I don’t know what to write about! {26 writing ideas for kids}

When the kids say, "I don't know what to write about," look no further than these creative writing warm-ups, prompts, and other writing ideas.

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Mom, I don’t know what to write about! Who among us hasn’t heard one of our kids make that complaint?

If you’re between writing lessons, need a pre-writing warm-up, hope to propel your children out of the doldrums, or simply want to mix things up a bit, look no further than this list of clever and creative writing ideas. Some offer topics that will coax stories or reports out of a reluctant writer. Several of our ideas encourage children to think outside the box, while others are simply vocabulary-building tools or lists that aren’t meant to become works of prose at all!

Do you have younger children, reluctant writers, or kids with special needs? Don’t hesitate to let them narrate their ideas if they’re not able to write independently. After all, writing is much more about the thinking process than about who actually puts pencil to paper!

26 Writing Ideas for Kids

1. Rewrite a familiar story. For example, change the setting or the create new characters.

2. Write a cento poem.

3. Copy a paragraph from either a fiction or nonfiction book. Replace weak or boring words with strong, more descriptive ones.

4.  Use guided writing to draw out ideas.

5. Make a bucket list of places you want to see and things you want to do before you’re old.

6. Write about a time you needed stitches, broke your arm, crashed your bike, or experienced a similarly exciting or hair-raising event.

When the kids say, "I don't know what to write about," look no further than these creative writing warm-ups, prompts, and other writing ideas.

7. Write your own math word problems.

8. Write a letter to your mom explaining why writing is hard for you.

9. Write a 100-word story.

10. Pretend you are an animal and journal about some of your activities.

11. Make a comic strip. Write speech bubbles for the characters in the strip.

12. Make or build something and explain the steps you followed to make your creation.

13. Invent and write about new uses for familiar items such as pool noodles, buckets, duct tape, or popsicle sticks.

14. Play sentence-building games.

15. Become pen pals with Grandma. Everyone loves getting “real” letters in the mail!

16. Act out a story using a variety of plastic toys and figurines while someone writes it down.

When the kids say, "I don't know what to write about," look no further than these creative writing warm-ups, prompts, and other writing ideas.

17. Think of one aisle or section of the local grocery or department store, such as Electronics, Sporting Goods, Produce, Health Care, Toys, or Garden Center. Make a list of things you might find in that section. See how many items you can add to your list!

18. Create a short report or story and turn it into a PowerPoint presentation.

19. When pictures replace certain words in a story, it’s called a rebus. Write a story, but replace some of the words with pictures to make your own rebus. You can use stickers, clipart, or your own drawings. You can find rebus examples at ABC Teach.

20. Instead of a written nonfiction report, make a diagram, scrapbook, brochure, mobile, flap book, or display board about your topic.

21. Make lists of items in different categories, such as vegetables, toys, or things found at the park or zoo. The list should include 5-10 items, depending on the child’s age.

22. Tell a story about one of your baby pictures.

23. Write a summary of a short book.

24. Use a story-prompting activity such as Rory’s Story Cubes or WriteShop’s StoryBuilders.

25. Tell about a place you visited recently. Explain where you went and what happened while you were there.

26. Have fun inventing silly or serious stories using a magnetic story-making kit.

Which of these ideas will appeal to your restless writers?

Photos: Carissa Rogers (boy writing), breakmake (child & flag), shelnew19 (broken leg), davidd (plastic ponies), courtesy of Creative Commons.

Creative writing prompts for autumn

Creative writing prompts for autumn invite kids to write an autumn acrostic, create a fall wish list, or devise a plan to keep winter from coming!
Each season brings the opportunity for fresh new writing experiences. These four creative writing prompts for autumn invite kids to imagine what it would be like to wake up in the future, write an autumn acrostic poem, create a fall wish list, or devise a plan to keep winter from coming!

1. A Long Nap

In the famous story by Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle escapes to the mountains. While there, he has a strange encounter with a group of ancient, bearded men who are playing a game of ninepins (bowling). Rip falls asleep, but when he wakes up, he finds that 20 years have passed! Write a story in which you wake up in a pile of autumn leaves. How much time has gone by? What is your last memory? How has the world changed?

2. Autumn Wish List

A bucket list is a wish list of things you would like to experience in your lifetime. What parts of the country (or world) would be spectacular at this time of year? Where would you like to visit? What sorts of fall activities would you like to do? Make an autumn bucket list that includes 5-10 things you want to do in the fall at some point in your life.

3. No Winter for Me

Last winter was bitter and harsh across much of the United States, and many people are not at all looking forward to this coming winter. Write a funny story telling about three things your main character will do to try to keep winter from arriving.

4. A is for Autumn

Write an acrostic poem about autumn:

  • Vertically on your paper, write the word “AUTUMN.” (Younger children can write “FALL.”) For an extra challenge, write “FALL SEASON” or “AUTUMN DAYS.”
  • Next to each letter, write a word, phrase, or sentence related to the season. Think about weather, colors, holidays, and family activities. (For example, “A” could be Autumn, Apple picking, or Acorns drop from mighty oak trees.)

If your children have enjoyed these, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photos: Jamie McCaffrey (leaf and sky), Bruce McKay (girl), Michael Gil (leaf angel), courtesy of Creative Commons

How to write a fairy tale | Exploring genre

Teach kids how to write a fairy tale by including a sympathetic character, evil villain, magical elements, faraway places, and plot twists.

Most kids are familiar with fairy-tale stories like Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumpelstiltskin and Cinderella. 

Usually written for children, fairy tales tell about the adventures of imaginary beings in faraway lands. This activity will help you teach your kids how to write a fairy tale.

What Is a Fairy Tale?

The fairy tale genre needs to include certain basic elements. Otherwise, it may not be a fairy tale at all! These characteristics mark a story as a fairy tale:

  • It usually begins with Once upon a time, Long ago, or Once there was a.
  • The story takes place in a distant or make-believe land.
  • It features imaginary characters such as dragons, fairies, elves, and giants.
  • Things happen in threes and sevens (three bears, three wishes, seven brothers).
  • Wishes are often granted.
  • A difficult problem is solved at the end of the story.
  • Good triumphs over evil.
  • The story has a happy ending.

In addition, a fairy tale will often include:

  • Royal characters such as kings and princesses
  • Talking animals
  • Magical elements such as magic beans, fairy dust, enchanted castle

How to Write a Fairy Tale

1. Who is the hero or heroine?

Children naturally want to see the main character succeed against the odds! Help your child pick a likeable character for her story. Usually it is someone who is an underdog—mistreated or misunderstood. This character is often humble, innocent, or kind-hearted.

As you talk about familiar fairy tales, point out how the “good” character is someone the reader cares about—the hero of the story. Examples: Snow White, Rapunzel, Aladdin, the Three Little Pigs

2. Who is the villain?

Every fairy tale has a villain, someone who has evil intentions toward the main character. This evil character wants to control or harm the main character, sometimes using magic powers to do so. Examples: Big bad wolf, evil queen, Cinderella’s stepmother

3. What is the magical element of the story?

Most fairy tales include a magical ingredient. Guide your child to choose a friend, guardian, or magic element that helps the hero and adds enchantment to the story. This is a good place to include those magic numbers of three or seven. Examples: Fairy godmother, genie in a magic lamp, three gifts

4. Where will the story take place?

The setting can affect the mood of the story. For example, a forest can be filled with friendly critters and patches of sunlight, or it can be dark, gloomy, and scary. Often, the setting will start out dark and foreboding and become cheerful at the end. Other times, the setting will start with a friendly feeling, but when the main character first encounters evil, the mood of the setting will change.

Ask your child to choose a setting and decide what the mood (or moods) will be. Examples: woods, castle, tower, cottage, garden

5. What lesson will the story teach?

A fairy tale usually teaches a lesson about excellence in conduct or character. Help your child decide on the lesson her fairy tale will teach. Examples: loyalty, bravery, kindness, integrity, hard work, sacrifice

6. What is the story plot?

Our hero needs to face a challenge. The obstacle might be a destination the character must reach. There may be a person to rescue or a spell to break, or the main character may need to find true love. Examples: Snow White must stay safe from the evil queen, true love will break the Beast’s spell, Hansel and Gretel need to escape from the gingerbread house

7. What is the happy ending?

It isn’t a fairy tale without a happy ending! How is the challenge resolved? What leads to happily ever after? How does the villain get what is coming to him? Examples: The glass slipper fits Cinderella’s foot, the Beast turns back into a prince, the Ugly Duckling becomes a lovely swan

Variation for Younger Children

If you’re just beginning to explore this genre with your child, and she’s not quite ready to write a fairy tale on her own, encourage her to rewrite a favorite story instead. Changing some of the elements in a familiar story is a great way to learn more about how to write a fairy tale!

WriteShop Primary Book B | Grades 1-3Are you looking for a more formal approach to teaching writing? Among other engaging activities, WriteShop Primary Book B includes a step-by-step lesson on how to write a fairy tale. Level B is especially suited to grades 1-3.

Copyright © 2014 by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Photo: Carl Offterdinger, courtesy of Creative Commons

Free Writing Printable for September

Writing isn’t always full sentences and paragraphs! This month’s free writing printable has students drawing their story and only using sound words. This might not be as easy as it seems! When done, we’d love if you shared your cat comic creation on our WriteShop Facebook page!

Free Writing Printable: Cat Comics from WriteShop

 

Click the image above to download the Cat Comic Strip free writing printable. If you would like to share this free writing prompt with others, link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file.

Check out our huge archive of prompts from Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

How to help a child with writer’s block

How to help a child with writer's block is a big concern for parents. These 5 tips will help when perfectionism or writer’s block strikes.

How to help a child with writer’s block … It’s a common concern for many homeschooling parents.

  • Some kids identify writer’s block as those fleeting thoughts and ideas that tease around the edge of the mind but never find their way to paper.
  • Others know it as the panic that wells up any time pencil and paper are involved.

Though many stumbling blocks litter the road to writing success, perfectionism—the biggest contributor to writer’s block—is the mother of them all. Perfectionism can hold kids back from doing their best by seizing them with fear. The ideas they scratch out on paper just don’t seem good enough.

Your Kids Are Not Alone

Once asked about the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, novelist Ernest Hemingway replied, “A blank sheet of paper.”

When kids are in a stare-down with that blank page—and the page is winning—it’s easy for them to believe they’re the only ones who ever wrestle with writing down a thought. I hope they can take comfort knowing that everyone—even Hemingway—has suffered from writer’s block at some point.

I love these quotes from other famous authors who really understand!

Quotation Marks“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” ~James Thurber

“People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
~Anna Quindlen

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
~Margaret Atwood

When perfectionism or writer’s block grinds your kids to a halt, one of these suggestions may help them gain their footing again.

1. Start Small

How to help a child with writer's block is a big concern for parents. These 5 tips will help when perfectionism or writer’s block strike.When you bake a cake, it doesn’t pop out of the oven ready to serve to the birthday girl! You have to begin with a plain cake and build from there, adding frosting and decorating with icing flourishes and colorful sprinkles.

It’s just as unrealistic for your child to expect a brilliant composition to appear on paper the minute he starts forming words. As with the cake, it helps to start with a few plain sentences he can add to and embellish later.

For example, he can start with something like this:

I am on a baseball team.
Yesterday we played our best game.
I drove in two runs.
Gabriel scored the winning run.
It was a close game.
Our coach took us out for pizza.

Later, he can ask who, what, when, where, and why questions to help him add descriptive details and sentence variety:

          I am on the Red Rockets baseball team with my friend Gabriel. Yesterday we played our best game of the season against the Mud Ducks. In the bottom of the sixth, I hammered the ball and drove in two runs to tie up the score. During the last inning, Gabriel slid into home plate and scored the winning run. What a close game! Afterwards, Coach Dan took the whole team to Sammy’s Pizza to celebrate our victory.

2. Write Now, Revise Later

A rough draft is a place to test out ideas and play with words. Getting those unpolished ideas onto paper is an important part of the process.

If your child realizes this sloppy copy gives him permission to be imperfect, he’ll be more willing to allow himself the freedom to make mistakes. Urge him not to do any editing at all during the rough-draft stage.

The first draft will eventually need some tweaking; there’s always room for improvement. Even revered authors such as Steinbeck, Tolkien, and Rowling have faced the task of revising their work! This is the time to encourage your kids to rework their paper so it shines.

  • Younger children shouldn’t labor over a revision. It’s enough to add a few details, substitute stronger words, and polish up spelling and punctuation.
  • Teens, however, should expect to rewrite a draft several times before it passes muster, beefing up arguments, supporting with additional facts, embellishing with description, and improving both word choice and mechanics.

3. Write Out of Order

If the “perfect” introduction eludes your student, let him start writing a different section of the paper. He can always come back and add a topic sentence or develop an introductory paragraph.

4. Write to Music

Put on some music during writing time. It could be lively or calm, jazzy or symphonic, classical or contemporary—as long as it’s instrumental. Poke around Pandora till you find a station that appeals to your child, and then encourage him write as the music inspires!

Even if you’re assigning a specific topic, background music can focus your writer, helping him to get “unstuck.”

5. Use a Writing Prompt

When ideas languish in the corner of your student’s mind, a writing prompt could be the very thing that blows him out of the writing doldrums. A text prompt is a word, phrase, or short paragraph that provides a springboard to writing about a specific topic.

As an alternative, an interesting or unusual photo—with or without accompanying text—might be all the inspiration your child needs to break out of his slump.

No one is immune to writer’s block. Which of these ideas will inspire your reluctant writer?

 Photos: Cillian Storm and D. Sharon Pruitt, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Writing Prompts for Grandparents Day

These writing prompts for Grandparents Day help kids celebrate their grandmas and grandpas with cinquain poems, lists, and descriptive paragraphs.

Did you know there’s a national holiday celebrating grandparents? Whether they’re called Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Papa, Mamaw and Papaw, Moo-Moo and Dabbadoo, or any one of a hundred-plus nicknames kids have come up with for your folks, Grandparents Day is as good an excuse as any to reflect on the special place they hold in your hearts.

Grandparents Day always falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Make a point this year of helping your children count their “grandparently” blessings. These writing prompts for Grandparents Day are a great place to start!

1. Remember When

Think of a special memory you share with your grandparents. Take a mental snapshot of that memory so you can remember all the details. Now write a description of that time, making sure to use sensory words (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) and emotion words that tell how you felt.

2. If I Were You

One day, you’ll probably be a grandparent! Make a list of 10 things you would do with your grandchild.

3. In My Heart

Write a letter to a grandparent telling them what you appreciate about them and why they’re special to you. Mail it so it arrives in time for Grandparents Day!

4. Uniquely You

Not all grandparents are the same. Some are active and on the go. They might golf, play Scrabble, go to concerts, or fix old cars. Other grandparents are more relaxed. They like to watch TV, read, or take lots of naps. Write a paragraph describing one of your grandparents and telling what they like to do.

5. Poem for Papa

Use this guide to write a cinquain poem about one or both of your grandparents. Next, make a greeting card for Grandparents Day. Copy your cinquain poem into the card and decorate it with stickers, markers, or glitter.

Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Breathing life into words

Encourage your kids to give life to their words by writing them down!

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.

I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

~Emily Dickinson

Share this little poem with your children—and encourage them to give life to their words by writing them down!

Photo: Robert S. Donovan, courtesy of Creative Commons

8 out-of-the-box college essay topics

Out-of-the-box college essay topics to help teens practice prepping for admission applications. They're great "any time" writing prompts too!

These days, students applying to colleges of their choice face stiff competition. To help narrow the selection of applicants, some universities have come up with out-of-the-box college essay topics to see who stands out from the crowd.

From the student’s point of view, application essay prompts are often boring, but clever topics like these inspire creativity. So whether you’re brushing up your college essay skills or are simply on the lookout for fun or unusual writing topics, one of these quirky writing prompts has your name on it!

1. Seen Through Their Eyes

If any of these three inanimate objects could talk, how would your room, computer, or car describe you?

Source: Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley

2. Just As I Am

Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.

Source: University of Virginia

3. Ablaze

What sets your heart on fire?

Source: Villanova University

4. 140 Characters

Some say social media is superficial, with no room for expressing deep or complex ideas. We challenge you to defy these skeptics by describing yourself as fully and accurately as possible in the 140-character limit of a tweet.

Source: Wake Forest University

5. Back to the Future

You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?

Source Brandeis University

6. The Man in the Red-Striped Shirt

So where is Waldo, really?

Source: University of Chicago

7. Just Say No

What invention would the world be better off without, and why?

Source: Kalamazoo College

8. Pot of Gold

What do you hope to find over the rainbow?

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

If you enjoyed these college application essay prompts, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we feature topics especially suited for high school students.

Photo: David Masters, courtesy of Creative Commons

Let’s Celebrate 5,000 Likes on WriteShop’s Facebook Page!

FB 5000 Giveaway - shdw
We hit a big milestone on our WriteShop Facebook page last week: 5,000 likes! We so appreciate you being part of our Facebook community, and we’re celebrating with a special giveaway.

To thank you for your support of WriteShop, we’re giving one winner a choice of any level of WriteShop curriculum. That’s right: the winner will receive the teacher’s guide and student workbook for any level in WriteShop Primary, WriteShop Junior, or WriteShop I or II.

WriteShop Primary

WriteShop Primary

WriteShop Primary gives K-3rd graders an introduction to early writing skills. Young children learn to plan, write, and revise stories and short reports through activities such as games, picture books, and crafty projects. Topics especially appeal to these early elementary ages, and the hands-on learning experience is perfect for younger kids. Reading and writing skills are not needed, as all activities may also be done orally.

WriteShop Primary family features Book A, Book B, and Book C.

WriteShop Junior

WS-Junior

WriteShop Junior exposes 3rd-6th graders to genre, fiction and nonfiction writing, and journaling—and introduces great tools that truly motivate young writers. Prewriting games help them practice writing skills in such a fun way, they have no idea they’re doing school work! Graphic organizers help budding writers plan their stories and reports. And there are all sorts of engaging editing tools that actually make it fun to revise!

WriteShop Junior family includes Book D and brand-new Book E.

WriteShop I & II

WriteShop I and II

WriteShop I & II for junior high and high school students offer step-by-step lessons, challenging assignments, and creative activities.

WriteShop I students improve writing skills by becoming proficient in four vital techniques: brainstorming, drafting, editing, and revising. WriteShop II users will expand their skills by learning about descriptive narration, point of view, and voice. This level introduces essay writing, including timed essays.

Enter the Giveaway

If you’re not yet part of our Facebook community, we invite you to join today! Just visit us on the WriteShop Facebook page and click “like.”

The giveaway is open to all U.S. residents, ages 18 years and older only. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM (ET) on Sunday, August 31. The winner will be selected at random using Random.org via RaffleCopter.

The winner will be notified via email and given 72 hours to respond. You must enter a valid email address to win. In the event that the winner cannot be contacted by email or does not respond within 72 hours, the prize will be forfeited and and alternate winner selected.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. By entering, you acknowledge a complete release of Facebook for anything associated with this promotion.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

4 funny persuasive prompts | Writing with kids

These funny persuasive prompts help kids practice writing to convince, but instead of dull, ordinary topics, each one offers a touch of silliness!

Who doesn’t love a good laugh? A healthy dose of humor is pretty hard to resist. These funny persuasive prompts will help you practice writing to convince, but instead of dull, ordinary topics, each one is laced with a touch of silliness!

1. It’s a Cover Up

As a citizen of your town, you want to convince the city council that pets should wear clothing. At their next meeting, you will have the chance to state your case. Prepare an explanation telling why animals want to dress up, why the public wants pets to wear clothes, and what sorts of outfits pets might wear for different occasions or in various settings.

2. Dragon’s Lair

A dragon has made a nest in a large tree in your backyard, and the two of you have just started becoming friends. How will you persuade your parents to let it stay?

3. Extreme Sports

The Summer Olympics feature core sports such as archery, beach volleyball, and gymnastics, but there are always new events that ask to be included in the program. Invent a crazy new summer sport you would like to add to the Summer Olympics, such as underwater boxing, parachute biking, or camel wrestling. Write a letter to the International Olympic Committee in which you describe your sporting event and persuade them to consider adding it as an event in the 2024 Summer Games.

For extra fun, ask a parent for permission to use the Letter Generator at ReadWriteThink.org.

4. Go, Granny, Go!

While on vacation with your grandparents in Hawaii, you see an advertisement offering a 2-for-1 deal on a snorkeling or parasailing excursion. Make a list of reasons why your elderly grandma should do one of these activities with you.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

By Kim Kautzer

Photo Credit: Louise Docker, courtesy of Creative Commons
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