When school’s out for summer, many children are happy to leave their books and pens behind. A carefree summer of playing, making friends and going on adventures are what many prefer. While all those things are really important for child development and should be encouraged, it is also equally important that kids don’t lose the skills they acquired in the last school year. Summer learning loss is really common, and schools often have to spend part of their autumn term recapping what was lost over the holidays. Ideally, kids should still be reading and writing through the holidays. However, all parents know that this is easier said than done. Many children are pretty reluctant to write over the summer break, even if they are usually motivated at school. There are, thankfully, some tricks to get your kids to put pen to paper. They might even inspire your child to think of writing as a hobby and to go all out, or maybe even aspire to become an author someday. So, how do you get your kids writing during the summer?
1. A Holiday Scrapbook
This is a classic summer holiday activity that promotes all kinds of writing skills. The beauty of it is that it gets your kids writing little and often so that they keep up their skills all summer long. Purchase a blank scrapbook then help your child to collect postcards, the photos they take, tickets and other mementos to stick into it. Encourage them to note down dates, descriptions, explanations and reviews, or anything else they fancy writing. Not only does this work on their non-fiction writing skills, but it also makes for a lovely childhood memento to keep. Of course, there’s no reason why your kids shouldn’t try making a digital version of a scrapbook, especially if they are older. Blogs, online albums and social media accounts can do the same job of recording a period of time through words and pictures. You might even find these bullet journal tips useful for writing over the summer.
2. A Pen Pal
This is another tried and tested way of getting kids writing, although you may want to give it a modern spin. In all likelihood, your child will have a friend or family member that they won’t be seeing over the summer holiday. Why not agree with their parents for a written way of allowing them to keep in touch, i.e. either through traditional mail or in digital form such as email? They can send messages and pictures to each other and enjoy receiving them, too. The format you choose will likely depend on your child’s age and maturity, and remember to be cautious about your child’s use of the Internet, especially when unsupervised. If you choose the traditional way, then you will love these DIY animal envelopes to send your letters in. Having a pen pal can be really fun. Writing with a real purpose and a specific reader in mind is often far more engaging and satisfying to some children than school exercises.
3. Inspiration Through Reading
One of the ways that children learn to write well is through reading. The more they read, the more they absorb a varied vocabulary; how words should look on a page; how paragraphing, sentence structure and punctuation work. When a child is submerged in a book they love, the learning is subconsciously facilitated. Inspire a love of writing by inspiring a love of reading. The acclaimed American children’s author Betsy Byars once said, “For me, reading books and writing them are tied together. The words of other writers teach me, refresh me and inspire me.” So, help and encourage your child to find new genres, authors and titles they may love. Visit the bookshop and library together, and consider subscribing to comics and children’s newspapers. If you are unsure of what to read, take a look at these reading lists to find a book your child will love!
Know that reading is never a waste of time. When a child gets really hooked on a book character or particular genre, then it’s time to suggest that it may be fun to create their own version. If they agree, encourage them as much as you can, and avoid being critical of the results at all costs. When a child is writing for enjoyment, they don’t want to feel like their work is being “marked”; else, you may put them off for the rest of the summer.
4. A Creative Writing Course
A good quality academic summer camp with creative writing can really take your child’s writing skills to another level. Suitable for all abilities, it should stretch able children, and help others catch up on more basic skills. As professionals, staff will be able to use the best tried and tested techniques to inspire your child and foster his or her love of writing.
5. Fun Family Word Games
One way to spend some quality family time and still promote literacy skills is by playing some classic writing and word games. Many parents will remember playing ‘consequences’, where players write a story with agreed sentence starters i.e. “X met X. They went to…. Afterwards they … He said… She said… Finally they…” The fun comes from folding the paper down after each sentence is complete to hide it, and then passing it to another player to continue. This way the stories muddle together, often with hilarious results. You can even play loads of games with image prompts that encourage creativity and improve your child’s literacy skills. There are also plenty of family-friendly word games that help with spelling and vocabulary, some of which only need a pen and paper: hangman, Scrabble, Bananagrams and Boggle or Word Factory are examples.
Finally, the key to getting your child to write over the summer really is to encourage, rather than enforce, and to always keep things light and fun. You might even be interested in taking our summer writing challenge or taking a look at these fun summer writing prompts to gets your kids writing in no time!