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Creative Writing Exercises to Inspire Children

By: Catherine Burrows - Updated: 21 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Children Writing Creative Exercises

Creative writing can be a non-starter for some children. You need to uncover that trigger which fires up the imagination and sets them on a journey to other places, times and situations. Every child is different so it makes sense to take a variety of approaches in the form of different creative writing exercises. One size doesn’t fit all, so if an exercise doesn’t work try another until you find the results you’re looking for.

Lucky Ideas Dip

Creative writing exercises that feel like games seem to be particularly successful. The Lucky Ideas Dip is the perfect example. Label three different containers:-
  • Hero
  • Villain
  • What if?

Fill each container with slips of paper that contain random examples of each category. For example, a hero could be a superhero, schoolboy, schoolgirl, dog, ghost, car or doctor. The villain might be a bully, cat, monster or wizard. Heroes and villains are often the first two character types children encounter. Even their first fairytales or picture books will tend to feature a hero and an ‘anti-hero’ or villain.

The last container contains the ‘what if’ slips of paper. These are situations that kick-start a story. They could be a problem, a mystery that needs to be solved or a question that needs an answer. For example, a locket must be found or the boy is hanging on to the branch of a tree to avoid falling into the river below.

By taking a slip of paper from each container, children have the three basic ingredients of a story. The random, lucky dip nature adds to the fun and holds their interest while the imagination kicks in.

Picture This

Cut some interesting images from newspapers and magazines. They can be quite ordinary or fanciful. A mixture of the two is usually the best approach. Issue each child with a prompt card that simply asks:-
  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why

Ask the children to pick a picture. Ideally, they should do this without looking as it helps to stimulate their creativity. Choosing a picture involves logic and this can stifle free-thinking. Once they have their image, asking the five different prompts helps them to think about possibilities for their story. If you gave them a picture and asked them to write a story about it, they wouldn’t know where to start. This approach narrows the field and makes the task feel more achievable.

Fairy Stories

Ask each child to chose their favourite story and get them to read it again, even if they are very familiar with it. Once they have finished reading encourage them to pick another character from the story. It mustn’t be the main character. They could choose the villain or a minor character. Now ask them to re-write the story, in their own style and from this new character’s viewpoint. Coax them to use their own voice for this exercise, so if they want to make the story funny they can do so.

Some examples of this exercise are:

  • Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s point of view.
  • Cinderella from one of the ugly sister’s viewpoint.
  • Goldilocks through the eyes of the baby bear.

This can be quite a challenging exercise but it works with most children and produces excellent results.

To and Fro

Try playing a game of to and fro. Arrange the children into couples and give them an egg timer and a sheet of paper to work on. Each child works for set times writing a paragraph of a story. If you wish, you could help them start by giving them the very first paragraph. When the time is up, the next child continues and so on, until the exercise is over. This is a good way to encourage quick thinking and creativity. The results they produce may be nonsensical but these are sometimes the best stories!

Headline News

Newspaper headlines are tantalising. They offer the flavour of a story without the details. This makes them ideal for creative writing prompts. Start a box of cuttings that children can dip into. Ask them to look at the headlines and come up with ideas. They don’t have to write a news report. Encourage them to look behind the words and find the story beyond. Sometimes it might be good fun to look at the made-up story alongside a copy of the real story to see how they compare with each other.

Creative writing exercises are the first stop to exploring a child’s creativity. Some children will need to repeat exercises or try different ones if they don’t get the results they expected. Other children will only need the help of a single exercise before they can manage alone. Experiment and see what works. Pick up those pens and get writing!

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One that was commonly used when I was a kid was adventures of a penny, told from the viewpoint of the coin. It was great fun, having to imagine the different people who owned the coin briefly and what they bought. These days, perhaps, a 50p piece would make more sense, though, or a one pound coin.
Chris - 26-Sep-12 @ 2:15 PM
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