9 fun writing projects to boost literacy skills

Boy writing at desk
Stories aren’t just for reading – teachers regularly use a story as a starting point to engage children in many writing activities that cover a wide range of objectives. Here, education writer Phoebe Doyle gives you a few suggestions for doing the same at home.

These activities are all designed with fun in mind, but by working through them your child will learn a crucial part of the national literacy strategy – writing for purpose. Through writing in these various formats your child will be thinking about characterisation, plot development and story components, as well as practising their phonics and handwriting skills.

1. What would the bubble be?

Draw and cut out some speech and thought bubbles. Go through one of your child’s favourite stories with them. At various key moments in the story, ask them to suggest what the characters might be thinking, or what they might like to say. Encourage them to write in the thought and speech bubbles, and stick them temporarily onto the page (using Blu-Tack or similar).

2. Write a letter to a character

Having your child write to their favourite story character is a great way teach them how to set out a letter properly. How about the tiger in The Tiger Who Came to Tea? What would they like to say to him? Or suggest they try writing a letter of apology from Goldilocks to the three bears.

3. Make a WANTED poster

Does your child have a favourite story where a toy or a character gets lost (Dogger in Dogger by Shirley Hughes or Courtney in John Burningham’s Courtney are two examples)? Help them design a LOST poster, and then discuss how they’ll need to describe the character or toy in detail; encourage them to think of size, colour, defining characteristics, etc. If they wish to write these as a list they can format it with bullet points or numbers, which will give you the chance to talk about how this can make a list easier to read.

4. Create alternative endings

Take one of your child’s favourite books and ask them to retell it – verbally, pictorially or by writing down what happens. Discuss what happens at the end of the story. Do they like the ending? Work together on what could be a different ending – ask if they want it to be happy/sad/funny/shocking, etc. Help them write it out, then tell or read the entire story with their new ending.

5. Character shopping list

If a character went on a shopping trip, what would they need? Younger children can write out some items a characters needs in a story (what does the Little Red Hen need to make her cakes, for instance). For older children, it could get more creative –making up new plots for their favourite character, and then suggesting some items they might need to purchase.

6. Become a journalist

Invite your child to write a newspaper article about some of the events in a favourite story. This will really get them thinking about the needs of the reader as they’ll have to explain the facts clearly and succinctly and in order, pretending that the reader knows nothing of the events that have occurred. Try "The Three Little Pigs" or another tale they know really well. Have a look at some articles together to help your child become familiar with the format.

7. Plan a party

Children typically love writing invitations – perhaps because they love parties! They also tend to like sticking to such a rigid and seemingly grown-up format.  Discuss with them what they will need to include on the invitation: time, cause for celebration, place, dress code, food, entertainment. They can have huge fun decorating, too. For example, they could write an invitation to Cinderella’s wedding, or to the Hungry Caterpillar’s birthday party – imagine the food at that do!

8. Write reminder notes

Provide your child with some Post-it notes, and explain how sometimes we might use these to write memos to remind us of tasks we need to carry out. Ask them what certain characters might need to remember. Think Elmer, for instance – perhaps he needs to remember that it’s fantastic to be different. Or Baby Owl in Martin Wadell’s Owl Babies needs to be reminded that his Mummy has only gone for a short while.

9. Make a birthday card

What if one of your child’s favourite characters had a birthday? Discuss what they could draw on the front of their birthday card – what would the character like to see pictures of? How old do you think the character might be? Inside, your child can even write a little rhyme or special message. Have them look at some of their own birthday cards for inspiration.

Digital storytelling fun for kids

Harness your child's natural interest in all things digital with a story-making app: creative writing by stealth!

We also recommend the free art and creative writing challenges on the Night Zookeeper website; by expressing their creativity your child will be contributing to a co-created animated television show.