How to Encourage Creative Writing by Mari Amato

Create a time and place for writing. Children will want to write if you make it a fun activity to do together. “Let’s write a story!”

Accept your child’s ideas. Your child may create a character/story you don’t like. Be open, and your child will want to keep writing.

Allow your child to dictate to you. Be a scribe, not an editor. Use your child’s words.

Allow mistakes if your child is writing. The goal is to increase creative fluency and make writing fun. Save the grammar and spelling lessons for later.

Ask questions if your child gets stuck. What is the story or poem about? If it’s a story, who is your main character and what does your main character want?

Talk it through one sentence at a time. If your child has trouble organizing or keeping track of thoughts, ask him/her to tell the story aloud one sentence at a time. Write down one sentence at a time. Model enthusiasm by writing your own creative stories and poems.

creative writing

Encourage all kinds of writing. Stories, poems, jokes, riddles, comic books, cartoons, plays, songs.

Encourage your child to use his/her own voice. Rather than trying to “be poetic,” it’s important for a child to learn to capture his/her own voice.

Create venues for sharing writing. Have a “literary reading” when Grandma comes over, send poems and stories as gifts, help your child submit work to local venues.

Encourage your child to keep a diary. Don’t put pressure to write everyday.

Try a “collaborative” diary or writing journal with your child or your entire family. Leave a notebook out, each taking turns adding to it.

Try a “dialogue journal” just between you and your child. Get a special book, write in it from time to time, invite your child to write in it, and pass it back and forth with your child.

Give the gift of the written word. Model meaningful writing. Write real, meaningful messages in  your own voice to your child for special events. No hallmark cards. Say what is really in your heart. This will make a big impression.

Once a month, have EVERYBODY WRITES night: gather around a table, light a candle, and write a poem or a story or even just a thought.

For encouraging story writing, use my WOW story technique to get started.

What is a WOW story?

WOW is an acronym that I created to help kids remember a simple story structure.

  1. The story has a main character who Wants something. This is the beginning of the story.
  2. There is an Obstacle that gets in the way of the main character. This is the middle of the story.
  3. The main character either Wins or loses. This is the end of the story.

How to make up WOW stories

  1. Choose a main character. This can be a person, an animal, or even an object: for example, a boy, a grandmother, a soccer star, a sock, or a paintbrush!
  2. Decide what the main character wants. What might a paintbrush want? Some paint to play with? To belong to a famous artist? Try unexpected ideas. A grandmother might want to ride a motorcycle!
  3. Decide what will get in the way of the main character’s desire. Brainstorm lots of obstacles and decide which one is the most fun or engaging. Obstacles can be simple. A rabbit wants to eat grass on a hillside, but a tiger lives on that hillside. The tiger is the obstacle. A boy wants a new bike, but his father says no. His father is the obstacle. Obstacles can also be emotions. What if a girl wants to ice skate, but she is afraid that she’ll fall down? Fear is her obstacle.
  4. Decide how/if the main character will “win or lose.” Does your main character get what he or she wants in the end? How?

Write or perform WOW stories

Write or dictate your story: Write your stories on paper. Or make a book by folding pages and stapling them together. If your child hasn’t learned how to write yet, ask him or her to tell you the story and write it down word for word.

Act your story out: For reluctant writers, try acting out the story first. After you have brainstormed the basics for a specific WOW story using the steps above, act out the story. Choose a narrator who will tell the story and provide cues for the actors. This can be the job of the parent or a child. The narrator should be very clear and say “The End” so that everyone knows when the story is over. After acting out stories, the child may be more interested in writing them down.


Raising Independent Children

Independence is an experience that many kids strive for. This is commonly observed since many children often want to get out of their parents’ guiding hands. They want to explore and this is seen at a very tender age.

Parents often feel happy to see that their children learn how to make decisions for themselves. However, one cannot take away the fear of getting the child hurt due to lack of guidance. Adults often see children as fragile, thus, they cannot manage themselves properly. Sometimes, being overprotective is not at all that helpful since it does not develop self-esteem and confidence.

Parents should allow their kids to have some freedom if kids are to be developed. It has been said that freedom and independence should be encouraged in children. Children will be more responsible for their actions if their confidence is developed and this confidence will only emerge if the parents are not overprotective.

Raising Independent Children

Children who do not feel good about themselves are not likely to make decisions. They will always feel afraid of taking ownership and accountability for their actions. Parents should always encourage confidence and boost morale.

Instill Independence Among Children

Independence has a catch. There should be levels of independence granted to children or else they may abuse their newly found freedom. As a general rule, the independent tasks that should be given to children are tasks that they can accomplish based on their age. Continue reading

Talking to my 7 year old son about Gaza

Dawud was watching the screen in tears as he saw children in Gaza hospital (recent tragic events in Palestine). He has always been a sensitive soul, however those pictures would melt even the hardest of hearts.
I did not let him watch the graphic pictures, but I do think it is important for children to know what is going on in the world, especially with the Ummah, even if it is only a more rosier version of events. I certainly don’t want to scare my child, but at 7 years of age, he understands good from bad and right from wrong. He should be encouraged to be curious and learn about different issues and also to question them. He should have an opinion of what is going on around him, and also have a voice, even if it’s only a tiny one.

“Mummy what can we do to help them?” he said, and then he gave me many unrealistic suggestions of how we could save them. I told him that there are lots of different ways people can help. Firstly I told him to never underestimate the power of dua, and continue to ask Allah to help them.
I told him he could give charity. “May be this is your test from Allah to see if you will donate something.” I told him. He decided to donate money he received from Eid.
He also wrote a letter to David Cameron (UK prime minister) which, although won’t make a blind bit of difference, it made my son feel as if was doing something.

A 7 year old writes to David Cameron

Fun Days Out On A Budget

There are ways to have fun with your children without your finances suffering. Below are some suggestions for things to do that don’t cost a bean or which cost very little, ideal for making your money go that bit further during school holidays and weekends.

It’s also well worthwhile taking some time out to scour your local listings – you may be surprised that many things to do and places to go don’t come with a hefty price tag…

Root around the charity shops

This activity might incur some minimal cost but if the weather’s not so good this is a great idea to while away a wet afternoon. Take a trip to your local high street and give each child 50p or £1 to spend in the charity shop. If you’re lucky you’ll have a few shops to choose from so the idea is to just have a good root around, unearthing unusual items, books and toys.

Charity shops are often full of hidden little gems and offer you a guilt-free retail experience while your kids get to experience a different kind of shopping. You’ll almost certainly find something: a fun item for the dressing-up box, an interesting book, some fancy costume jewellery or some new cars…think of it as a kind or retail treasure hunt!

Bus around town

A bus trip might not inspire much excitement in you but if you tend to take the car most of the time younger children will find a trip on the bus quite a novelty. From our experience transport-mad little boys will be fascinated by watching the driver and the comings and goings as people get on and off the bus. And few children can resist climbing upstairs to the top deck and securing a front window seat to play at being driver! Children under five usually travel free so you’ll only have to pay your own fare.

fun days out

A trip to the library

Dust off that library card and take the kids off to choose some books, DVDs or computer games. Many libraries run activities for kids, including craft days and story times. DVDs and games may come with an additional charge, but this will be minimal (around £1 – £2 per DVD) and certainly cheaper than your local rental shop.

If you live in the city it might be worth going to your central library where the range will be bigger. Many major libraries are housed in interesting buildings too, so that alone will provide some interest to the kids.

Get down to the garden centre

Garden centres are surprisingly child-friendly. Many of the bigger ones have aquaria, aviaries and nice cafes so you can quite easily while away a morning wandering around and looking at the animals. Most kids love pressing their noses up to the fish tanks and observing all those pretty-coloured fish, especially the tropical varieties – see if they can spot a ‘Nemo’ or a sea-horse!

A stroll through the plant and flower displays is also rather nice, and some centres even have children’s play areas. Top the morning off with a cup of tea and cakes all round at the cafe if you’ve been particularly thrifty all week!

A culture trail at the museum

Museums – especially the big, old ones – are full of excitement for children of all ages. More sedate art galleries are perhaps best saved for older children but like so many places these days the flagship city museums have a relaxed policy towards children and welcome visitors of all ages. Not only that but many museums are free of charge – including some great ones in the capital, such as  the British Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum and Tate – so if you find the experience is lost on your children you won’t have wasted any money.

But most children will be fascinated by the varied collections – think dinosaurs, Egyptian relics, Roman coins and stuffed animals! Furthermore, your local museum may also fun specific activity days or culture trails for children, to help the exhibits really come to life, and some have special areas for children, with books, toys and colouring sheets.

A day at the beach

Beaches don’t have to be reserved for the summer. Out of season you’ll have miles of sand almost to yourself, so they’re a great place to burn off some energy with a bracing walk along the shore, or a game of cricket or rounders. Beaches are packed with interesting natural features too – scour the surf for pretty shells and pebbles, or get your wellies on and explore some rock pools.

Nature Trail at the Park

If your children are bored of the local playground why not widen your horizons. More wooded parks are a hotbed of nature to discover so why not go on a nature trail and get the children to look at their surroundings in a little more detail – what can they see when they look into the pond – fish, frogs or dragonflies? Take some paper and do some bark rubbings, collect pine cones to spray and decorate back home, point out the different types of trees and ask the children to find as many different leaf varieties as possible…

Visit the farm

If you live in the city it doesn’t mean your children can’t experience a day at the farm. There may be a city farm in your city – Bristol, for example, has several and London has a whopping 17! They’re usually free of charge and you and your children can wander around, looking at and feeding the animals.

Article source:

Reception reading: How your child will learn to read at school

And what you can do to help at home.

Learning to read is probably the most important thing your son or daughter will do in reception (well, maybe equal with having fun!) but it won’t all happen in class: parents need to help at home too.child-reading

How is reading taught these days?

The way reading is taught has changed over the years, and the current favoured method in British primaries is through phonics. The Government has backed this approach and it’s definitely here to stay for the foreseeable.

So what is phonics teaching all about then?

Whereas many of today’s parents learned to read whole words using the ‘look and say’ method (think Ladybird’s Janet and John series), phonics is a systematic approach to teaching children the sounds that make up words.

Words are broken down into the sounds they’re made up from and then these sounds are ‘blended’ together to make the word.

So, for example, with ‘dog’, children learn the sounds the letters d,o, and g make separately and then how they blend to say ‘dog’.

Note that it’s the sounds the letters make that are important at this stage and not the letter names (i.e. not ‘ay’, ‘bee’ as in the alphabet song etc).

Phonics also helps children spell as they can hear the sounds in a word and then translate them back into the letters needed.
Continue reading

Children Motivation

All children need motivation. In children, motivation drives the desire to achieve. Children look upon their parents as the key source of motivation to succeed in what they do. Motivated children focus on improving their abilities through personal efforts. These children also have a thirst for information that guides them on how to achieve the best. Motivation also helps the child focus on acquiring a new skill or knowledge.

motivating children

Tips for Providing Children Motivation

  • Provide your child with a stimulating environment and a variety of experiences. This can be done by providing the child with different objects such as books, puzzles, blocks and so on.
  • Give your child toys or materials that he can use to make changes. For example, vehicle toys can be moved from one place to another (change of place). Similarly, play dough can be used to make different objects from the same thing (change of shape).
  • Allowing your child to make his own choices can make him independent and make him feel motivated.
  • Assign your child with age appropriate chores can help him become more responsible and in turn motivated to perform tasks.
  • Assist your child in developing the art of persistence. This is the ability to remain involved in an activity for a long period of time without giving up. A highly motivated child has good persistence and does not give up easily.
  • Be enthusiastic about what your child finds interesting. Talk and ask him as many questions as you can about these interests.
  • Offer your child a variety of challenges that are appropriate for his development. Success in one challenge motivates the child to take up another.
  • Create opportunities for you to join your child in an activity and interact with him. You can use this time that you spend with him to observe and encourage him.
  • Reward your child for a task well done. Remember not to use the reward as a means of getting your child to do the task. Never announce the reward before hand.
  • Allow the child to join you and contribute his views when the family is involved in a decision making process.
  • Start reading to the child from his early skills. Choose a calm, warm and relaxing atmosphere. Reading aloud to him and showing him what you read can enhance his creativity and imagination. Keep the reading session to retain his interest.
  • Make your child understand that each child is different and help him analyse his strengths and weaknesses. Provide your child with opportunities that help him work on improvising his strengths.
  • Assure your child that you trust his ability to perform a task. Let him know that failure does not mean inability to perform.
  • Give your child simple experiments that stimulate his curiosity. You can give him a magnet and encourage him to find which objects “stick on” to the magnet and which do not. Curiosity and inquisitiveness play a wide role in motivating your child.
  • Praise your child when he tries to achieve a new skill. This can motivate the child work on improvising the himself. The praise should focus on the effort rather than the accomplishment.
  • Make reading funny for the child. You can make funny sounds and encourage your child also to do so. Both of you can also act out the characters in the story. This can make him excited about reading.
  • Ask your child to evaluate himself on his accomplishment. Asking him what he thinks of his performance is more beneficial than merely stating that he has done a good job.
  • Allow the child to use different approaches to perform an activity. Children learn how to do something using the trial and error method. Do not criticise the child for his wrong attempt.
  • Instead of telling the child how to do something, show him different possible ways he can try doing it.
  • Give your child opportunities to show others his talent and skills.

How to Know Positive Effects of Motivation in Children

The best way to analyse if your child is motivated is to study his emotions. A motivated child is happy with his performance and enjoys doing an activity. Children without motivation appear bored, quiet and withdrawn. They do not show interest in any activity and complain often. And if you have more than one child, offer experiences based on each child’s needs.

Article source:

Reading The World With Your Kids

Article by writer and teacher Shehnaz Toorawa

Throughout the school year, parents usually ponder the skills that their children need to develop. Many parents choose to practice reading with their children, knowing that better reading skills bring better achievement in school and better understanding of life.

But, you ask, “How, in my hectic schedule, am I going to fit in time to sit down and read with my kids every night?” The solution is not to relegate reading to a specific time and place each day.


Reading can be practiced anywhere and everywhere! Opportunities to practice reading hide in your hectic schedule. Watch for them!

Reading skills can be gained throughout the day: on the drive to school, in the kitchen, at the grocery store, at the mosque, on the computer, at dinnertime. Alongside reading, expand your children’s knowledge of life and train them to deal with it. Here are some ideas:

Scan supermarket shelves. Help your kids check the grocery list, locate the correct aisle, scan product labels, and read ingredients on packages. Teach them how to search for specific ingredients and determine the nutritional value of a product.

Search for signs. As you drive or ride the bus, encourage your kids to read aloud traffic signs, parking notices, and names of streets and stores you pass. Teach them what traffic signs mean.

Navigate a map. Invite your kids to join your search for street names on a map before you head to a new location. Teach them how to navigate streets on a map as you ride the bus.

Check off lists. Have your kids read your grocery or “to do” list and brainstorm additions. Teach them how to organize lists into categories and prioritize.

Flip through the news. Point out bold words, photo captions, and headlines in the newspaper to your kids. Teach them how to skim for important information and question biases in articles.

Stir a recipe. Your kids can read instructions and measure ingredients from a recipe while you cook. Teach them the different measurement scales and their abbreviations.

Browse a menu. Browse the menu with your kids while you wait for food in a restaurant. Teach them how to select healthy items.

Sing along with lyrics. If your kids enjoy nasheeds, find the lyrics so they can read as they listen. Show them that songs are a medium to convey a message.

Follow instructions. Involve your kids when you assemble or learn to operate a new toy, appliance, or furniture. Teach them how to give and follow step-by-step instructions.

Study Qur’an. When your kids recite Qur’an or memorize a du`aa’, encourage them to read and understand the translation. Teach them the context of what they read and how to apply it.

Getting these opportunities to read in different contexts every day, children benefit in many ways:

  • Children learn a skill and use it at the same time, making it real and meaningful. In this way, kids observe that reading has a practical purpose and is a useful skill.
  • When kids read for a purpose, they extend their thinking beyond decoding texts and letters. They engage with the text to make meaning. This deeper processing leads to deeper understanding and deeper retention.
  • Diverse reading opportunities expose children to diverse vocabulary and genres, and promote diverse skills.
  • Kids practice different reading strategies for different purposes. A newspaper, for example, requires different reading skills than a map. This way they learn to negotiate different strategies for different goals.

Variety sparks interest. Kids won’t dread reading if it arrives in fun and unexpected places.

When kids read the world around them, they develop broader skills, interests, and knowledge. Encourage your kids to read anywhere and everywhere.


How to teach your children to cook

Teaching your children about food safety, ingredients and cooking basic meals like spaghetti Bolognese will not only encourage them to eat more adventurously but give them a useful life skill and the confidence that goes with cooking

Cooking with children is a daunting experience – it can, after all, be a place fraught with potentially worrying things – sharp edges, hot pans and boiling liquids to name but a few. The best way around these issues, though, is to introduce children to the kitchen at a young age – giving them guidelines but also encouraging their inquisitive nature. If you’re spending plenty of time in the kitchen (and if you’re here, reading this, one can only guess you are), then it won’t be a challenge getting them involved either – and is something you will take great pleasure in. Well, perhaps except for the mess! My sister is due to have a baby in June and I for one know that as soon as the new arrival is able to hold a whisk I’ll be teaching them how to cook.

Safety first

Ok, so it’s not the most glamorous or fun side of getting into the kitchen but it is essential. It doesn’t have to be a set of strict instructions (“you can use that, you can’t ever touch those”) but rather an ‘induction’ of sorts – an encouraging lesson about what does what, the difference between a cake tin and a pie dish and what tools to use for what jobs – mashers, ladles, different spoon sizes, how to make sure your chopping board doesn’t slip… the list goes on. But of utmost importance is it must be positive, not negative. Investigate buying them their own set of tools – there are plenty of companies now manufacturing children’s cookware.

Then there are the hazards – but these can come after the nice bits. The fact that the oven is hot, pans get hot on the hob and what’s in them gets hot too – and that there’s fire involved along with some very sharp edges.

Where to start

Take your children shopping with you too – perhaps the supermarket isn’t the most exciting of venues but a local market is as good as a museum – packed with an amazing array of colours, shapes and flavours – people to talk to, things to look at and bits and bobs to taste. It’ll be a visual treat for, perhaps, both of you – and might even serve as some inspiration for your dinner. It’s lovely for children to watch the transformation of what you buy all the way though into their plate of food.

What to start on

Start with something they like, something that is easy and interactive. This may not be the healthiest of things – starting them off peeling carrots isn’t going to convert anyone to a life of cooking. A cake, for example, is a great way to get children involved – because you’ve also got the fun of decorating it together afterwards. And they’ll love the taste of what they’ve made. Carrot cake is a brilliant example of this – a forgiving doddle in the kitchen, lots of mixing, spices and carrots? In a cake? Has Mummy gone mad? Cookies are simple and fun (a set of exciting cookie cutters will be life-changing) – as are pancakes. They both have the added bonus of not taking ages to cook, either – so no running out of patience!cooking with kids

When to start

The key thing is to start your children off at as young an age as possible – within reason, obviously. Children are visual and like things in pots. They like to tip and stir and crack and knead and touch and taste. Let them do all that.

Get your hands dirty

The hands-on approach is critical. There are fun, useful techniques to learn, like separating eggs or using your hands to mix, knead and decorate – cooking is a hands-on thing. Bread is great for this; you start with a few ingredients, work them by hand, shape them, watch them rise (as if by magic) and then bake them into a golden, crusty, gorgeous loaf.

A couple of final things before you rush off to the kitchen! Take pictures. A visual record of all the things you cook will be lovely for all of the family and provide some entertainment at the same time. You can even set up a video camera and make your own cookery show! And use resources – a quick Bing search and you can find Jamie Oliver’s techniques for school teachers to teach kids to cook which are just as useful for the home-cook.

Lastly, make a plan based on how old they are. The things outlined here are for getting kids in the kitchen at a very young age, but children of any age should be encouraged into the kitchen. They’ll be able to master more advanced techniques quite easily and would perhaps benefit from some inspirational cookery books to read.

Article source: MSN Food

Teach kids with learning disabilities how to make friends

Helping children with learning disabilities build social skills and relationships can have lasting influence on their overall success. Strong friendships are also important for their self-esteem and sense of belonging. Here are some ways you can support them in this area.

1. Making friends with extra-curricular activities

Surprisingly, many children in special education programs do not participate in extracurricular activities, and they miss this important social skills teaching opportunity. Help your child discover his strengths and interests to help him choose the right place for him to learn social skills. Whatever your child enjoys, it is likely there are opportunities to teach social skills in your community and for him to join with others. For social skills teaching ideas, contact community resources such as the local  play

2. Organized activities help teach how to make friends

Your child will benefit from social skills teaching inherent in social interaction outside the school setting. With your encouragement, even reluctant or shy children can be taught social skills through interaction with others through activities. Many relationships he builds will flow naturally back into the school environment. Just as importantly, non-disabled students will have the opportunity to see your child in successful roles outside of school and get to know him as a friend, rather than an acquaintance.

3. Building friendships in easy-to-manage steps

 Teach your child social skills needed to develop friendships in small, easy steps. Social skills may not come easily for her. Children with disabilities may feel intimidated by other kids, and they may find it too uncomfortable to try to reach out to them. Help your child work on these social skills by setting small goals. Ask your child to smile and greet one new child each day. Just say, “Hi.” This is often enough to reduce the pressure and begin some conversations that build toward relationships. Each night, have a friendly chat about his day, and talk about how many people he spoke to.

4. Making friends takes practice

Teach social skills by rehearsing social situations ahead of time. Role plays meeting a new person with each other. Take turns being the greeter and “greetee.” Teach your child the art of getting others to talk about themselves. Help him see that by doing this, he can learn about his peers and find common interests. Kids can use friendly, polite questions to encourage kids to talk and break the ice. Focusing on others will also help your child feel less self-conscious. Help your child learn how to choose good friends to develop healthy relationships.

5. Game and sportsmanship can teach making friends in advance

Teach your child social skills needed to make friends by helping him learn and practice games and activities at home that are popular at school. Aside from being a good way to practice skills such as reading, counting, and fitness, learning these games will help your child participate in them with other children, while reducing the impact of his learning disability on his ability to play. He will feel more confident and enjoy his interaction with others if he knows the games and can play them with some skill. Consider making your house the hangout for outdoor fun.

6. Schedule fun time to make social skills and making friends a priority

Create a circle of friends by encouraging playtime with a few neighbourhood children. Invest in some quality time and snacks and you’ll cultivate friendships that may stay with your child throughout high school, maybe even for life. Friends from the same class at school can provide important social and emotional support, and not to mention, occasional homework help when a worksheet or assignment fails to make it from school to your house.

By Ann Logsdon, school psychologist.

Eid Toy Drive

Eid Toy Drive For Children In Palestine!

We are collecting donations for an Eid toy drive. The gifts will be donated to children in a little village called Dier Ibzia, near Ramallah.
I spent sometime volunteering in Dier Ibzia in 2003 and met a lovely young sister, who I have kept in contact with. Alhamdulilah she now runs a small project teaching mostly girls in Dier Ibzia.

The villagers in Dier Ibzia live on the poverty line and there is 70% unemployment.
Insha’Allah we hope with your help to make the children there smile!

Donated items should be light weight items, such as craft kits and stationery.

Cut off date is: 14th July 2012

Alternatively you can make a small monetary donation, details below:
Smart Ark Education Aid (Charity Number: XT28304)

By bank transfer:
Smart Ark Education Aid
Account number:78040225
Sort Code:090127
(please make the reference “toydrive”)

By Paypal:
(please make the reference “toydrive”)

May Allah reward you!

Please contact usEid Toy Drive for further queries: