5 tips for inspiring young writers' imaginations


Writing can open the door to creativity - but you need to have the confidence to try. Elen Caldecott, author of Diamonds and Daggers, suggests some fun activities to encourage a child's love of creative writing.


1. Treat words as though they are toys

English is a fantastically malleable language. Nouns can be verb-ified; puns are plentiful; images are arresting. There are lots of word games that can encourage children to see the words they use as toys to be played with.

There are shop-bought games, but there are also free alternatives. Here are a few simple games you can adapt to the age of your child:

The 'household object' game

items on a table

Collect a few household objects and put them on a table. Each player in turn takes an object, and uses it in an interesting sentence (e.g. "Everyone was surprised when the onion exploded", "Albert felt as sad as an onion" or "Katy knew the onion was poisoned"). Either the most inventive wins, or everyone who comes up with a sentence gets a point.

The 'Fortunately/unfortunately' game

The first player starts a story with a sentence beginning 'unfortunately' (e.g. "Unfortunately, Caroline found herself on a speeding train with broken brakes"). The second player takes over the story, beginning the second sentence with the word 'fortunately' (e.g. "Fortunately, Caroline was a skilled train engineer and knew how to fix the brakes"). The story must continue, alternating unfortunately/fortunately, until a satisfying conclusion is reached (or you arrive at your destination - this is a good game for long car journeys!)

Any activity that treats words as things to have fun with should be embraced! 


2. Speak a story

boy speaking

Often it is a good idea to tell a story out loud before attempting to write it down - it helps cement the stages of the story in the young writer's mind. So, ask your young writer to describe their stories to you. Ask questions about the characters, and the action. You can also prompt oral story-telling by asking 'what if?' when out and about. 'What if the woman behind the counter is an alien?' 'What if that bus could fly?'


3. Secret notebook

secret diary

If your child has a writer's notebook, let that be an entirely secret, private place where they can play. Writing down feelings and emotions can be very cathartic. Writing down observations about the world can be useful, even if they don't turn into complete stories. Respect the privacy of their writing space (but do read if they want to share!).


4. Copying is cool

Child Writing

Most of the time, copying is not cool. However, as a beginner artist or craftsperson (in any form), we learn by copying. It's only once we've mastered the craft that we produce original work. So, if your child has a favourite fictional character, encourage them to write their further adventures. Let them reuse and recycle characters, settings and plot lines without worrying about originality.

5. Change up the style

boy writing


Fiction isn't the only form of prose writing. Perhaps your child might enjoy writing up the daily events of family life as a newspaper (inspired perhaps by Jo in Little Women), or as a blog post. They could write a script for their siblings to perform. They might write up interviews they've done with relatives or friends of the family who have their own stories to tell. Variety of style and form will breathe vitality into their writing.

Whatever ideas you try, let's hope you and your child find that words make you laugh, think, cry, share – and perhaps you might pick up a pen too?



The Marsh Road Mysteries: Diamonds and Daggers (Marsh Road Mysteries 1) by Elen Caldecott, published by Bloomsbury Childrens, RRP £5.99.


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Last updated: about 3 years ago