Share the wonder of storytelling.
Writing is an extraordinary thing. Transformative, joyful, satisfying, calming, soothing, energising… (I could go on), it requires a pen and paper and the simple desire to describe someone or something.
It’s never too early to give children the gift of writing. Even before they have learned how to hold a pen, they can tell you a story. Maybe it’s a story about what a butterfly is thinking or what a teddy bear did when he got lost or what a cloud is saying to an aeroplane. Encourage them to share these flights of imagination.
You can write down the stories your children tell you and read them back to them at bedtime. Ask them questions to keep the story going: What made the butterfly happy? What did the teddy bear do when he fell in a puddle? Who did the cloud talk to next?
Once they can draw or scribble children can do the illustrations for the stories they’ve told you. And for the stories you make up for them. Both activities foster a lovely sense of storytelling being valuable and fun. Print out or write your stories in a large font and leave space on each page for their pictures. Get out all the crayons and felt tips and keep asking them: What happens next?
My now very grownup children were excited to take on the responsibility of illustrating the stories I made up for them when they were small. They were keen to show me exactly what the naughty purple cat looked like; proud of the drawing of the dog who couldn’t stop eating. I treasure these illustrated books and often look at them.
Once children begin to write, try doing some poetry with them. You can write simple verses about your pets or family or house and ask them to come up with the end-of-line rhymes. Anything goes!
Ask older children to come up with less obvious rhymes: Mouse doesn’t always have to follow house. Hat doesn’t always have to follow cat. Keep asking questions: What would be a really good rhyme for bird? What rhymes with table? Don’t forget that children love rude words: incorporate words like fart, burp and poo in these simple poems and see what rhymes they can come up with.
Make use of prompts with older children. Ask them to finish sentences or paragraphs in a funny or surprising way. Give them interesting words to use. Ask them to create an unusual character or describe specific feelings. Or take it in turns with your child to add a sentence or paragraph to a story so that it’s full of twists and turns. With small children keep things light and positive: Happy endings rule! Older children love a bit of drama and a scary story.