Some kids take to writing like a cow takes to clover, but many are a bit (or very, very!) reluctant. On these pages I've included many, many writing ideas for kids of all levels. I've not given them age ratings, since some teens still have a bit of trouble expressing themselves or would like an occasional easy, fun assignment from the Beginner section, while you may have a nine-year-old who is writing the next best-seller.
Mix up the length and complexity of the assignments, but try to get them to write at least a bit every day. If they have something that they wish to compose, by all means, let them, and save the ideas for later. But if they have no particular idea of what to write about, these lists could come in handy.
Try writing with your kids, and then sharing ideas and stories. Or, get a writing group together, either at a physical location or online.
Have a spelling dictionary and a thesaurus nearby. For younger children, a picture dictionary can be a great story starter. Use your child's mistakes as teaching moments. Help her edit her work and rewrite her favorite pieces, but allow her the joy of focusing on her imaginative outpourings most of the time.
One possible way to use these lists: print out the ones that you wish to use. Cut papers into strips, fold and put into a jar. Have the kids pull out their day's writing assignment. It' is a bit like a present...at least at first!!
Writing Ideas for Beginners
List five things that really scare you.
Try your hand at a a few similes. Similes are comparisons that usually use 'like' or 'as', such as "She was as nervous as a mouse cornered by a tabby cat."
- He was as sleepy as a _________________
- She was as bored as a _________________
- It was as noisy as a ___________________
- My dog was as excited as a _____________
- The cat purred like a ___________________
- The fire blazed like a ___________________
- The elephant loomed over me like a ____________
Now try metaphors. Metaphors are comparisons like similes, but they don't use 'like' or 'as'. For example, "Life is just a bowl of fruit cocktail' or 'Overripe bananas are fruity slugs.'
- The bowl of soup that landed in my lap was ________________________
- My cat's eyes are______________________________
- A hot day is ______________________________
- Thunder is _________________________________
Collect lists of words that you like, either as individuals or as a family. Try lists of words like :
- words about colors
- strange words
- words that are spelled oddly
- words that remind you of someone
- words that sound cranky or happy
- words that cheer you up
- words that make you want to cry
Make acrostics, poems that have each line beginning with a letter of a name or other word, like this one for Neal :
- Never idle
- Everywhere at once
- Always cheerful
- Losing teeth
Make up sentences that would make everyone stop and listen to you.
- Why is there a big hole in the windshield?
- Is that bison supposed to be in the living room?
- Can I give the mountain lion in the backyard a bowl of milk?
Pick a color and think of all the things it makes you think of. Write some of these into a short poem. It doesn't have to rhyme, but read it out loud to see if it might sound better if you change things around.
Finish these phrases:
- Don't you just hate
- Don't you just love
- Don't you wish
- Don't you want
Describe something - a watermelon, a cow, an old slipper - but don't say what it is. Give it to someone else and see if they can figure it out!
Listen to an instrumental song. Write what you think is going on or what it makes you think of.
Write a list of things not to say to someone who's having a bad day.
Pretend that you work at a newspaper. Write a headline about a party for giants...or a cow riot...or a car that came alive...or an ant that does fractions....
Writing Ideas for Middle Writers
Pretend that you work at an animal rescue center. Tell about an exciting day.
Write about a time that the lights went out. It can be a real event, or a pretend one.
You won!! Tell what you won, and the results of you good (or bad) fortune!
Pick a wise saying that you like. Write a fable to show what the saying means and what happens when you follow or don't follow it.
Write exaggerated sentences. For example : " I was so hungry after getting lost in the woods that I ate the forest!" or " His teeth are so shiny that the astronauts can see them from the space station at night." Try these for starters:
- That joke is so old that_________
- My dog is so fat that ___________
- His house is so huge that __________
- I thought I was a fast runner until I saw her __________
- My friend's rat is meaner than ____________________
Describe a thunderstorm. Write about how the air feels, what the thunder reminds you of, how your cat cowers under the bed...
Take a beginning reader and rewrite it with more exciting sentences. For instance, 'The Cat in the Hat' could become 'The Siamese in the Baseball Cap', and the story could go from there.
Ask an older friend or relative about the scariest or most embarrassing or happiest day of their life. Write this out as a short story, and keep for your family history.
Write a poem that has every line beginning with 'I dreamed...'
Write directions for how to paint a cat...or catch a lost hamster...or fly like a bee...or dance with a penguin....
Write a letter to yourself in the future.
Write a list of things that you will be sure to do or not do when (and if) you are a parent.
Invite someone to a historic event, or a time machine trip, or a monster makeover...
Make a list of ten words that describe an experience, like going on a roller coaster or mowing the lawn, Now write a paragraph about the same experience without using any of those words!!
Make a brochure for a camp for monkeys, or a tree-climbing expedition, or a cow-tipping party.
Start a family story. Write six sentences, then stop and pass the story to someone else to continue. Be sure to leave off at an interesting place!
Make a wanted poster for a cookie thief or a runaway gerbil or an angry hornet.
Writing Ideas for Accomplished Authors
Imagine riding on a bus with a really strange person. Maybe they are constantly singing oldies loudly, or talking to an imaginary ferret, or talking to dead historical persons on his cell phone.
You (or your character) have just entered the most disgusting diner on the face of the Earth. Describe the disastrous mess, the dirty, disgusting dinginess...
Remember games of 'Telephone', where people pass around a phrase by whispering in one another's ears, and the final result usually has little resemblance to the original phrase? Write a story about the extreme things that can happen when people gossip.
Rewrite a fairy tale, but set it in your family or homeschool group.
English novelist E. M. Forester stressed the need to make your characters 'round', that is, to make them so real by telling about them in great detail that they seem to walk out of the pages. Try writing a detailed sketch of someone you know, using enough detail to make someone else who also knows them able to tell who it is without being told.
Monty Python once had a skit about Olympics for unusual people doing strange things. There was a competition for being first to be eaten by a crocodile, hurdles for people who think that they are chickens, etc. Try your hand at making your own Olympic Events for the Odd.
Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling has stacks of notebooks with background information about her characters, much of which have never made it into books. Develop a few characters yourself, even if you as of yet have no story. Include the person's (or talking animal's) age, physical description, talents, fears, birthday, favorite and least favorite things, favorite books, games, sports, ways to spend the day, friends, family, etc.
Fantasy authors David and Leigh Eddings started their Belgariad series by sketching a map of the continents of an imaginary land, and developed the stories from there. Draw your own land, complete with names of cities and geographical features. Then try writing a story sketch that could take place there.
We've all heard of the story that resolves itself by having the whole thing be a dream....what would happen, though , if you woke up tomorrow and found that your life now is really a dream? What kind of world do you really live in? Who are you, really?
Write about a time when nothing, and I do mean nothing, went right. Set it at a wedding, a trip to the zoo, a moon base, a cow pasture...
Imagine what could happen to you or one of your characters if they took up the wrong job. What if your little sister became a drummer in a rock band, or a college professor became a worm farmer, or a great explorer went to work at McDonalds.
What is your view on luck? Do you think that it is the main factor in most people's lives, or are work and thought more important? Write a short story illustrating the opposite of your view.
Find a book of baby names. Pick one that intrigues you and write a bit about the type of person who might have that name. What might happen if a person has a name that really doesn't suit them?