A child enjoying writing a story can be a tremendously powerful thing – not only for that child’s continued development, but equally for a parent or teacher wanting to support the child.
This is true whether the child is writing a story in a school classroom, or in their home.
It is through writing stories that children can build on their love of reading, helping improve literacy and use of language, while taking advantage of the wellspring of imagination and wonder that children have from an early age.
How to encourage story writing at home
One of the most effective methods I’ve used over many years of teaching is that of short story starters – a brief premise that immediately activates a child’s imagination to start building on top of it.
My aim is to make this feel less like home work, and much more like an enjoyable hobby or interest for the child – and have them eager to write down the adventure or whatever idea is flowing out of them.
When exactly a child can write stories at home, either as part of structured home learning, or as an encouraged hobby or activity, is going to differ for each family – and potentially for each child.
Sometimes the most effective plan will be to have a set time each week where the love of books and stories can be celebrated – along with a dedicated time to write their own stories.
For others, maybe a more spontaneous approach is preferred – parents leading by example with their own creative projects, helping make “creating things” a normal every day activity that the child is more likely to emulate as a starting point.
Encourage this child to listen to their muse, and anytime that they feel creative, help them understand that they are able to go to their writing spot and enjoy getting their story down on paper.
What can parents do to support their child’s writing?
We live in a noisy time, and most people (including children) find themselves with a million distractions surrounding them for much of each day, such as a multitude of mobile devices pouring out alert notifications, or music, or video to everyone in the area.
Likewise YouTube, Netflix, and infinite entertainment, news, video games, social media and everything else clamoring for our attention.
I’m not going to be a hypocrite, as I of course take part and give these things my attention – but we should always be thoughtful about how much of a distraction they are for many people, and a potential obstacle to the creative process.
Being free from buzzing notifications and clamor can give the mind a much needed chance to change gears into a creative flow state.
Create a writing station for your child
Having somewhere comfortable and free of distractions to sit and write in the home, perhaps with some creative images around to encourage and inspire, can be a game changer for kids and their story writing – and their home learning in general.
This can be the difference between a child excitedly rushing over for a chance to proudly read their short story to you, and a child that never experiences that as they’ve never been able to settle into a creative output of any sort.
Maybe it could be an area that is all about books and stories, with bookshelves containing the books they’ve enjoyed reading themselves, or depending their age, having read to them.
This should be one place that always has their chosen pens and pencils, and selected books, journals, or notepads to write on.
Remember that we want to get out of their way, and let them fully understand that they can start writing there any time they want to – and indeed that they should want to write in the first place.
How to use Story ideas
Story starters can take many forms, but my preference is for them to be short and sharp – a basic premise, such as a character and a location.
If these can be an unusual or funny combination that will often get the child underway with their story in no time at all!
We’ve actually created a free story starter sentences generator that gives you and your child a unique story idea with every click!
It can generate 10,000 different story ideas, so if you’d like to use a new one every single day of the year for your child’s story writing inspiration, you’ll still be seeing new ones in 27 years time!
Visual writing prompts
Another fantastic method is to use pictures as story starters, with or without accompanying words, to spark the child’s creative writing process.
I’ve used visual writing prompts for the kids writing in many age groups in my classrooms over the years, and they’re very often successful for the same reasons as the written story starters – the imagination just needs that initial seed to immediately start building a narrative or adventure around it.
In this case, a striking image of some sort is used – great examples are of course animals (we’re talking about kids here after all!), interesting looking locations, and other visually powerful images.
I do try and stay away from images of famous people or well known characters, as I feel that those can too readily lead to regurgitating existing known storyline and narratives.
I think that it can be more powerful if the budding child author sees some aspect that their own imagination runs with, as it will be a more satisfying achievement, and a story they’ll likely be more proud to share with you.
We’ve created several free sets of picture prompts for kids to use for their writing, in this case with some associated words alongside each one, to help give them something to work with – some kids will definitely find that useful to have, while others will get much more inspiration from the image itself, and be scribbling away frantically on their story in moments.
Where to find more story ideas for kids?
If the treasure trove of different story starters above are somehow exhausted by you and your aspiring young writers, you can always head over to the fantastic resource JournalBuddies, which has a multitude of curated lists of writing prompts covering all ages and themes.
You might also like to check out our other story starter generator, which creates 37,500 unique and often comical writing prompts for kids to get those creative neurons firing!