07/04/2013 06:06 EDT | Updated 09/03/2013 05:12 EDT

How to Keep Your Child Writing This Summer

My seven-year-old son struggles to put pencil to paper. Even with all the encouragement I could muster, completing his Grade 2 writing homework often reduced Gavin to tears. The assignments were miserable for both of us, and often took much of the weekend.

Then, one day in April, it actually happened.

"Mom, could you please not bother me while I do this?" asked Gavin, as he sat down to begin work on his weekly writing assignment. Stunned, yet faintly hopeful, I went about my own work on the computer.

A short time later, there they were: 10 short, but perfectly respectable sentences based on the week's spelling words. He might as well have written a Shakespearean sonnet, I was so excited. It was a real turning point, and the rest of the year was much easier on the writing front.

I'm thrilled that the writing has clicked for Gavin, but nervous that it will "un-click" between now and the beginning of Grade 3 this September. So I've been researching ways to keep him writing over the summer. Here's what I've come up with:

  • Invite your child to decorate a paper Mailbox. A large envelope will do it. Tape it to the door of his or her bedroom. Drop in funny notes, asking your child to write back to other Mailboxes around the house.
  • Create a step-by-step guide for something your child loves to do in summer. Whether it's building a tent out of blankets in the back-yard or creating a special frozen treat, have your child write down instructions for someone else to follow. Then follow them!
  • Build a Journal Kit for family vacation. Invite your child to choose a large, blank notebook. Fill an extra-large Ziploc bag with glue, tape, pencil crayons and markers. A short phrase labelling that postcard or ticket stub will keep that pencil moving!
  • Send those words around the world! Invite your child to the computer, to help you sponsor a child in a developing country online. Encourage your child to write to the new friend overseas, sharing three things about life here. Through World Vision Canada, you can find a child the same age and gender as your own.
  • Lists, lists, lists! It doesn't have to be poetry, or even complete sentences. Keep your kid writing by inviting him to list items to pack for camp, for that Saturday night sleepover, or to take on vacation. Make it fun by adding a few ridiculous entries of your own to the list. Then watch your child try to one-up you in the silly department, oblivious to the fact that he's been writing for the past five minutes. Gavin loves adding to the grocery list, jotting down everything from 'A freezer full of ice cream' to 'Garbage-bag size chips'.

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