Do you have a little superhero running around your yard with a red towel pinned around his neck? Or maybe a young African explorer stalking through the grass? Imaginative play like this is critical for children for at least two reasons: it develops their minds and creativity, laying a base for future development. And, it is just plain fun. That's important too!
Often, when kids read books (or are read to) they think of stories of their own, and some develop a yearning to write them down or tell them to others. This is an outstanding way for you to help your children develop creative talents, while at the same time help them learn better language and communication skills.
So how can you help encourage this activity? It isn't always easy, with the intense competition there is for kids' spare time. Here are some ideas.
1. Allow time
Don't plan your child's schedule so tightly that there is no time for daydreaming and imagination. While music lessons, sports, and other activities have their place, kids need down time. This is virtually the only chance kids have to develop their imaginations. Don't forget to take advantage of time spent driving or waiting in line. Ask questions to get their imaginations going, like "what do you think that man is thinking about while he's walking his dog?" or "I wonder why they chose to paint that building red." Enjoy their creative responses, and maybe you'll also have the added bonus of less whining, complaining or fighting.
2. Encourage reading
Quiet time with books is a perfect way to have down time, or to break up periods of screen-based activities or hectic schedules. There are books for every interest at the library. Some kids prefer stories while others love reading nonfiction, like books about sports, bugs, animals, or how things work. There are many books being published now for the reluctant reader. If you need suggestions for your child's age and interest, the librarian can assist, or there are lists of such books on the internet.
Remember that reading is the best way to improve and encourage writing.
3. Make it easy
Provide a good place for writing and have materials on hand. Some kids will love writing on the computer — and get typing practice as they go. It's a simple thing to teach a child to open a new word processing document. Or writing by hand on paper has its advantages, too. For many kids, the chance to illustrate their stories is half the fun.
Sometimes kids get stuck for ideas to write about, and it's OK to help a little. There are lists of writing prompts on the Internet that can help. Suggest a journal to begin with. But once your budding writer gets started, resist the urge to over-direct her. Let her do her own thing, and don't worry too much about perfecting her grammar. The main point is to let their imaginations have free reign. The mechanics of writing will come with practice.
When your child shows you his writing, have fun reading it. Now is the time to heap on the praise. Point out things you like. Ask questions. Not only will your questions show interest, they'll get your young writer thinking about ways to develop his story.
Older children have even more options. Many communities have writing workshops specifically for young writers where they can learn from authors and come together with others their age with the same interest in writing. Most middle schools and high schools have creative writing classes to take that teach surprisingly advanced writing skills. Online writing classes abound.
The most important things you can do to encourage your young writer are to make it possible through providing time and positive reinforcement as well as to show how much you value time spent on developing this talent. In an environment like this, your young writer will flourish.