Encouraging and Creating Young Creative Writers

Sunday, April 21, 2013
By Crystal Otto

Before I get too far in today’s post, I should tell you a bit about who I am. I’m a wife, a mother, a writer, a musician, and a dairy farmer. I don’t know how all these go together, but I have a sneaking suspicion that each of them play into my role as a teacher when it comes to teaching young people about creative writing. I work on special projects with my daughter’s class. She is in Kindergarten, and some of her creative writing has already been featured on my blog, submitted as part of a college project for her teacher, and shared with many via social media. My daughter turned six at the beginning of March; so when I speak to you about creating a young creative writer, I want you to know that a child is never too young to be creative.

The first stories that a child hears are simple spoken tales shared by their parents. Hearing develops in the womb at sixteen weeks. A sixteen-week-old child in the womb cannot understand your words, but the excitement and tone of your voice tell a very musical story (some scientists even argue that fetuses as young as seven months dream). After birth, it’s a similar situation. We read to our children, sing to our children, and converse in front of our children, and their brains process that information at whatever level they are at. That said, a child that can draw pictures—even simple stick people—can begin to tell a story.

When a child creates a piece of art or is animatedly explaining something to you, ask questions. Don’t assume that the scribble on the page is just a scribble or that the dinosaur is a tyrannosaurus. If you engage the youngest of children and ask questions about things, you’ll find that those pictures develop into written words and those short stories develop into longer stories and poems. What color was the slide? How big was the dinosaur? You were the tooth fairy—how did you get into the little girl’s house and what did you do with the tooth? Etc.

My children know that I write and ask me questions about what I’m writing (or what I’m reading), and we talk about my work as well as theirs. They beam with pride when they see my picture in the paper or I show them my name on the computer screen or in a book. To encourage their creative “work” as well, I have the luxury of going one step further than most parents. Most parents hang pictures or stories on the fridge or share them with friends and family. I am able to post some of the stories, pictures, and drawings on my blog, website, or social media. When the children see themselves and/or their creation “up in lights” as we say, they feel good and want to write more. This is something very easy to do as a parent, but a gift that will last a lifetime for the children. It’s never too early to share your passion for writing with your own children by volunteering at a library or school. Help encourage our future writers!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Crystal--You are so right. Kids are never too young to have their imagination and creativity nurtured.

I'm a third grade teacher, and have found that when the small parts of writing are celebrated, it helps encourage creativity. For example, getting excited over an engaging opening line. Raving over a rich image. Gushing over a well-crafted simile. When children can successfully take a small step, they're more willing to try marching through the writing process on their own...

Thanks for the post, Crystal.(A dairy farmer, huh? The "Not Your Mother's Book" series is looking for stories. I imagine with your varied background, you have many stories to tell--assuming you write creative nonfiction and assuming you haven't already sent in some pieces.)

Crystal Otto said...

Good morning Sioux!

It's the middle of chores here on our dairy farm (feeding calves, milking cows, fixing feed, etc...), so yup - dairy farmers we are! Thank YOU for choosing such an admirable profession - it's caring educators that helped me learn to love reading and writing, so you have a special place in my heart already!

I'll look into the "Not Your Mother's Book" series and I do write creative nonfiction, so thank you for the suggestion.

Glad you enjoyed the post!


Margo Dill said...

Crystal--I LOVE THIS! And what a great idea to post some of those on your blog. I might have to steal it. What I love watching is how my two-year-old is now starting to pretend. I hear her talking to her dolls or going to the grocery store or playing McDonald's, etc. :) Today I ordered an ice tea from her and she told me I would have to wait because it was still hot, but I could have a diet coke. :) HA! I mean, I know it's not a story yet, but it's a beginning. Thanks for this and reminding us to ask questions to draw out stories too. :)

Crystal Otto said...

Margo -

I love that your 2 year old knows that iced tea is hot tea that's been cooled as opposed to some sugary stuff added to water - this is fabulous! Not only does it sound like she has a great imagination, but it sounds like she's very smart too (like her mama of course)!

If you start posting some of her work on your blog, please let me know and I'd love to read it. My children get so excited at their 'stardom' and I'm sure your daughter will too!

Write On!

Cathy said...

Yes! Children are so naturally creative! My oldest daughter (now 10) has enjoyed drawing and doodling from a young age. When she was 3 or 4, I purchased a spiral-bound sketch journal for her to draw in. She loved it! Initially, she doodled and drew pictures, but as she learned to write, she began to write stories and illustrate them in her sketchbooks. As a fourth-grader, she is busy devouring whatever book she can get her hands on and doesn't create as much as she used to, but she still enjoys those sketch journals!

Crystal Otto said...


That's a lovely story! Are her stories becoming more deep and filled with details as she ages? Is she ahead of her class as a result of your early encouragement?


Cathy said...

She always does well in language arts and reading. She is a very creative and passionate child, and really gets into art and writing projects. She has needed some encouragement to dig deeper on the details at times, but from what her teachers have told me, it's because she tries to cover too many topics in one story sometimes! We do have a creative story in mind that we'd like to write together at some point, based on her passion for monarch butterflies! Actually, it was my idea, that she was really excited about, so I think your post may have inspired me to make it a group project!

Crystal Otto said...


I'm excited for you!!! Keep us posted!!!


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