Put a pencil in her hand and focus on the fun
Neighborhood reporter, poet or playwright, your child can explore the joys of writing and be all of them this summer with your support.
Write together as a family and share your work, and when summer ends, you’ll have a record of your time spent together and apart.
Record time away from home
At sleep-away camp: Stock your camper’s bag with postcards, which are a fun way to connect and to get your child writing. Help her pre-address postcards to friends and family before heading off so she can pen daily updates and pop them in the mail.
On family vacations: Write local postcards to recount adventures and then mail them home. Kids and parents can preserve memories as they happen. After your trip, a unique souvenir and reminder of your journey will be waiting in the mailbox.
For the budding journalist
Document adventures: “We keep a journal during our travels because it is hard to remember exactly what we did once we get home,” says frequent family traveller Lili Panarella.
For a younger child: Take dictation if her writing skills haven’t caught up with thoughts. Assign each person a specific day, or write as the mood strikes, but make sure everyone participates.
Encourage creative thinking: Kids don’t always have to write to be engaged with ideas or think like a writer. E. Ashley Steel, co-author of Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids, suggests interviewing your kids about places you visit. Ask about their observations of new people, geography and foods. Allow time for reflection and then capture their words on the page as they share.
Use nature as inspiration: Provide your young scientist with a blank journal to record her observations. She can draw plants and insects and write descriptions of the natural world.
Kids who prefer non-fiction can stick with details and descriptions as they observe and study. Others can use nature to stir their imagination toward stories and poems.
Best practices for creativity
Carve out a quiet space: Your child might be happy curled up in a cozy spot at home where he won’t be disturbed. Look at your space with new eyes and find a location that calls to him. Some children thrive with a desk of their own, but for others that setup may seem too much like school.
Go with the flow. No matter what type of writing your child experiments with during the summer, make a point of separating the creative flow of writing from the mechanics. Nothing stops a budding writer faster than having his spelling corrected. If you find yourself distracted by errors, have him read aloud so you can discuss thoughts and ideas instead.
Patricia Zaballos, author of Workshops Work! A Parent’s Guide to Facilitating Writer’s Workshops for Kids, agrees. Kids in her workshops often struggle with spelling or penmanship despite being “writers who read sophisticated stuff,” she says. Parents and teachers might not see through superficial errors to recognize strengths.
Offer encouragement: Instead of jumping into editing, have your young writer read aloud, and listen to his words. Hear the creativity behind the stories he tells. If improving grammar and spelling are summer goals, set time aside to work on editing later, after first acknowledging his effort and creativity.
Heather Lee Leap is a writer, yoga teacher and mother of three girls. Find her at Wellnessandwords.com.