Preschoolers Participating in Creative Writing (Minus the Writing)

Creative writing is a beautiful, natural outlet for children. True creative writing encourages children to express their feelings, opinions, ideas, views, beliefs, and their inner most thoughts.

Creative writing not only allows kids to express their feelings, it helps them clarify their own ideas and beliefs, and discover what they know or think about a topic (PBS Parents).

Free writing in this manner encourages an expression of self.  Preschoolers do not typically participate in creative writing activities, simply because they do not have the fine motor skills for elaborate writing experiences.  

The thing is, we are doing a disservice to our preschoolers by precluding them from experiencing this expression of self.  Young children do not need to be able to use a pencil appropriately to become authors!  Preschoolers are incredibly creative and imaginative.  Can you imagine the narratives they could create and the sense of agency they could feel when encouraged and supported to “write” creatively?  

Children are often taught to write before they are encouraged to be creative in their writing.  In schools, we promote narratives that need to be “clear,” “coherent,” “logical,” with “well structured event sequences,” and “using effective technique.” (Common Core Writing Standards). 

In kindergarten and first grade, children may be asked to draft simple sentences that accompany a picture or drawing.  “The cat is black” Or “I like pasta” might be writing experiences that students have in early childhood.  Students begin to learn the “rules” of writing as they begin to write themselves, or as they dictate passages to a teacher or parent.  While these experiences are important in learning to write, they also lack the creativity of free writing.  

This week we tried a story writing project, minus the writing.  Even though my preschooler and toddler have yet to learn the skills of holding a pencil appropriately or the rules of writing, they are no strangers to the written word; home literacy activities run rampant at our house. 

We started our creative writing experience with idea generating.  My four year old wanted to write a book.  After talking a bit, he said he wanted to write simply “a happy book.”  It sounded like a pretty good start, so we went from there!

I am not a scrapbooker, but I LOVE scrapbook paper.  My son is not a fan of drawing or coloring, so scrapbook paper serves as a great, colorful alternative in our book making adventures.  
Our scrapbook paper had some perforated words and pictures, so we began punching out pictures, phrases, and numbers.  I cut out a few blank pieces too, and took requests on what words or phrases to write on them.  I included numbers, because my son likes to include page numbers in his books (of course, hyperlexia!)

After scrounging up some blank notebooks, I gave them glue and let them at it.  My son is not a big fan of glue, but he loved the idea of authoring his own book, and he instantly became dedicated to the project.  I stayed hands off as they created phrases of texts, decided on chronological order, and added pictures to represent textual ideas. 

We left our supplies out for a few days at the kitchen table.  At dinnertime we had to do a bit of supply shifting, but this was a multi-day project and this way they could come and go to complete their project, as needed. 

We took quite a few breaks to get our sillies out and to let the glue dry, including a dance party break when It’s Raining Men came on our Google Music radio station.  (It is nearly impossible to stay seated when that song is playing). 

Days later their books were complete.  I cannot express how proud my children were of their books, especially my four year old.  He flips through it often; he likes to read it himself, as well as have us read it to him. 

Creative writing for preschoolers, minus the writing, was a success!  Participating in a creative writing project encouraged:

  • Artistic and creative expression 
  • Print awareness
  • Reading fluency
  • Vocabulary/Sight word acquisition, and
  • Fine motor development (glue!)

I would love to hear other ideas on how you encourage creative writing with your preschoolers!

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