40 Creative Writing Projects for Kids who Hate Pencils

Inside: 3 Writer’s Skills that Students should learn long before heading to college.

He sat slumped in a chair glaring at the blank page; his freedom held captive by the writing assignment taunting him.

The instructions read, “write a paragraph describing the weather.”

He snorts. 

“Who cares about the weather, I just want to see if I can get to the next level on my new video game.

In the old days, we’d call this a polaroid- a simple snapshot of a moment in time.

The image is so typical- child sits at table with a stomach ache, a headache, a bad attitude or their 14th broken pencil.

All because a stupid writing prompt is giving them the evil eye.

We want to raise up writers, not kids who mangle the English language- but how?

Right now two of our five sons are chopping wood with their dad.

They were driven to a dark scary piece of land with a borrowed trailer attached to our SUV. Once far off the beaten path they were directed to the freshly cut giant. My husband enthusiastically wielded a chainsaw and cut the trunk into manageable 500 pound pieces.

Maybe, they were lighter.

I couldn’t tell you for sure.

I was delegated to watch the boys “hump the logs” out of the wood.
(That’s men talk)

Those very heavy logs were carefully brought home.

Enter my hero: My husband.

He takes the boys to the hardware store and buys a couple of axes. While my husband looked the other way, each son looked at me with pleading eyes. “Save me mommy.”

I said nothing.

I trust that my husband- a manly man- is much more equipped to teach boys how to be men than I am.

Plus, I had a cup of coffee to enjoy with my bon-bons.

An hour later, the door bursts open and my wood-chopping sons walk in with a very distinct swagger.
Lumberjacks in training.
They were all wearing sawdust covered jeans, work boots and flannel shirts.
You could taste the testosterone in the air.
“Mom, that was AWESOME!”
Funny how being taught to do something challenging and dangerous leaves a “lovely glow” on the face of a growing boy.
Our young men need to swing axes.
Even if it’s metaphorically speaking.

I wish it were that same for basic writing skills.

Writing is one of those skills that many of us have been forced into against our wills.
But we need to STOP grouping writing into the same category as forcing our 11-year old sons to shower daily.
(I swear my kid believes that water will melt his manliness.)
After 25-years of teaching and homeschooling, I’ve found the secret sauce to teaching kids to write.

The 3 Know Knows of Writing



Believe in yourself. You can teach your kids to write.

Believe in your kids. They have it in their hearts to become excellent writers.

Believe in fairies.  Because fairies make life magical.

So what is the trick to teaching kids to write?

Take their pencils away.

  • Send them into the woods to chop wood with their dad. 
  • Read a book together and them buy a HUGE tub of popcorn and go see the movie version at the theater and watch them discover there is a BIG difference.
  • Read funny product labels at the grocery store.
  • Watch them do something they love and create questions to ask them later about the activity.
  • Collect jokes, riddles, and hilarious and nonsensical songs to share at random and unexpected times in the day.
  • Read aloud to them daily and leave them hanging in the story– begging for you to read “one more chapter”.

Collect memories, experiences, and opportunities for excitement.

Teach them to brainstorm.

When my sons came back to the school table after chopping wood, we filled up our white board with all the words and phrases about chopping trees and wielding axes TOGETHER  on our 4 x 6 whiteboard.

I held the marker and drew an axe in the hand of a stick figure. 

The axe was 2x larger than the man, and then I wrote “The day I almost died” on the board.

The boys laughed and then I asked them to describe their day in detail.

“Slow down,” I can’t write that fast!

The following day, we sat in front of the white board and I whipped out my 40 types of writing list and had the boys each choose how they would capture their day in the woods on paper.

40+ Types of Writing to Teach Your Kids

  1. Text messaging
  2. Facebook posts
  3. Twitter tweets
  4. Instagram Descriptions
  5. Linked in Profile
  6. emails
  7. Friendly letters
  8. Grocery lists
  9. Birthday cards
  10. Comics strips
  11. Write to a prompt
  12. Letters to their Future Self
  13. Recipes
  14. Directions to the zoo
  15. Instructions for making the perfect cup of coffee
  16. Review a play
  17. Word webs
  18. Speech Writing
  19. Book Report Alternatives
  20. Cornell notes
  21. Outlines
  22. Essays
  23. Research Papers
  24. Poetry
  25. Music lyrics
  26. Mentor Sentences
  27. Newsletter
  28. Books
  29. Short stories
  30. Journal entries
  31. Captions  for pictures
  32. Resumes
  33. Job applications
  34. Cover letters
  35. Paraphrasing
  36. MLA citation
  37. Works Cited pages
  38. Blog
  39. Script writing
  40. Autobiography
  41. Comparison Chart
  42. Scattergories!

Teach writing without pencils

Experience first!

Kids need to touch, taste, see, smell, fear, hear, and experience something first.

Then, they need to practice brainstorming everything they can think of about that topic.

  • What did it feel like? 
  • Smell like?
  • Sound like?

You hold the pencil.

The most important part of writing is brainstorming wrapped in a real life experience.

Now, Go give your kids an axe.

These also make great additions to your emergency file.

(Also known as “mom is sick and needs you to work independently today”)


A Writing Lesson without Pencils?

Me: Everyday, we should choose a new creative word to describe the water.

Without hesitation, my 18-year old said, “serene”.

Driving to college, I repeated for the 113th time,🧐 “always comment, always notice, always see the little things; because life is made up of little things.

And it’s those little things that matter.”

We drive by this water’s edge every single day on our way to the college, and every single day the face of the water is different.

And we comment.Gorgeous, calm, glassy, row-able, turbulent, choppy, moving, rushing, flowing, and today… SERENE.

Because we want to raise our kids to cherish the little things. But I also cheat.

Don’t miss what’s happening (and for the love of Pete, don’t tell my kids what I’m doing)‼

Vocabulary building on the road!!!((Insert high 5 here))🖐

We want our kids to notice the water every single day.

Because it’s gorgeous: True.

If you don’t have a water view, exchange it for something you see everyday and now take for granted too: a mountain view, an endless sky, a majestic tree, open range, or whatever is in your backyard.

Teach your kids to notice, by doing your noticing out loud. Daily.

Stretch their vocabulary, tell related clean jokes, invent an imaginary creature who lives in the scene, challenge them to a new word a day contest.

Because at the end of our homeschool journey, we want kids that says things like, “Lord, You’re just showing off today with those colors in the sky!” or”I love how serene the water looks when it’s slack tide.”

Today, embrace the beauty and give it a label.

Because it’s the little things that matter!!

How to Build vocabulary from everyday sights

1. Today: Brainstorm as many words as you can to describe water with your kids. Challenge them to come up with 50 before revealing the truth. (you hold the pencil and write word they call out to you)

2. Tomorrow: Peek at the 1000 words to describe water: https://describingwords.io/for/water

3. Then give them a prompt and challenge everyone to write the rest of the story.

4. When you’re done, have a readers theater where everyone reads their ending!

Prompt with the picture: The day started serene. The water playfully reflecting the homes along its shoreline.A cheerful seagull bobbed up and down on the gentle current enjoying the break of a new day.No one would have guessed what happened next…

The GOAL of all writing is clear communication. Here are some of my go-to creations to help your kids embrace their writing journey.

teaching kids to write
Fun writing prompts for High School
amazing handwriting worksheets
winter writing promtps

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