How to Nurture Your Child's Writing Passion Outside of School

nurturing your childs love for writing sm

Away from home, or simply away from school, summer is an ideal time to nurture your child’s love of writing. Kids that normally balk at homework assignments and deadlines can relax and write what interests them. With fewer academic distractions, kids can focus on the fun of writing. This year, go beyond the dreaded “What I did during my summer vacation” essay. Offer up these suggestions and opportunities to help your children put pen to paper.

Wish you were here. Stock your child’s travel bag with postcards this summer. Whether you’re away on a family vacation or your child is at sleep-away camp, postcards are a fun way to stay connected and get your child writing. Help campers address postcards home and to friends before heading to camp. They can add the details of their days and pop them in the mail. On a family vacation, seek out postcards of each destination. Have your child write about your adventures and send a postcard home. When you collect your mail after the trip, a unique souvenir and reminder of your journey will be waiting.

Keep a family travel journal. “We keep a family journal when we travel because I’ve found that it is hard to remember exactly what we did once we get home,” says Lili Panarella, who has travelled extensively with her husband and two daughters.

Kids and parents can write about adventures as they happen to preserve memories. We each experience the same events from a unique perspective. Your son’s description of falling out of a boat is sure to differ from your view of him launching over the side and bobbing up and down in his lifejacket. Take dictation from younger children whose writing skills haven’t caught up with their thoughts. Assign each person a day or write as the mood strikes, but make sure everyone participates.

Interview children about the places you visit. E. Ashley Steel, co-author of “Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids,” suggests:

  • Ask them what they have observed or learned about the people, geography or food. Allow time for reflection and then capture their words on the page as they share their insights. Your kids don’t always have to do the writing to be engaged with ideas and thinking like a writer.
  • Use nature as inspiration. Provide your young scientist with an un-lined journal to record observations. Head outside to draw plants and insects and to write descriptions of the natural world. Kids who prefer nonfiction can stick with details and descriptions as they study their surroundings. Others can use nature to stir their imagination toward stories and poems.


Create a writer’s alcove. When I was little I wrote in my “office” in the living room. My pens and notebooks were hidden in a discarded magazine rack tucked in a corner behind a red paisley wing chair. Encourage writing by helping your child carve out a quiet space. Some children will thrive with a desk of their own, complete with a drawer for pens, a shelf for paper or a laptop; for others that will seem too much like school. Your child might be happy curled up in any cozy spot where they won’t be disturbed. What secret hideaways are waiting to be discovered in and around your home? Look at your space with new eyes and ask your children what location calls to them.

No matter what type of writing your child experiments with during the summer, separate the creative flow of writing from the mechanics.
Nothing stops budding writers faster than having their spelling corrected. If you find yourself distracted by your children’s errors, have them read their work aloud so you can discuss their thoughts and ideas.

Patricia Zaballos, author of “Workshops Work! A Parent’s Guide to Facilitating Writer’s Workshops for Kids,” agrees. Some of the kids in her workshops struggle with spelling or penmanship. “I’m sometimes amazed because these writers read sophisticated, nuanced stuff,” she says. 

She notes that parents and teachers might not see through the superficial errors to recognize the strength of the writing. When we hear our children’s words we are more open to the stories they have to tell. If improving grammar and spelling are goals you have for the summer, set time aside to work on editing after you have acknowledged your child’s effort and creativity.

Write together as a family and share your work. Neighborhood reporter, poet or playwright, your children can be all of them this summer with your support. When break ends, you’ll have a record of your time spent together and apart. And that summer vacation essay in the fall? Writing it will be as easy as sipping a tall glass of lemonade.


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Heather Lee Leap is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. Her parents provided her with pens, paper and plenty of quiet time for writing when she was young.

Published: July 2013

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