Creative writing can be a real positive force for children’s lives and development, but how does a child get started with creative writing? There are many ways, but it can often be helpful to have a structure to work from, so we’ve outlined some simple steps on how your child can write a story and enjoy themselves in the process! As they brainstorm, a lot of ideas will come to mind, so we recommend they take notes throughout the process.
Your child may not be quite ready to start, and that’s normal - writing can be challenging!
Instead of jumping straight in, ease your child into it with activities like free writing. This will allow them to explore any topic without pressure, acting as a way to boost your child’s imagination before they start writing stories.
If your child is a reluctant writer, you can try different methods that don’t actively require them to put pen to paper, but are linked to creativity and storytelling. These include drawing, picking out new children’s books from the local library, telling stories out loud, or dedicating time to read your child’s favorite books as a family. Generally, reading lays the foundation for your child to be able to create their own stories, improving their narrative writing skills by exposing them to different techniques, genres, and styles.
When all else fails, encourage your child to read more. The more that your child reads, the easier it will be for them to start writing.
Creating a character is a great starting point for your child to write their own story.
This character can be whatever your child wants them to be. They can be a human, an animal, a mystical creature, or something completely made-up! Once they have a general idea of what they want this character to be, they can brainstorm different plot points, which will further inform the characters traits, behaviours, and role in the story.
Here are some questions your child should be able to answer about their character:
A story normally relies on one character to be the hero, and on another to be the villain. The villain is typically portrayed as a negative character who introduces a problem (the antagonist), and the hero is a positive character who solves the problems (the protagonist). Once your child creates their main character, they should establish their role within the story. Are they writing from the perspective of the hero, or would they prefer to give the villain of the story a voice?
From there, they can create side characters! These are typically parents, siblings, and friends of the main character, but can also be total strangers. If your child is stuck on how to build their first character, they can use writing prompts to make it a little easier. Try this prompt:
Prompt: Create a character that is half dog, and half elephant and call it a Doggophant! What does a Doggophant like to eat?
The next step in your child’s creative writing process is to choose where it takes place. They should also decide the genre of their story, as some settings won’t work for some specific genres (for example, a sunny beach wouldn’t pair well with a moody mystery).
This story’s setting could be a real location, such as London, Paris, or New York, or a fictional location, like an enchanted forest or an underwater kingdom.
A helpful way to start brainstorming is to ask your child about places they’ve been to, seen on TV, or read about in stories. This is a chance for them to imagine how their story would look like in different settings, and will help them decide on the genre they’d like to go for too.
Prompt (continued): Where does a Doggophant usually live? Is it a magical Night Zoo?
Before starting to plan the plot, your child should understand the basic structure of a story. All good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The beginning serves as a way to introduce characters, set the scene, and show the "calm before the storm”. This happens before a conflict is introduced.
The middle of a story is where most of the action takes place. This is where your child should introduce the main problem, and the main character’s journey of trying to solve it.
Finally, the ending or conclusion of the story is where, normally, the conflict is resolved. This can change depending on how your child wants to end their story!
Prompt (continued): Doggophants love when people visit the Night Zoo, but a new character named Lord Nulth is trying to steal all of the creativity in the Zoo! Does Lord Nulth sound like a nice person? Why would he want to steal creativity? How will Doggophant and other animals stop him?
Now that all the planning is done, let’s get writing!
As your child starts to write, they’ll probably make changes and come up with new story ideas— this is normal and an integral part of the creative process.
It’s important that you offer your support throughout this process, especially if your child is a reluctant writer. While giving them space to concentrate, you can check-in every once in a while, offering help if they encounter any hurdles. Your role mirrors that of a writing prompt, providing your child with initial ideas and nudging them to develop their story further. This collaborative approach ensures their story unfolds organically, making the blank page a canvas for unlimited story possibilities!
One of the best things about creative writing is that it enables children to express themselves and grow in confidence with every story they craft. It pushes children to believe in the phrase "I can", as they embark on different writing exercises without the fear of failing or being held by the “what if’s”. As your child starts their journey through the exciting world of writing, it’s important to guide them in the right direction. Encourage them to not overthink and just write whatever comes to mind at first.
To keep the momentum, you can even set different goals, like writing different descriptions, drawing their main character, or brainstorming different story endings before writing the full story. For reluctant writers, setting small, attainable targets can make the process less overwhelming and more exciting. Avoid setting strict word counts or time limits, as these can add pressure and take the fun out of the writing experience.
It’s important to remember that progress isn’t linear, and that every child is unique. If they need to, you can allow your child to build their story gradually, creating a more fluid project that enables them to work when inspiration strikes. Once they finish their first story, you’ll probably see a change in their attitude, and a new motivation to write a different piece.
Creative writing can be a rewarding experience for you and your child. Make sure you give them positive encouragement, and to soak in the experience of reading the story once it has been completed. They’ll have created something one-of-a-kind, and it will give you an exciting look into their imagination!
Still having trouble getting your child motivated to write? You should try Night Zookeeper!
Our program makes writing fantastically fun by turning different writing activities into games, keeping children engaged, entertained, and excited to learn!
We cover all styles of writing, and boost children’s writing skills using an array of different activities, including writing lessons, short story prompts, and challenges.
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