Catch your child in the act of thinking
This is a great time of year to catch your child in the act of narrating—expressing a thought, experience, or the content of a movie. When your child hits the white heat of language (you know it’s happening because he or she is animated and interrupting your phone call), you want to jot it down right then. Stop driving, stir frying dinner, or chatting with Melinda. Grab the back of an envelope or the random super market receipt and start writing, quick as a flash. Get the words as best you can.
If your child asks you what you’re doing, this is what you say:
“Keep going. This is so good, I want to get it down in your own words before I forget it. I want to share it with ________ (Dad, Mom, Grandma, sister, my best friend…).”
Then later in the same day (maybe at dinner when the family is gathered), say this:
“Today Arthur told me the funniest story about Rocky and how he chases the squirrels in the backyard. I wanted to get it right so I wrote it down. I want to read it to you.”
Then read it. Enjoy it. Talk about the contents. Ask Arthur questions related to the story of the contents (don’t talk about writing). Then put it away and eat dinner.
Make this a practice you return to again and again (not every day or even every other day, but when it’s worth it to capture in writing something meaningful your child says). You can even jot down the names of all the Lego men your child makes, or how your daughter explains the instructions to playing Wii bowling. These are also useful and important to write.
Eventually, your child discovers that what’s going on in his or her head IS what you want to see in writing. They start to realize that what is going on inside of them is worthy of print and sharing. They discover that writing is an extension of themselves, not a foreign language or practice to be mastered.
If you keep it up, your kids will take over and do it for each other and you won’t even realize that they’ve picked up the habit until they greet you at the front door saying, “Mom, Mom, Caitrin wrote her first story.” Then your older daughter will hand you the carefully transcribed narrative that her younger sister told her at bedtime.
That’s how it works.
You might also consider our Jot It Down! product. It gives you ten original writing projects you can do with your children. These are activities (one per month) that enable you to focus the original writing impulse in a specific direction (fairly tales or writing letters or issuing party invitations). They are delight-driven writing activities and cover a range of writing skills. And your child never has to lift a pencil!
Or check out our Jot It Down! bundle and save. Includes:
Image of mother and child by Ed Garcia