Learning to write: It’s child’s play!

Posted on August 9, 2021

Since my kids started school, I’ve realized something: learning to read and write is no easy feat. But we can help our children develop their skills and support them in their learning without them even knowing it. How? Through play! Here are a few fun activities that will complement their school lessons nicely.

Small rewards

Kids love getting little surprises for their efforts and accomplishments. But all parents run out of ideas at some point! Ask your kids to write a list of small rewards that they’d like to receive during a specific period of time. Picking a season, for example, will help them focus their ideas and allow them to do the activity at least four times a year! Parents can introduce the concept of whether their ideas are appropriate for a given theme (for example, sidewalk chalk should be on the summer list)!

Kind notes in their lunch boxes

Little cards, stickers and crayons: that’s all you’ll need to make notes to put in their lunch boxes. Everyone decorates a few cards and writes nice messages on them. Then, the cards are placed in a jar. When preparing lunches over the next few days, you or the kids can pick a card to put in each lunch box. To help younger children, you can write messages that they can simply copy. For older kids, you can also suggest that they write riddles or haikus. Metallic gel pens and scented markers would also be perfect for this activity.

Fill-in-the-blank letters

My kids love their grandmother to pieces! Unfortunately, she lives far away, and my kids think that writing letters takes a lot of time. So I use fill-in-the-blank letters! I write sentence starters followed by blanks that they fill out in their own unique way. For example, I’ll write “When I was playing outside the other day, Placeholder for the answer,” “At school, my friend and I Placeholder for the answer,” or “The other day, I dreamt that Placeholder for the answer.” The sentence starters have to be general enough so that kids can write whatever their hearts desire.

Silly sentences

My mother introduced me to this game when I was a child, and I still enjoy it just as much as I used to. The first player writes a subject on a piece of paper, folds it so that the others can’t read it and then passes it to the next player. The second player writes a verb, folds the piece of paper and passes it to the next player. The last person to get the piece of paper writes a complement. Then, you unfold the piece of paper and read the sentence that everyone created! You can add an adjective and a subject (and conjugate the verb in the third person plural): adjective + subject 1 + subject 2 + verb + complement.

Funny rules

You can breathe new life into your board games by writing … new rules! It gives kids an opportunity to use verbs in the imperative and infinitive moods. If a game has cards with instructions for the players, you can create new ones and add them to the deck. For example, when we play Pay Day at home, we might pick up cards that say “Jump on one foot as many times as shown on the die,” “Sing a song, and play again” or “Get $20 from each player in exchange for a compliment.”

Story cards

Print the following types of images:

  1. Characters (including animals)
  2. Actions (jumping, running, cooking, casting a spell, etc.)
  3. Places (a park, castle, city, countryside, forest, etc.)
  4. Events (a snowstorm, power outage, masquerade ball, etc.)

Then, glue them onto small cards. Arrange them in four stacks, and ask the kids to take one card from each stack. Look at cards 1, 2 and 3, which depict the beginning of the story (the initial situation), and discuss it. Once the initial situation has been clearly defined, look at card 4 (the inciting incident). Together, imagine what the hero would do in that situation (plot development and denouement). Don’t hesitate to pick up a “character” card if the hero needs a friend and ally or an “action” card if they’re in a bind. To describe the final outcome, you can go back to the initial three cards. The little ones may also enjoy picking their favourite figurines out of a bag to represent the characters. You’ll be teaching them the basic elements of plot!

No matter what activity you suggest, the conditions for success are laughter and the adult’s full participation. To make sure that the kids have fun, you can’t be a stickler for accuracy. If there are a couple of mistakes in their letter to Grandma, I don’t correct them. My goal is to get my kids to love writing, and I believe that they won’t have as much fun if they feel they’re making mistakes. If one of my sons changes every story into a tale about farting zombies, I explore that wacky universe without judgment because letting his imagination run wild is what matters.

Whether you’re a parent, teacher or educator, you probably know of other games like these. Which ones do the kids in your life get excited about?

Translated by Anne-Marie Tugwell, Language Portal of Canada


The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Marise Guay

Marise Guay

Marise Guay

After completing a degree in translation, Marise Guay began working as a translator for the Translation Bureau. Later, she became a language analyst, focusing on clear communication and language content creation. She has since taken on a broader range of tasks, which include managing web content, drafting promotional texts and writing social media posts.


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Submitted by Kids Learning on May 27, 2024, at 1:26

From the early stages of development, children absorb information like sponges, through play, exploration, and structured educational activities.