Yesterday, a mom friend texted me a picture. It was a letter that her child had written to mine: a pure expression of 2nd grade friendship. He vented about the coronavirus, planned for a future play date, and signed off with “See you next zoom”. Here, I’ll just show it to you, since it is pretty great:
It was a heartfelt act of kindness and connection (and it totally brightened my son’s day). However, it was surprising to get it: I knew our classroom teachers hadn’t assigned a “write to a friend” thing. I thought, is this mama doing MORE work? Also, how is she getting her kid to write beyond what the teachers assign? Lastly, were there tears or bribes involved?
Our experiences as parents, trying to suddenly home-school our kids, are all vastly different. They can run the gamut from extreme stress about the workload (see: amazing mom rant), to deep fear that our kids are falling behind since we don’t have the resources to support them (see: coronavirus and the achievement gap). But wherever in the spectrum you fall, the bottom line is, this is extremely hard and there are no easy answers.
Weekday mornings, we race through the obligatory parts of the school day. My son doesn’t really want to do more, and I’m low on academic-creativity and short on time, so I don’t take it any farther. I really admire the parents out there that I hear about involved in immersive and deep projects with their kids. That’s not me – but it turns out it is my friend.
Getting Inspired to Help Kids Write
After a flurry of texts back-and-forth:
“The hardest part is getting him to write!” I moan with an emoji or two. “How did you do it?” The mechanics aren’t there yet and he’s self-conscious about spelling or backwards letters.
She said about her work with her own son,
“I am making him write every day. Reminding him that it is supposed to be hard because he is exercising his muscles: hand, arm, and brain. I remind him that now is the time to practice everyday, without the pressure of school. And that I will be there to support him anyway I can.”
You see, my friend is also an education specialist and understands that using play and games in education is where it’s at now. Especially, if you are wanting to do a little more than the minimum assigned by teachers, it has to be through play or the resistance will be huge. Play is how kids learn best. While this is a fact I know, now that I’m also (somewhat!) his academic teacher, I’m not sure how to put it in motion.
She whips back responses and suggestions, supportive, empathetic and inspiring. So, these ideas are coming to you (and me!) from Ghislaine Malinowski. She’s also available as an education specialist for parents or schools in these challenging times. As you are about to see, her ideas are awesome!
Imaginative Games that Help Kids Write and Play
Elf-Kid on the Shelf:
Have your child pretend to be an imaginary (invisible) creature and write clues or letters and leave them around the house. When parents find them, you have to act accordingly. Like Elf on the Shelf, but with your kid as the elf.
Kids Write a Parachute Letter:
Make a parachute person with plastic bags, Lego people and string. Use a big world map to pick a place and do a little internet research. Then kids write a letter to an imaginary person who lives there. Attach the letter to the “parachute” and send it flying!
Play Jewel Thief:
Hide some costume jewelry under a bowl and have kids write out a map of the “museum”. Put up streamers with some tape and have them get through the lasers to find the jewels!
Coronavirus-Themed Writing for Kids
It might feel weird and hard to lean into the virus for inspiration, but it’s literally in the air. Therefore, it is not just healthy for kids to put pen to paper about their experiences, it is also probably pretty easy. Beyond that, when kids write about things that grown-ups are going on about (hand-washing!), it helps give them a feeling of control. Writing is certainly, powerful and here are ways that they can claim expertise and practice those letters at the same time.
- Make a poster for the bathroom about the steps of hand-washing
- Create a pamphlet for the lobby of your building about ways to stay safe
- If you are into mask-making, break down the steps of how to make a mask and send the instructions to a friend.
Prompts that Inspire Kids to Write
Sometimes you just need a good topic to inspire you. So, here are some creative prompts to springboard kids writing.
- If I were president, what would I do?
- If I could go anywhere, where would I go and why?
- Make a map of a treasure island and label it.
- What is your superpower?
- If I had a big big tree…Design your own tree house, write blurbs for each part, put the tree up on the wall along with the writing. This is modeled after an awesome book called, I Wish I Had a Big, Big Tree, by Saturo Sato. Children LOVE to see their work displayed, like it would be at school.
- Design a unique vehicle. What cool features or abilities does it have/ Where will it take you? Make sure they label the drawing!
- Take your rocket to a far away planet. What does that planet look like?
- Design your own base/fortress. Explain how you keep it hidden.
Physical Games that Help Kids With Writing
Staying active while staying home is like living an oxymoron. Above all, any writing exercise that can also incorporate movement is a winner. Here are some:
- Make a list of 10 crazy things to have your parents do. (Please note: my son wanted my husband to pretend that he was at a wedding with me!!)
- Write the activities of a relay race or obstacle course. The exercises can be simple things like 20 jumping jacks, twirls, stretches or just running back and forth in the hall! Film it on time-lapse setting on the phone and enjoy watching it back!
- Kids can make a list of their favorite songs for a playlist and then play Red Light Green Light or Freeze Dance.
Writing Games that Help Executive Function Skills
- Find a recipe that your kid loves and help them write out the ingredient list or directions like they are the chef.
- Create your own Word Wall using sticky notes where you feature different favorite foods, animals, traits, or holidays.
- Write out a story after playing Story Clap or One Word Story.
Writing Games that Foster Empathy
- Write a letter to a grandparent!
- Write to a buddy from school that they miss.
- Get a penpal in another state or country!
Big thanks to Ghislaine Malinowski for the inspiring ideas Please share with us your ideas to get kids learning and writing through play. We are all in this together.