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Develop Your Kids’ Creative Thinking Through Writing!

As our culture becomes more and more “screen bound,” our kids are inundated with flashing facts, opinions and graphics. Their ability to evaluate this input and generate their own unique ideas will be valuable to them in life. For this, they must develop an ability to think creatively, “outside the box.” Most curricula fall short in this area, so it’s up to parents to fill in the gaps.

Leading creative writing sessions is a wonderful way to let kids build confidence in their ability to generate ideas. Since there are no wrong answers, it’s a joyous break from academic rigor, yet more strategic than many “educational games.” Add cupcakes and it’s an “Idea Party”! Stage a poetry reading, and it counts as language arts! Most importantly, once you establish an open, non-competitive atmosphere, kids will have the courage to think creatively in other settings.

I began leading creative writing workshops for my daughter (an only child) and her friends in our home in 2008, without anticipating the “creative community” it would form. Sharing work after each assignment enriched everyone’s experience and taught the kids to listen to each other. It also “leveled the playing field,” as the less confident kids saw that anyone can come up with something terrific, and the overly confident came to understand theirs was not the only good idea in the room. Even kids who were reluctant initially soon couldn’t wait to come to class, and many began writing more on their own. Some had such a good time in the group that they even asked to have their birthday parties at our house!

There’s surely one parent in your circle who could lead writing sessions. An hour and fifteen minutes for 8-10 year olds and an hour and a half for older kids works well. I usually have them work on 3 exercises that present some irony and challenge their thinking, such as: “Describe a mind with no ideas,” (Is it an empty box or drawer? A desert or a vacant lot? etc.) or “Invent a character that invents a character,” or “Write a never-ending story, set in an ice cube.”

To get things started, you can prove our brains are wired for creative thinking: just pose a simple question and let the group see how many answers they can find. Try “What ways might you hold a party in an empty room? (No furniture or games, just guests)” They’ll all pitch in ideas, building on each other’s suggestions. Soon, you’ll see former “non-writers” shine!

A heartfelt bravo to all homeschooling parents for impacting their children’s education as no one else can. Leading creative writing workshops for so many kids has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life!

Cathy Altman Nocquet made a career of creative thinking while working in international advertising as a writer and strategist. Her creative writing workshops feature offbeat, inspiring exercises designed to develop creative thinking long term. She has taught hundreds of students from dozens of American and European schools, led workshops at libraries and for non-profit groups, including Gifted in France, The Paris Girls Scouts and the English Language Schools Association. Ms Altman Nocquet is a SCBWI writing contest judge and a graduate of Columbia University. Her ebook, “Write Outside The Lines: A Creativity Catapult,” can be found at Amazon for $2.99. For more creative ideas, visit: http://can.writing.free.fr/can.writing/Communication!.html.

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  • Thank you, Ms. Altman Nocquet, for providing tools, techniques, and inspiration for keeping our children’s minds actively creative in non-electronic ways! This is so badly needed and so very appreciated. I know your fun ideas are going to go a long way toward keeping our young (and adult!) minds joyfully exploring the wild landscape of the imagination. THANK YOU!!!

  • I love the idea of an “Idea Party”! My daughter and her cousin have come up with some really great stories lately and they have a blast Skype-ing while they both type ideas into Word documents. One thing that is so important to learning to write, though, is reading – particularly classic literature. Kids have much more to draw from when their minds are filled with well-chosen words and classics are the ideal read-alouds to spark imaginations. Great post!

    • I’ve found the more kids write, the more they want to read, and vice versa. There are so many fantastic series now for tweens, from Rick Riordan to Pseudonymous Bosch to Trenton Lee Stewart. My husband and I have to tell our 13 yr old to stop reading and eat! Enjoy your creative daughter and niece!

  • I didn’t think my 5-year-old daughter had much of an imagination, or could come up with anything creative even when given a giant sugar cookie as an incentive. I didn’t until the day it rained. She was sitting on a window sill, looking out at the falling drops and said, “Dad, where do butterflies go when it rains?” I was so impressed by the question that I stumbled through an answer that I’m sure left her still wondering. I think your idea party is a terrific way to draw out the creativity all youngsters have. We just have to look for ways to help them express it, and writing is a darn good start. Congrats!

    • What a great question. A friend’s daughter once asked him whether ducks had knees. The more writers I work with, the more interesting things get. Keep your daughter writing! All the best, Cathy

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