Summer is a season of travel, a time of sandy beaches, hypnotic sunshine, stamped tickets, and the excited laughter of children visiting out-of-the-ordinary places.
Summer vacations—and the summer months—fill our minds with those moments of wonder and imagination so natural to childhood and keep us connected to our own children.
But sometimes the household budget doesn’t stretch quite far enough for exotic adventures.
What to do?
Start with a Map
- Gather your family around the kitchen table with paper, pencils, pens, and an atlas. Better yet, pull out a road map of your state. As these maps are more detailed for the traveler, interstate road maps usually have the richer place names.
- Study some maps, reading place names aloud. Listen for those syllables and sounds that tickle and tempt your ear, hinting at the exotic. Where I live, nearby towns, rivers, and ancient mountain ranges honor the first Americans who dwelled here. Names like “Uwharrie,” “Oconeechi,” “Saponi,” “Lumbee,” “Saxapahaw,” and “Eno” dot the landscape and tease my heart and mind.
- Make a list of place names you like.
- Begin to imagine an island or a country or a planet where you’d like to visit.
Set Your Imagination Loose
Begin to paint this place with words and phrases.
What color is the sky? Are there cliffs, rivers, canyons, or mountains?
Name the landforms. Are there trees or flowering plants? What do they look like? Describe and name the flowers.
Place yourself there. What does the ground feel like under your feet? Stony? Sandy?
What kind of person, or wonderful being, could you allow yourself to be there?
Create Your World
As ideas shape themselves around your kitchen table, have your children create colorful maps and illustrated “travel guides” of their visionary worlds.
Don’t forget rich descriptions, helping your kids write and edit for an imaginary audience of would-be adventurers or vacationers. This is the magic of writing! In the creative power of words, our children are free to journey through the realms of their own sacred and unique imaginations.
As adults, what a wonderful gift we can give our kids: a love of adventure enhanced with the tools of creative writing.
Enjoy your magical travels this summer!
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Janet Wagner is a regular contributor to In Our Write Minds. For over two decades, Janet was an elementary and middle school teacher in two Christian academies, a public district school, and a public charter school. She also had the honor of helping to homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. Currently, she enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students and training dogs, and learning how to build websites. You can view her web work-in-progress at www.creative-writing-ideas-and-activities.com.
Has the boredom bug bitten your brood? Are you looking for a few ways to keep your kids writing while school’s out? Try these ideas for some summer writing fun.
1. Snapshot Storyboard
Take pictures of your child engaged in a fun activity such as swimming, making a craft, or climbing a tree. Print out the photos and have your child glue them on paper. Beneath each photo, your child can write a caption or sentence that explains what she’s doing (“I had so much fun sliding into the pool”) or adds an interjection (“Splash!”). Pre-writers can dictate their ideas to you while you write them down.
2. The Story within the Painting
With your children and teens, look through an art book, visit an art museum, or browse an online art collection such as the one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In particular, look for a painting that seems to tell a story. Once they find one they especially love, have them brainstorm a list of words, phrases, or ideas that the painting suggests. Then invite them to write a story that imagines what’s happening in the picture.
3. Best Memories
Sort through family photos with your children and have them choose a favorite that has lots of good memories associated with it. Invite them to write a story, reflection, or journal about the photo, focusing as much as possible on the sensory details—sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and textures—that made the day or event so meaningful.
4. New Endings
Gather a few picture books and read them aloud together—but don’t read the last few pages that reveal the ending. Instead, have the children write new endings. Pre-writers can dictate their ideas to you while you write them down. If your child is familiar with the story and can’t seem to think of new ways to end it, try reading a book that’s new to him. After he writes a new ending, compare the two versions over cookies and milk.
Older children and motivated writers might enjoy writing a new final chapter to a favorite novel.
5. Travel Brochure
Are you taking a vacation this summer? Have your children and teens design a travel brochure that highlights a favorite city, tourist spot, or other destination. Encourage them to use photos, illustrations, and maps. Make sure they include text to write details about the highlights or features of the place. What a great lasting souvenir!
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
Don’t let summer melt into autumn without assigning a little writing to keep those important skills sharp. If you’re looking for some writing activities to occupy your children this summer, this jam-packed, colorful, patriotic word list is sure to inspire some great stories.
For starters, they can use the word banks this very week as they journal or write stories about that great family reunion or how they spent their 4th of July. But there are also plenty of words they can use to write about summer events in general.
So what are you waiting for? Break out the paper and pencils. And when your writing session is finished, serve up some sliced watermelon or a plate of brownies!
America, United States, Founding Fathers, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Philadelphia, independence, July, fourth, holiday, republic, democracy, land, country, nation, states, thirteen, original colonies, government, citizen, patriot, freedom, history, liberty, ideals, truth, beliefs, justice, heart, foundation, war, revolution, battle, army, soldier, veteran, musket, gun, fight
Yankee Doodle, red, white, blue, statue, monument, band, banner, bunting, balloons, confetti, parade, grand marshal, flag, stars, stripes, fly, wave, snap pledge, salute, patriotic, loyal, free, brave, proud, grand, honor, defend, respect, march, cheer, clap, celebration, speech, poem, national anthem, song, hymn, play, baseball game, fans, stands
Fireworks, display, show, firecracker, sparkler, ground flower, pinwheel, Roman candle, rocket, skyrocket, flare, fountain, black snake, explode, pop, bang, hiss, sputter, burst, twinkle, sparkle
Family, reunion, town, neighborhood, babies, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, neighbors, friends
Picnic, beach, park, patio, porch, deck, pier, lawn, grass, pool, sand, lake, ocean, shore, waves, folding chairs, lawn chairs, umbrella, bench, picnic table, swings, tablecloth, barbecue, grill, charcoal, smoke, spatula, tongs, platter, pitcher, cups, glasses, forks, knives, skewers, grilling, sizzling, dripping, melting, burning, swimming
Steak, ribs, chicken, kabob, hamburger, hot dog, frank, wiener, bun, mustard, ketchup, catsup, lettuce, tomatoes, bread-and-butter pickles, dill pickles, relish, sauerkraut, onion, cheese, chili, cornbread, biscuits, corn on the cob, butter, salt, pepper, potato salad, pasta salad, cole slaw, baked beans, chips, dip, watermelon, peach, fruit salad, apple pie, cherry pie, chocolate cake, cupcakes, frosting, brownies, cookies, popsicles, homemade ice cream, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, sundaes, hot fudge, sprinkles, nuts, toasted, marshmallows, s’mores, peanuts, popcorn, drinks, ice, fresh-squeezed lemonade, iced tea, soda, pop, cola, juice, ice
Lightning bug, firefly, mosquito, fly, ant, bee, wasp, butterfly, moth, cricket, grasshopper, hummingbird, frog, tadpole, thunderstorm, lightning, rain, cloud, hot, humid, bright, clear, sun, sunny, breeze, dew, sky, stars, starry, moon
Reprinted from the archives.
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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Have you seen our other great word lists? Click the Word Banks link under Categories in the right sidebar and scroll through. We’ve got word banks for every season of the year as well as for several different holidays.