Writing Activities to Promote Wellness
Posted on February 25, 2022 by CHS
Writing activities can be beneficial to the wellness of both children and adults. The ability to express ourselves through writing helps us record our personal stories, reflect on situations or feelings that may cause us anxiety or stress, and express ourselves creatively. Through journaling we can explore our feelings, reduce stress, and gain a better understanding of ourselves and others. Below we will take a look at supporting children in developing a life-long routine for writing that can promote wellness.
Infants and Toddlers
Prepare infants and toddlers for learning to write by reading to them often. Hold them in your lap and point to words and images as you read. Sing songs that combine words with gestures, such as Hey Diddle Diddle or Zoom to the Moon. When young children read books with images and listen to songs that can be acted out, they learn to connect words with things. They begin to understand that words, or print, can describe their world and that spoken words can be written down.
Infants and toddlers need to develop the strength in their arms, hands, and fingers necessary for writing. Offer them toys they can grasp by opening and closing their hand, or toys with levers or buttons to push. When they begin to eat solid foods, offer them finger foods so they can develop the coordination to pick up and hold items. Additionally, toddlers can begin making marks on paper using large crayons or non-toxic finger paint. Making marks and scribbling on paper is how children learn to draw and eventually write.
Between the ages of three and five, children begin to develop a deeper understanding of print and language. They learn to tell their own stories and express themselves through drawing, painting, and other art projects. The images in their pictures become more detailed, and they are able to describe the thoughts, feelings, and stories in their artwork. Children also begin to understand that words can be used to describe art, and that art can inspire words.
When you read with children, identify the author and explain that the author is the person who writes the words for the story. Then identify the illustrator and explain that their job is to create the pictures for the story. As you read, talk about how the pictures and words work together to tell the story. Use a dark-colored piece of paper to cover the artwork on a page and just read the words. Pause for a moment and then show the picture. Then, on another page, cover the words and ask children what is happening in the picture. After discussing it, read the words and see if they match the children’s ideas. This encourages children to reflect on how the images and words work together to tell a story.
Share picture books or stories that illustrate how writing can express what we feel and imagine. Start with the books If by Sarah Perry, I See a Song by Eric Carle, or Imagine a World by Rob Gonsalves (appropriate for ages four and up). Reading poetry is another way to encourage creative writing. Poetry often rhymes, which gives it a musical quality that appeals to children. Poems also can combine words that would not typically go together. This encourages children to think of language as a creative tool. The book Breathe and Be by Kate Coombs (ages four and up) introduces children to poetry that describes feelings. You can also try this activity for creating a poem with children.
Provide opportunities for children to draw or practice writing. Invite children to create a book about their feelings. They can draw their face with a different emotion on each page and then the pages can be hole-punched and tied together. They can also create books about their day or a trip to a special place. Children can journal by drawing, making collages, or using photos. Adults can help them write any words they want to add. Decide on a time when both you and your child can sit down to write. For example, after dinner, you can invite your child to write by saying, “Let’s take some time to reflect on our day.” And then, both of you can write in your own journals.
Children at this age are learning more about the mechanics of language and writing. They are exploring phonics, spelling, syllables, parts of speech, and how to construct sentences. They are also learning to socialize in a school setting, which can feel stressful and overwhelming. Due to the pandemic, many children are also struggling with frequent changes in their lives. Moving between virtual and in-person learning, having to quarantine, or starting school for the first time can create anxiety and make it more challenging for children to focus and learn. Journaling about their day can help children identify their emotions, reflect on them, and develop solutions to challenges.
Continue with setting aside a consistent time for the family to write in their journals each evening. A children’s dictionary with pictures, such as My First Dictionary: 1,000 Words, Pictures, and Definitions by Betty Root, can be a helpful tool for children who are learning to write and spell. It allows them to practice using a reference book and find words they want to spell on their own. Encourage children to be creative with their journals. They can add drawings, stickers, photos, or collages to their words to help tell their story. Invite them to try different writing styles in their journals. For example, they can write them in a story format, graphic novel, poems, or song lyrics.
Poetry can be a powerful tool for connecting children with their feelings. Britannica defines poetry as “literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.” Poetry does not have to follow grammar rules, and it invites children to be creative with their use of language. Try this activity for Found Poems with children.
Poetry books by Shel Silverstein such as Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic (ages six and up) are humorous, and the pictures are drawn by the author. They can inspire children to write about the funny stories in their own lives. Books by Nikki Grimes, such as Words with Wings (ages eight and up), are often autobiographical and give children the opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes or discover that someone else has had similar experiences. Middle school students and young adults (twelve and up) can explore social justice and the future in books like For Everyone by Jason Reynolds, or Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem The Hill We Climb.
Enjoying the writing of other authors can inspire hope and creativity in children. Engaging in writing activities helps children discover their voice, develop their own opinions and ideas, reflect on their lives, cope with their emotions, understand themselves, and express themselves creatively. Writing can help children lower their anxiety and build their resilience. They can look back at their previous journals to remember the positive things in their lives and reflect on how they overcame their obstacles. Below you will find additional resources to engage your child in writing activities.
References and Additional Resources
- Britannica definition and explanation of poetry
- CHS Activity Sheets: Hey Diddle Diddle, Zoom to the Moon, Finger Painting with Toddlers, Preschool Turn-Taking Poems, School-Age Found Poems
- How Journaling Benefits Your Child by Jodie Rodriguez for Scholastic Parents
- How Journaling Can Help You in Hard Times article by Kira M. Newman for Greater Good Magazine
- How to Make Muffin Crayons (video)
- I See a Song (story video) by Eric Carle
- Jason Reynolds Website with author and book information
- Kenn Nesbitt’s Poetry4Kids website with activities
- Mental Health Benefits of Journaling article by WebMD
- Nikki Grimes Website with video writing prompts and resources
- Promoting Preschoolers Emergent Writing article by Teresa A. Byington and YaeBin Kim for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- Read a Little Poem activity ideas by NAEYC
- Real Life Reasons to Write article with activity ideas by Louis Mark Romei for NAEYC
- Shel Silverstein’s Website for activities and teaching resources
- Support Writing at Home activity ideas by NAEYC
- The Benefits of Journaling for Kids article by Amanda Morin for VeryWell Family
- Writing Prompts for Elementary School Students by ThoughtCo.
- Writing through Lived Experience free recorded webinar from Mental Health America