens next?
Where do you get your ideas?
Can you describe _____ for me?
What was _______ feeling when that happened?
We might say, I loved when ________ happened.
I'm curious about _______.
I felt ________ when _______.
7. We understand that at first our children may not
want to write with us. It’s okay. We keep gently offering. We can pull
out fun writing supplies, maybe new journals, and let them see us
enjoying ourselves. Eventually, they will join in.
8. We build our children’s joy of writing by
creating time for writing that is not graded or assessed. This time is
writing for pleasure time.
9. We can use writing games to build trust and
enjoyment, and to encourage reluctant writers to begin:
Play with dialogue; write a line of dialogue on a
piece of paper. This could be from the point of few of a stock
character, a pet, or someone known. Make it interesting or funny.
Something they’d want to respond to. Pass the paper and invite them to
respond in the voice of any character they choose. It might be silly and
odd and not make sense. It's okay! Have fun. Keep passing.
Create a Writing Territories List or Heart Map.
Pull them out when we need inspiration.
Take a walk, hike, go outside. Find a spot to sit
together and let nature guide your inspiration.
Put writing prompts (make up your own, search the
web, use the ones below) in a basket or bowl and offer them as an
Use storytelling cards, games like Apples to Apples
or Banana Grams and charades to play with story and words.
Write with pictures and pictures of words- make
Here are a few prompts to begin:
Describe your favorite place or time you were in
your favorite place.
Write about a scar or a time you were hurt.
Write a story about someone who is the exact
opposite of you or the same.
Write about a time you were scared or overcame a fear.
Write about your favorite animal, pet, or an animal
you’d love to pet one day.
Write about a trip you’ve taken or hope you one day take.
Describe your perfect day or your worse day or a
day when something surprising happened.
Look around the room, tell as story about something you see.
10. We read together, even when they are big.
Writers are readers and books are fuel for writing ideas.
Encouraging our children to write might not always
be as simple as grabbing our journals, but there are ways to offer
support, and by doing so, we can build and foster a love of writing.
Women Writing for (a) Change, Bloomington, Indiana - workshops for
adults and children to write in community
Inside Out - Strategies for Teaching Writing by Dawn
Kirby (Heinemann, 2012)
Games for Writing: Playful Ways to Help Your Child
Learn to Write by Peggy Kaye (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1995)
Kelly Sage is a certified facilitator with Women
Writing for (a) Change and the Young Women Writing for (a) Change
Coordinator. She facilitates adult, young women, and homeschool writing
circles. In her former life she was a middle and high school English
teacher. She writes about homeschooling and living with young children
on her blog,
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