Sum..Sum…Summertime Writing!

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For some kids, summer vacation is well under way.  For others, like my daughter, there are still a handful of days left.  We are so excited for the summer and a more relaxed schedule.  While many parents look forward to the more relaxed schedule, many of the families I work with, especially the older kids who will not be attending therapy due to long days at camp or because they will be spending the summers at their vacation homes, get anxious about their children regressing and losing some of the skills they worked so hard to gain during the school year.  For these parents, I often suggest things like having a pen pal over the summer (what kid doesn’t love to get mail???) or keeping a journal of your fun summer activities.

For some kids, that open-ended kind of writing presents an increased challenge for them causing them to avoid it at all costs.  Since I want to work on keeping my daughter’s creative juices flowing over the summer and get her ready for the increased demands of second grade, I have been trying to find motivating activity books or journals that will make this seem like less like homework.  Through my research (spending a whole lot of time in bookstores browsing their journals and activity books), I have found that there are so many great books out there that help to make writing fun.  There are a ton of books that provide you with a simple writing prompt which can help jumpstart those kids that are struggling to come up with what to write about.  Depending on the child, you may even want to have a discussion about the subject before they begin writing to help them organize their thoughts.

Below, you will find some of my favorite journals and activity books that will not only work on handwriting, but will encourage creativity,  stimulate possible conversation and eventually lead to increased confidence and self-esteem.

Mad Libs-I love when I find things from my own childhood that still brings about tons of joy to today’s kids.   Mad Libs have been a huge hit with my own daughter and one of the biggest benefits is that she learned all about nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.  For kids who are able to write, be sure to take turns in letting them be the interviewer and have them write the words in themselves.  In addition to working on improving handwriting skills, Mad Libs are great for working on creativity and social skills.  For the younger kids, be sure to check out Mad Libs Junior.  Instead of having to come up with the words, they choose from lists (there are different shapes and under each shape are a bunch of words for them to pick from).  The best part of any Mad Lip collaboration between people is hearing the kids laugh like crazy as they read they completed story.

Write and Draw Your Own ComicsI have been a big fan of all things Usbourne for ages.  Now that some of my clients and my daughter are getting older, I have had to move from their coloring and sticker books to books that will meet their needs.  My daughter is a big fan of reading graphic novels so when I introduced the idea of creating her own comics, she was so excited.  In this book, kids are provided with simple step-by-step instructions and tips to show them how to create their own stories.  What’s great about this book is that in addition to the templates, there are lots of ideas about characters and storylines to help those kids who might need assistance in getting their creative juices flowing.  For added detail, this book comes with a bunch of stickers to add to their completed comics.  This is a fun way to motivate kids to write, create and draw.  Additionally, it helps with executive functioning skills such as focus and attention, planning and organizational skills.
For kids who might not need the help with getting their ideas started, you should check out The Blank Comic Book For Kids.

Journal of Awesome-my daughter was given this journal by a family friend and we both love it.  I’m always struck at the increased educational demands that are placed on children and how it can have such a negative impact on their self-esteem and confidence level.  The Journal of Awesome helps to remind your child just how great they are and inspires them to remember how important the little things in life truly are.  Each page provides you with something to write about that will make you think of all the good things in life instead of focusing on the things that are going wrong or may be challenging for you.  Some of the things that they have you write about:
-coming back to your own bed after a long trip
-secret handshakes
-wearing a new pair of shorts
In addition to working on improving writing skills, kids will work on improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, planning and organizational skills.  They will also be encouraged to focus on the positive side of things which will help develop confidence and self-esteem.

Choose Kind Journal-one of my favorite books is R.J. Palacio’s Wonder.  For those of you not in the know, the book is about a boy named Auggie who was born with significant a significant facial deformity that has kept him from attending school.  The book Wonder follows Auggie on his first year in school with the overall message being all about choosing kindness.  When I saw the Choose Kind Journal-, I bought several copies.  This was something I not only wanted to do with my 7 year old daughter, but also to share with the kids I work with.  The Choose Kind Journal– is definitely geared towards older kids are are more independent in their writing skills.  However, you can easily go through and pick out questions that you can have conversations with your child about and write their answers down for them.  This journal provides daily prompts on how children can do something kind each day through quotes and questions for the kids to think more deeply about kindness.  Some of the things they will write about are:
-what annoys you that you will choose to ignore this week?
-is there someone older in your life that you feel might be lonely?  Spend a day asking him or her questions about life at your age.  What might you want to know?
-Today is random acts of kindness day.  What random acts of kindness will you do for someone today?
In addition to working on handwriting skills, this journal can help generate empathy and kindness in children who might need support in that area.
**if you are looking for a great summer reading book, I can’t recommend Wonder enough.  My daughter and I are reading it together and the conversations we have about acceptance and kindness have been wonderful.  

Me:  A Compendium: A Fill In Journal For Kids-this fill in the blank journal is geared towards the preschool set of kids and helps them to identify all their unique qualities.  If kids can write themselves, have them fill in answers themselves (do not focus on the spelling); if they can’t write, do it for them.  What I like about this book is that on many of the pages, kids can either write or draw their answers.  This book is filled with kid-friendly illustrations that get the kids thinking about things about themselves, things they like and how they might see different images.  For example, one page has a picture of two pieces of bread and they have to draw what they like inside of their sandwich.  Another page has a picture of a person and they have to either draw or write what’s in their brain right now.
Kids will work on developing graphomotor skills, creativity and executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and organizational skills.  This is a fun book to do with your child and can stimulate conversational skills, confidence and self-esteem as they complete each page.

I Like…..Activity Booksimilar to Me, this activity book is geared more towards younger children (but kids of all ages will have fun filling it in) and can be done with a grownup if a child might need more help.  Kids can fill in the blanks while writing a letter to someone (encourage a child who can write to fill in the answers without worry about the spelling), draw toppings on a pizza or circle multiple choice questions about themselves.  The illustrations by Sara Walsh are beautiful and kids will love looking back at this as they get older.  In addition to working on improving graphomotor skills, it can encourage conversation and creativity skills.  Also great for working on improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, planning and organizational skills and improving confidence and self-esteem.  

642 Things to Write About: Young Writer’s Edition-this book encourages children ages 4-8 years to become more creative writers through over 600 prompts.  If you have a younger child, you will have to write their answers down for them but I would encourage you to have them draw a picture to go along with the story.  Older kids who are independently writing should write on their own.  For kids who might have a hard time organizing their thoughts for writing, you may want to have them talk through their response before writing and help them outline what they will write.  This will help improve executive functioning skills such as focus and attention, planning and organization.  Some of the things that your child might be asked to do are:
-write a story that includes a streetlight, a bear and a kid with a jar of honey
-describe your dream house (have your kid draw a picture at the same time!)

In addition to improving creative writing and graphomotor skills, kids’ confidence and self-esteem will improve.

Just Between Us:  a no-stress, no-rules journal for girls and their moms-as a mother to a young girl, I aim to have meaningful conversations with her as often as possible.  Sometimes it ends up being much more challenging than others to get her to share her feelings with me, tell me about her day or talk about a variety of things.  When I saw Just Between Us, I was so excited about a way to deepen our conversations over the summer.  Through a variety of writing prompts, quizzes and questionnaires, moms and daughters get to know each other a little better and helps encourage conversation in a stress-free way.  I love how it includes pages for mom and daughters to make lists about things and has lots of free space to encourage writing about things that come up at any given time.  It’s important to establish guidelines as a unit about using this book.  Make sure your daughter feels safe that the information she shares with you will stay between the two of you.  And make sure you are having fun while getting to know one another just a little bit better.
Some of the things moms and daughters will write about are:
-answering 20 different questions about yourself (page for mom and for daughter)
-things I talked about with my mom at your age/things I wish I had been able to speak to her about (mom)

And because I never want to leave anyone out, I found these other journals for parents and kids to complete together:
Between Mom and Me: A Mother Son Journal
Dad & Me: Journal for Fathers and Their Sons or Daughters

Scribbles and Doodles:  Kid’s Summer Journal-this summer journal is intended for children 6 and up and most appropriate for kids who are generally independent writers.  The 90-page journal has a kid-friendly design with the top half of the page meant for writing about your day and the bottom half blank space for drawing.  While it is meant for kids to keep track of what they did each day during the summer, I had a different idea for my own daughter when I saw it.  When I saw this book, I immediately thought of how it would make a great journal for keeping track of her daily reading.  Since my daughter has been journaling about her reading all year in school and is now obsessed with reading chapter books, I figured she wouldn’t mind doing a daily writing activity.  She was especially excited about the idea of having the space to draw a picture about what she read that day.  
In addition to working on improving writing skills, Scribbles and Doodles works on improving creativity skills and executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, planning and organization.  

Putting this list together has been so much fun.  Perhaps it is because my own daughter will benefit so much from so many of the books that I have suggested.  I think it was mostly fun because I was able to discover so many great books that not only encourage children to write, but make it fun and motivating at the same time. During the summer, we want to keep our kids thinking, want them to continue to let their creative juices flow and prepare them for the increased demands of the next school year.  Most importantly to me, is that kids realize just how fun writing can be and how many ways there are to work on this skill.  The added bonus for me is that we can boost a child’s confidence and self-esteem by making this kind of work as much fun as possible.

A few final important reminders/tips to make summer writing as successful as possible:
-find fun writing instruments to make summer writing more fun/less work.  My favorites are the Super Duper Scented Gel Pens by Ooly and the Cadoozle Colored Mechanical Pencils.
-focus on the content and not the quality….in other words, don’t correct spelling or suggest changes.  If you start to micro-manage what your child is creating, you run the risk of them not wanting to participate at all.
-make this fun for your child….if you are going to set aside time each day or a few times a week, make them look forward to it.  I plan on picking up a special snack that my daughter can have while she is writing.
-if your child has decreased hand strength/endurance, encourage them to take breaks.  Maybe start the writing activity with a quick strengthening activity like playing with Discovery Putty or building with Legos.  My new fine motor obsession, which I will blog about soon, are Plus-Plus toys.  

While I want to say it the most important message from this blog is that kids will become better writers, that would be a lie.  I really worked hard to find books that would help kids get a better sense of who they are, help in create relationships with people they might write with each day, encourage kindness and empathy and help kids become more confident in their skills.  

Keeping writing fun and as stress-free as possible is the ultimate goal with each of the books I suggested. If you have any journals or activity books that you recommend, I would love to hear about them.  I am always a click away and love hearing from all of you.  

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