Does your child ask you to tell them a bedtime story? Are you a writer in need of a nudge or support? Has COVID alone time grown old and you find yourself longing for someone to share your ideas with? and I’m not talking zoom time!
Here’s an idea that fits all ages and stages and, if you’re a teacher, satisfies all kinds of standards that involve creativity, collaboration, and writing. I call this one Pass It On and it can be applied to all kinds of written or oral storytelling and many arts and crafts (knitting, painting, drawing,…). It’s a spin-off of a time-filler we’d have our kids do when they were driving each other crazy on a road trip. I refer to to it as the old “fold/draw/share a laugh” project. Here’s how the original goes:
I’d fold a sheet of paper in thirds and have the first child draw a head or top part of a creature/robot/person/whatever on the top third so the bottom of the head touches the fold. She would pass it to her brother who would draw the middle section (without having seen the “head”) and he would pass it to the last child who drew the bottom third without seeing the first or middle part. When finished the paper is unfolded and ta-DAH! the artwork is revealed. (The one I remember best is a Frankenstein-like head with dreadlocks, a nude Barbie doll middle, and piano legs. Okay, so you may have to put down some ground rules…)
Now, you can stick with the fold/draw/share idea as told above or get a little more advanced and try something that fits your interest. I’m a writer so naturally I’m going to suggest you try writing a story with someone you miss or haven’t seen for a while (perhaps due to social distancing or maybe they live too far away). It might be grandma who lives in Florida or in the care center across town. You might collaborate with a cousin in Mexico or a classmate who moved away. The “story starter” has a lot of influence as s/he is likely to establish the setting, main character and probably the problem the main character faces. This person writes as much as they wish. I might suggest 3-4 paragraphs before sending it to someone who, hopefully, agreed in advance to give this a shot. Establish deadlines to return the story, such as three days or a week. Emailing your story makes this a snap! This can last a week, a month, a year! No one is grading it so have some fun. Will it be non-fiction (a little research can be fun!) or fiction? Will it be a mystery, sci-fi, funny, have illustrations, chapters? You and your writing partner get to decide! This is kind of like the good ol’ days when people actually sent letters back and forth only the result is more than communication, it’s a story to be shared by many!
If you or your child is looking to work on their own but want to part of a world wide web of creators, check out https://storybird.com This is a great app that gives writing prompts for all ages, lets you select from a mountain of professional artists’ work to illustrate your story, and offers challenges and quizzes. Teachers and students love it and it’s a great distance-learning tool to spark creativity. You can even have your story made up into a book (for a price of course).
I’ll leave you with a personal story. Several years ago I purchased copies of The Back and Forth Journal (by Amy Etzel) for each of our kids. It’ s basically a hard covered notebook. My husband and I wrote one page in each one and gave it to our kids. A couple months later they wrote back. We’ve been doing that for over 10 years-each of us writing a couple times a year in it about everything from the daily grind to expressions of love and hope. It is a priceless thing to read back over it and will be with our children long after we’re gone. Moments pass, words written down endure. Write them, share them, let them warm your heart. Grandma will love it too.