If you don’t school year-round, what sorts of summer writing activities will you do to keep your kids’ skills sharp? This time of year, many moms are wondering just that.
For one, you don’t want to plan too much formal writing. After all, summer vacation should feel like a break. But you don’t want to throw writing to the wind, either; that could doom you and your children to repeating last year’s lessons in September!
You can try some fun incentives from the blog archives to keep kids writing, like getting published in a magazine or winning prizes from a contest. Or if your family wants to write time capsule letters, summer is a great time to start hiding those buried treasures!
But today, let’s look at some fresh summer writing activities to motivate and inspire your children and hone their writing skills at the same time.
Design Birthday Cards
Will your children be invited to birthday parties this summer? Plan ahead and gather supplies so they can write and decorate homemade birthday cards.
Younger children need little more than construction paper, markers, and your encouragement to write a sentence or two. Older children who prefer pens and cardstock can be challenged to write a paragraph about why the birthday kid is such a special friend. Or, help them use their imagination to write about “My Birthday Wish for You.”
Write a Play
When I think of childhood summers, I remember long play dates that never seemed to end. These all-day get-togethers were the perfect opportunity for creative activities.
One year, when two sisters came to visit, I decided to write a silly play—and what fun we had! A short play can be a non-threatening writing activity, because the pieces of dialogue are usually just one or two sentences. If you have three children, they might enjoy working together.
Have each child choose a character name (“King,” “Court Jester,” “Royal Pet Parrot”), and let someone decide on a corresponding story line. Then, they can take turns writing the lines for their characters. Younger children may prefer to dictate to you or an older child. When the script is finished, make copies for each child and let the play-acting begin!
Mail Pen-Pal Letters
My younger brother and I both experienced the fun of sending and receiving pen-pal letters. I spent hours in our shady backyard, writing to my heart’s content on colorful Lisa Frank stationary. I don’t think my brother enjoyed writing for its own sake, but the hope of getting his very own mail spurred him to keep sending letters. Neither of us realized that out-of-state pen-pal friends were helping us sharpen our language skills. We were just having fun, and isn’t that what summer is all about?
You have more contacts and acquaintances than your children do, so don’t be afraid to suggest a pen-pal.
- Remember the bridesmaid who moved cross-country? She might have kids just the right age!
- Do you have a blogging friend or Facebook pal who lives in another state or country? Maybe her children would enjoy exchanging letters with yours.
- If someone in your family sponsors an international child through World Vision or Compassion International, perhaps one of your children can start writing to that faraway boy or girl.
A Note about Email
Every family has a different policy on email privileges. I personally did not have a web account until I was fifteen years old, and by then my habit of letter writing was firmly established. If you do allow your children to use email, I suggest you set writing guidelines and read their correspondence from time to time. One-line, “texting style” messages will not sharpen your child’s writing skills. One- to two-paragraph “letter style” emails will!
In Love with Literature
Reading from the classics is one of the best ways to develop strong vocabularies. It’s not enough to constantly nag your twelve-year-old, “Stop saying like.” Inevitably, she will keep mimicking the girls in youth group until she finds a better role model (Jane Austen marathon, anyone?).
My family loved read-aloud time, and the summer I was eight years old was no exception. My cousin spent her vacation with us, and my mom had planned a surprise. Each of us girls received a bright spiral notebook with our name on the cover. Every afternoon, Mom would read aloud from Marguerite Henry’s Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin. The next morning, we opened our notebooks and wrote a paragraph summarizing the chapter from the day before. Sometimes, we were told to illustrate our summaries with the aid of freshly sharpened colored pencils.
Wait, you might be thinking. This sounds like summer school! Perhaps so, but it didn’t require much time, effort, or planning. It gave us a reason to stick with a schedule of reading aloud. It also gave two energetic little girls something to do in the morning while Mom enjoyed quiet time or started on the day’s chores.
The Right Focus
No matter what activities you plan this summer, remember that you set the tone for attitudes about writing. If your kids only hear you talk about reading and writing as “schoolwork,” they will learn to see these activities as burdens and chores. If, on the other hand, a love of words is built into your way of life, your children will be comfortable with books, pens, and paper for the rest of their lives.
What are you waiting for? It’s time to play some word games, and let the summer begin!
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.
Photo: Alan Sung, courtesy of Creative Commons.