Christine Koh

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I'm Christine Koh, a music and brain neuroscientist turned multimedia creative. I'm the founder + editor of Boston Mamas, co-author of Minimalist Parenting, co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, and creative director at Women Online. Drop me a line; I'd love to chat about how we can work together!

Curbing the Summer Slump: Writing

writing.jpgToday, Sheri continues our Curbing the Summer Slump series with ideas to engage your kids in writing:

Writing goes hand in hand with reading opportunities, and summer is a great time to engage in unique written experiences that will also enrich your child's reading. Through writing experiences, kids expand their vocabulary, open a creative outlet that doesn't involve batteries and noise producing buttons, and expand their understanding of how language works when communicating with others. Here are some fun ideas to encourage writing (and writing muscles for little ones who aren't yet putting pencil to paper):

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For the very young (pre-writing experiences)

Occupational therapists will tell any parent that one of the best things you can do for your child prior to learning to write is tactile play. Tactile play involves letting your child's fingers strengthen in preparation for pencil grip holding. Warning: Some tactile play ideas are quite messy, but that is part of what makes them so fun!

  • Drawing in shaving cream. Shaving cream on a table, cookie sheet, or even the side of your car makes for an amazing tactile experience for little fingers. Help your child form top to bottom lines and curves using the index finger. For even more strength building, have the remaining four fingers hold an object while drawing. This teaches the muscles the proper alignment for future pencil gripping.

  • Finger pinch excavation. Hide small beans or beads (for little ones who are no longer mouthing!) in a pile of sand or rice. Have your child try to excavate the objects using only the index finger and thumb.

  • Magic painting. All that is needed is a paintbrush, some water for dipping the brush, and a hot pavement. Magic drawing can be done anywhere and magically disappears, leaving no mess behind. Throw a paintbrush into your bag and you will be amazed at how quickly waiting in line at the amusement park goes by as you tic-tac-toe your way magically with water.

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    For the early emergent writers (pre-school and K)

    Provide opportunities to play school with a writing center in your house. Provide envelopes, paper of different sizes and shapes, and a variety of writing supplies from crayons to paint. For example, my son loved to play post office while I was working at my desk. He would write me a note (or even a bill or take out menu!) and then deliver my mail in the sealed envelope. I would write back and he would come collect and deliver the mail. He could play this game for hours and it reinforced that writing has a purpose.

    Developmentally, kids need to experience the act of writing without being caught up on the accuracy so don't worry about perfection; there's plenty of time for editing in school. Basic sight words can be pointed out, and attempts using accurate beginning or ending sounds should be applauded.

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    For writers of every age (K on up)

  • Letter writing. Summer provides countless exciting memories that can be shared with friends and family afar. Have your child write a letter or postcard to a family or friend sharing the highlights of the trip or event. Your family and friends will be thrilled to get mail, which will positively reinforce another purpose for writing. Who knows, they may even send a letter back and start a pen pal trend. For older children you can find a pen pals via sites such as Friendship by Mail and Kids Helping Kids.

  • Journal writing. Create a journal to chronicle summer trips or daily adventures. Your child can collect ticket stubs, maps, toll tickets, restaurant cards, postcards, photos, and any other memorabilia from the trip to include in the journal. To engage your child in the experience, provide a disposable camera for them to use how they want for the journal. Think of the journal as a memory book, made by your child, in his/her own words -- it will be a priceless treasure later and also makes for an easy back to school sharing "what I did this summer" item for your child. My son and I made an animal book one summer using the photos he took at the different zoos we visited. He made an informational book with a photo of each animal and wrote some details under each. It was so fun and my son -- a reluctant writer -- was super engaged in the process. It is really important for parents to hold back from jumping in to fix spelling, suggest layouts, or give input. Let your child experience writing how they want to in their journal.

  • Lists. Simple and efficient at the same time...help your child create lists. Lists provide another purpose for writing that is important, as it shows that writing does not need to be a story. Lists can be made for almost anything from packing for a day at the beach, a trip away, a grocery list for a cookout, a list of favorite memories of the summer, friend's phone numbers, or ingredients to make a favorite dessert. Lists provide endless possibilities for writing experiences.

  • Share a story. Take time to write a story together. Round Robin story writing is a fun game. Start with the classic "Once upon a time there was a ________" and then pass the paper to the next person, who then adds to the story. Continue around until someone's turn ends the story in a way that makes everyone happy. Reread the story together from start to finish, demonstrating that good writers reread what they have written and think about how the story could have been different. This can also be done orally in the car as a better alternative than license plate counting on road trips!

    Have questions or suggestions? Please share in the comments below!

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    Image credit: luigi diamanti via FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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