Getting kids to write more than a few sentences can, at times, be a challenge. However, a powerful writing prompt can activate a child's imagination, and inspire that child to write. The more creative the writing prompts are, the better the results.
Writing Gives Kids a Voice
One of the advantages for giving children specific prompts is that it allows them to voice their opinions. It also helps kids understand their opinions matter. Consider how this can be related to various subjects in school or in a writing group. For example:
- Provide a writing prompt about the way they see their future. How do they picture their lives in 10 years?
- For younger children, offer pretend-filled writing prompts. For example, what would happen if the toys in the room could talk?
- Encourage older kids to explore issues they hear about often. What would the world be like if everyone pitched in to care for the environment?
There are many ways that writing prompts can be used to give children a voice. Writing prompts like this also enable the child to gain writing skills and work on organizing thoughts to convey a point.
One of the best ways to prompt thoughtful writing is by asking questions. The following questions can help prompt both creative and non-fiction writing:
- Which: Which is the best aspect of your life? Which holiday is the best? Which is more important, being popular or being a friend?
- Who: Who can you go talk to when someone is bothering you? Who is your inspiration? Who is your favorite character on television?
- What is: What is the best month of the year? What is the meaning of a Bible phrase (pick one to insert here) and how does it affect your daily living? What is the best advice you have ever been given?
- What if: What if you could fly…where would you go? What if there was world peace? What if every street was a river instead of being pavement…what else would be different?
- What do you think of: What do you think of television shows that show people getting hurt? What do you think about the rights outlined in the Constitution? What do you think of the current legislation for improving air quality?
Creative Writing Prompts
Encouraging kids to write expository, creative text helps them think outside the box and pay attention to details.
Pictures and Photographs
Using visual stimuli is a great way to encourage children to write. Choose a photograph, painting, illustration, or even a screen capture from a video. Use the following types of writing prompts with pictures:
- Talk about the people in this image.
- Write about the sequence of events that led up to the picture you see.
- Use this image as the starting point of a story. What happens next?
- Write about how this picture makes you feel.
- Write a news story about this picture.
What Happens Next?
These types of prompts help children to develop creative stories by projecting what happens next in a sequence of events. For example, you can read a story or show a video and ask what happens after the end of the story. Likewise, you can stop mid-story, and encourage the children to develop an ending for it. Other 'what happens next' prompts include:
- Choose your favorite character from a story. What happens to that character after the story ends?
- You are walking down the hallway of a creepy, old house. Suddenly, a door appears in front of you. What happens next?
- You find a genie in a bottle, but he only gives you one wish. What happens next?
What If. . .
'What if' is a question that opens the imagination. 'What if. . .' prompts pose questions to kids and allow them to explore their answers in writing. A few 'what if. . .' writing prompts include:
- What if you suddenly found out you had a twin?
- What if you found a flying carpet?
- What if your pet could talk?
- What if you lived in a haunted house?
- What if you won the lottery?
- What if it never stopped raining?
- What if you woke up one morning and nobody spoke the same language as you?
I Wish. . .
I wish writing prompts allow children to explore how the world would be if a wish was granted. Try some of the following prompts:
- Write about a place you wish you could live. Describe what it would be like living there.
- Write about a superpower you wish you could have. What would you do with it?
- If you could be friends with anyone in the world, who would you choose? Why?
Essay and Non-Fiction Writing Prompts
Children can begin using persuasive writing from a very early age to learn to clearly state their ideas and opinions. Children learning persuasive writing use logic and facts to build to a strong conclusion. You can encourage children's persuasive writing with the following prompts:
- Write a letter to your parents convincing them to give you a privilege you want.
- What rule would you like to see changed? Write a letter persuading someone to change the rule.
- Your school principal is trying to decide whether to require all students to wear uniforms. Write a letter to the principal sharing your thoughts about uniforms in school.
- Convince others to join your favorite club or sports team.
Expository writing helps kids learn to explain things clearly. The following prompts can encourage kids to develop their expository writing skills.
- What is the most important thing you have ever learned?
- Describe your best friend.
- Do you have a favorite teacher? Explain why he or she is so special to you.
This type of writing helps kids share personal stories in a way that captures the reader's attention. Consider the following narrative writing prompts:
- Share a story of the best day you ever had.
- When were you the most scared you've ever been? Tell the story of what scared you and how you felt.
- Have you ever done something really exciting? Write about it.
- Tell the story of a goal you achieved.
Poetry Writing Prompts
Writing poetry allows children to express themselves using descriptive language. Poetry also allows children to play with language and meter. Try the following poetry writing prompts:
- Write a poem about your favorite food.
- Write a poem about someone you love.
- Write a poem about your favorite season.
Free Writing Prompt Websites
If you're struggling to come up with writing prompts on your own, there are a number of resources to assist you. Many websites offer free kids' writing prompts.
- CanTeach: The CanTeach website provides an excellent number of writing prompts that can easily be idea starters for a writer.
- Tooter4Kids.com: Another resource, Tooter4Kids.com provides a good number of tips and tricks, as well as great kid's writing prompts.
- JournalBuddies.com: Journal Buddies is a great resource for those looking for writing prompts for specific age ranges.
A number of books also offer great ideas to get kids writing.
- 500 Writing Prompts for Kids - This book offers story starters for kids in first through fifth grades.
- Cliffhanger Writing Prompts - This book provides stories that encourage kids in third through sixth grade to write about what happens next.
- Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing - Focused on grades four through seven, this book prompts an array of creative writings ranging from stories to poetry.
- Amazing Story Generator - This is a flip book that works equally well for children and adults. Writers combine three random elements as the basis for a story.
The Write Stuff
Writing from prompts can help children get comfortable with the written word. By providing interesting and interactive prompts, you can engage kids' imagination in a way that encourages them to become lifelong writers.