Developing Writing at Home

Ideas for parents: how to help your child become a stronger writer

    Before getting started

    Provide a place
    It's important for your child to have a good place to write, such as a desk or table with a smooth, flat surface. It's also crucial to have good lighting
    Provide the materials
    Provide plenty of paper (lined and unlined) and things to write with, including pencils, pens, and crayons.
    Talk with your child as much as possible about her ideas and impressions, and encourage her to describe people and events to you.

    Activities for young children

    Encourage the child to draw and to discuss her drawings

    Ask your child questions about her drawings such as:

    "What is the boy doing?"

    "Does the house look like ours?"

    "Can you tell a story about this picture?"

    Show an interest in, and ask questions about, the things your child says, draws, and may try to write.

    Ask your child to tell you simple stories as you write them down
    Copy the story as your child tells it, without making changes. Ask them to clarify anything you don't understand.
    Encourage your child to write their name
    Practice writing their name with them, and point out the letters in their name when you see them in other places (on signs, in stores, etc.). They may start by only writing the first few letters of their name, but soon the rest will follow.
    Use games
    There are numerous games and puzzles that help children with spelling while increasing their vocabulary. Some of these may include crossword puzzles, word games, anagrams designed especially for children. Flash cards are fun to use too, and they're easy to make at home.

    Turn your child's writing into books
    Paste their drawings and writings on pieces of construction paper. For each book, make a cover out of heavier paper or cardboard, and add special art, a title, and their name as author. Punch holes in the pages and cover, and bind the book together with yarn or ribbon.

    Day-to-day activities

    Make sure your child sees you writing
    Theywill learn about writing by watching you write. Talk with them about your writing so that they begin to understand why writing is important and the many ways it can be used.
    Encourage your child to write, even if they are scribbling
    Give your child opportunities to practice writing by helping them sign birthday cards, write stories, and make lists
    As your child gets older, write together
    Have your child help you with the writing you do, including writing letters, shopping lists, and messages
    Suggest note-taking
    Encourage your child to take notes on trips or outings, and to describe what they saw. This could include a description of nature walks, a boat ride, a car trip, or other events that lend themselves to note-taking
    Encourage copying
    If your child likes a particular song, suggest that they learn the words by writing them down. Also encourage copying favorite poems or quotations from books and plays.
    Encourage your child to read their stories out loud
    As your child gets older, ask them to share their stories with you. Listen carefully without interrupting, and give them positive feedback about their ideas and their writing.

    Hang a family message board in the kitchen
    Offer to write notes there for your child. Be sure that they find notes left there for them.

    Help your child write letters and emails to relatives and friends
    These may include thank you notes or just a special note to say hello. Be sure to send your child a letter or card once in awhile too so that they are reminded of how special it is to get a letter in the mail. Consider finding a pen pal for your child.

    Encourage keeping a journal
    This is excellent writing practice as well as a good outlet for them to describe their feelings. Encourage your child to write about things that happen at home and school, about people they like or dislike and why, and about things they want to remember and do. If they want to share the journal with you, read the entries and discuss them together.

    Things to remember

    Allow time
    Help your child spend time thinking about a writing project or exercise. Good writers often spend a lot of time thinking, preparing, and researching before starting to write. Your child may dawdle, sharpen a pencil, get papers ready, or look up the spelling of a word. Be patient — this may all be part of their preparation.
    Respond to your child's writing
    Respond to the ideas your child expresses verbally or in writing. Make it clear that you are interested in what the writing says, which means focusing on "what" the child has written rather than "how" it was written. It's usually wise to ignore minor errors, particularly at the stage when your child is just getting ideas together.
    Praise your child's writing
    Take a positive approach and find good things to say about your child's writing. Is it accurate? Descriptive? Original? Creative? Thoughtful? Interesting?
    Avoid writing for your child
    Allow them ownership of their own pieces of writing, even though it is tempting to show off a final beautiful piece.
    Help your child with her writing as they get older
    Ask your child questions that will help them to clarify the details of their stories and assignments as they get longer, and help her organise her thoughts. Talk about the objective of what they are writing.
    Provide your child with spelling help when they are ready for it
    When your child is just learning how to read and write, they may try different ways to write and spell. Your job is to encourage our children's writing so they will enjoy putting their thoughts and ideas on paper. At first, your child may begin to write words the way that they hear them. For example, they might write "haf" instead of "have", "frn" instead of "friend", and "Frd" instead of "Fred." This actually is a positive step in developing their phonemic awareness. Keep practicing with them, and model the correct spelling of words when you write. As your child gets older and begins to ask more questions about letters and spelling, provide them with the help they need.
    Practise, practise, practise
    Writing well takes lots of practice, so make sure your child doesn't get discouraged too easily. It's not easy! Give them plenty of opportunities to practice so that they have the opportunity to improve.

    Read together
    Reading and writing support each other. The more your child does of each, the better they will be at both. Reading can also stimulate your child to write about her own family or school life. If your child has a particular favorite story or author, ask them why they think that story or that person's writing is special.