- 3 mins
Creative Writing Prompts for Kids
Creative writing is one of the most requested lessons I have as an English teacher. This form of writing encompasses a number of genres, including poetry and prose. It is fictional writing, as opposed to journalistic or academic nonfiction writing. Creative writing has an array of benefits, not only educationally but for overall well-being. Writing develops cognitive growth, organizational skills, and the ability to influence through persuasion. It leads to improved progress in other subjects such as math, science, and languages, and builds problem-solving skills, confidence, and discipline.
Reading is an integral part of developing creative writing skills, by exposing children to a variety of stories, sentence structures, and literary devices, such as metaphors and personification. In addition, exposure to a diverse range of characters, lifestyles, and concepts is incredibly important for children’s personal development, as it helps with growing empathy and social skills, feeling connected to others, and being exposed to many different ways of the world. Longer novels, shorter novellas, picture books, poetry, and short stories for kids are all great ways to get started with inspiration. Oftentimes, my students find it challenging to get their creative juices flowing, but once they have the tools to inspire them, they feel free to allow their imaginations to run wild.
According to the Education Endowment Foundation, there are seven stages to the writing process: planning, drafting, sharing, evaluating, revising, editing, and publishing. We can begin to develop familiarity with this process by teaching children how to plan for their pieces of writing. The first three stages (planning, drafting, and sharing) are typically what I focus on with younger children in primary stages, and as children grow and refine their skills we can allow time for evaluating and revising in order for them to edit or rewrite their work for a final opportunity to publish. This can mean an in-school newsletter, a writing competition, or a personal class booklet to help children see their completed work in a professional format, thus giving them a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work and encouraging them in their growth as writers.
First three stages of the writing process:
Writing prompts for kids is a great way to get started. These can include a visual stimulus such as an interesting photo with a question or instructions posed, for example: What is happening in this photo? Who is the character in the photo? Copy down the sentence related to the photo and continue the story. Certain online sites such as National Geographic or The Guardian will have a “photo of the day” that is an easy choice, or you can go to Google Images and type something like “adventure images.” I like to begin by having a discussion with the children about what the scene reminds them of, noticing what is taking place, the location, what the colors reveal, and the mood or tone. The writer can then begin to make a mindmap to brainstorm ideas, come up with names, events, and emotions, and use these as a jumping-off point. This is especially helpful for hesitant writers who may not know where to begin.
It’s also great to give a guideline about story structure, such as a beginning, middle, and end. Discuss a conflict that needs to be overcome and give success criteria to help, such as Use one metaphor. Use alliteration. Challenge yourself by using dialogue. The task does not need to be large. Short stories for kids are sometimes just a paragraph or two about an interesting situation. It’s great to read some examples so they have a clear idea of what it is they are trying to produce. Another helpful tool is to allow them to create a storyboard and give them a broad theme (love, friendship, adventure) to work with. Learning about common themes in stories, such as the seven common narratives listed below, and giving some examples, can help give context to this process.
- Overcoming the Monster/The Hero’s Journey (Dracula, James Bond, Star Wars)
- Rags to Riches (Aladdin, Cinderella)
- The Quest (Finding Nemo, The Wizard of Oz)
- Voyage and Return (Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia)
- Comedy (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
- Tragedy (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth)
- Rebirth (The Secret Garden, Beauty and the Beast)
The drafting stage helps to modify, expand on, and clarify original ideas and is where the practice for organizing content into a meaningful sequence or flow comes in. This portion of the creative process comes when the writer just goes for it and starts their creative work. I like to give sentence starters and a list of interesting adjectives and verbs for the writers to work with. After students have had some writing time, I provide positive praise and feedback to encourage them. If a child seems stuck, question prompts can help them push through a particular point in their story. Some examples of question prompts are:
- What is your character’s situation at the start of the story?
- What is the inciting incident?
- What obstacles does your character encounter?
- What happens to make the situation worse?
- What is the final resolution?
If the writers know they will be sharing their work, there is a sense of accountability and expectation. Sharing work also gives them a chance to have an audience and receive immediate feedback. Also, participating in the responses allows those who are listening to use their analytical and constructive thinking skills. They can start to communicate what they find works well in a story and what is more challenging to comprehend, which informs them about their own future work.
Another benefit to sharing writing is that it helps encourage reluctant writers and inspires students who are struggling to gain ideas and take risks. This honing of self-expression is a dynamic tool for children to have and can benefit them throughout their lives. As Paul Dawson notes in Creative Writing and the New Humanities, “The educational goal of Creative Writing in schools . . . was not to create a nation of literary geniuses, but a nation of children whose creative spirit had been released as a means of assisting their personal growth, via self-expression” (2005, 15). Sparking their own imagination, and experiencing different ideas that their peers share, allows young writers to progress through short stories, poetry, to longer narratives. Who knows? Maybe the next J.K. Rowling is sitting right in front of you!
Creative work is a form of play. The classic bedtime routine of reading or listening to a story is a great way to get them to connect with the structure and fun of storytelling. The Moshi App provides a daily bedtime story that can not only help your child have a calm and peaceful night’s sleep but also allow their imaginations to flourish in and out of the dream state. You and your child can listen to Yawnsy’s Moonlit River Cruise for a start and learn all about a young Moshling otter who just can’t stop yawning and sends everyone to sleep “faster than counting sheep.” If your child is having a restless night, Close Your Eyes Sleepy Paws, about a koala who also struggles with getting to sleep, may help them feel relaxed and comforted.
Regardless of what tactic you take, writing and reading stories is a great way to increase literacy and harness social and emotional benefits to help your child develop a well-rounded and creative mind.