Writing seems like the hardest thing, doesn’t it? It’s the last big leap into full-blown literacy, and as parents we want nothing more than to watch our young ones blossom into happy, confident writers.
Unfortunately, most of the advice and activity suggestions that you find out there encourages you to stick workbook pages in front of your child, have them trace letters until their hands go numb, or force writing activities on your older writers that they really, REALLY don’t feel confident doing. And sadly… the statistics about writing are clear that this approach isn’t only developmentally unsound, but is causing a significant problem with how our children feel about writing and how often they choose to use this skill. An astounding number of children, teens, and even adults have decided that they don’t enjoy writing, aren’t good at writing, or actively choose to avoid it at all costs.
So, how do we balance encouraging meaningful writing practice to grow their experience while also making sure that we don’t put undue pressure on them making writing something that is dreaded? We do this by offering a variety of opportunities for our children to choose to write while being mindful of the fact that writing does indeed develop in a natural way when it is a part of the experience!
Here are some ways for you to encourage writing in your environment:
- Get your child a diary that locks – Giving your child a place where they can write literally anything without the worry of someone looking over their shoulder or “checking their work” is such an empowering thing! You would be amazed at how excited your child will be to curl up and write when they get to hide it behind a lock and key! My oldest son has THIS ONE and the fact that it glows in the dark is just an added bonus.
- Put graph paper on clipboards in your building area – Did you know that drawing is a precursor to writing? Give your children the chance to sketch what they’re going to build blueprint style, and watch the imagination and excitement come to life! Before you know it, they’ll be labeling their sketches as well.
- Offer help when it is asked – Is your child constantly asking you how to spell a word? That’s GOOD! When they ask, help them! You’re not “giving them crutches” or making it so that they’ll never figure out words on their own… you’re helping them build confidence in a skill that can otherwise seem very scary and daunting. Every now and then you can ask them to try themselves, but in general – if they ask for help, give them the help!
- Don’t “red pen” your child – This seems like an obvious tip, but sometimes we are “red penning” our kids without even realizing it. How many of us can resonate with the gut-punching feeling of getting a writing assignment returned covered in red pen marks? Research is very clear that this is one of the major things that causes writing anxiety and a refusal to try to write in the future. Don’t do this to your kids – with a literal red pen or even with your words by constantly correcting them. Writing develops on a continuum (something we talk about in detail in the Grow Your Natural Learner Course) so allow your child the space to write with mistakes without the constant need to make it perfect.
- Start a nature journal – Know the best place to write with freedom and inspiration? Yep – outside! Make it a new habit to bring along a nature journal when you head out on nature walks or hikes. In our bag, we bring along two journals/sketchbooks (so each child can draw at the same time if they desire), a container of colored pencils, and some tape (incase a nature find needs to be added to the journal!).
- Set up an art studio – Remember how I said drawing is a precursor to writing? Setting up an art studio in your learning environment is a wonderful way to encourage more drawing and creativity that will naturally transfer over to writing practice and skill development. If you need help with this, check out this art studio series.
- Use post-it notes – Want to see your child suddenly super excited to write? Add post-it notes to their learning space somewhere! They’ll be using these for everything from practicing numbers, labeling things, drawing notes, and more! Try different sizes, colors, and shapes for extra fun!
- Write family notes – Not only is this an amazing way to encourage some bonding and connection with each other, but it’s a great way to practice reading and writing skills! Leave notes for your child to find when they wake up, sneak notes into their lunches, and encourage them to write notes to others.
- Label things in the house – Do this sparingly, of course, because going label crazy will just cause your child’s eyes to glaze over. Choose a few commonly used objects or places and have your child write the label (This part is important! Using their writing helps to solidify the learning). Hang it up and refer to it often to encourage your child’s understanding and use of the word. Every now and then, change up the words you labeled.
- Make shopping lists together – When you head to the grocery store with your shopping list, let your child make one as well! You could have them be responsible for finding a handful of common items like milk, eggs, yogurt, etc. or let them be creative and add their own items to their list! This tip gives you tons of benefits – from reading to writing to encouraging healthy eating habits, making and following their own shopping lists is an amazing way to bring more natural writing opportunities to your child’s learning experience.
- BONUS: Give your child ample opportunities to write in places that aren’t just sitting in a chair at a table. In fact, research shows that this position actually makes it quite hard for a child who is developing writing skills to write comfortably. Instead, let them stand and write, lay on their bellies and write, curl up on a couch and write, squat at a small table and write, etc.
This is just the tip of the iceberg with ways that you can encourage your child to practice writing in ways that is fun, exciting, and completely risk-free. Hopefully it’s a good start for you to start thinking about this process in a new way. For more specific ways on how you can encourage writing in a natural way for your unique child, make sure to join us for Grow Your Natural Learner, starting live January 1st!