Writing Prompts for the Young at Heart

writing prompts

Writing prompts that ignite your youthful imagination.

Stories and poems for children are among the most magical and delightful written works in the literary canon.

Children’s literature has a universal appeal; the phenomenal international popularity of the Harry Potter books and movies is a testament to the power of children’s stories.

But there plenty of other works that affirm the longevity of children’s literature: nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and classics such as Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, and everything Dr. Seuss ever wrote.

Most of us writers first fell in love with the written word when we were children. Stories carried us on fantastical adventures. Words danced and soared through our imaginations. Many of us never grew out of the poems and stories we first cherished. We continue to enjoy them, and we pass them on to our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Today’s writing prompts celebrate children’s literature and pay tribute to the young and the young at heart.


Writing Prompts

These writing prompts are filled with childlike wonder. Use them to write a poem, a story, or anything else that comes to mind.

Mythological Creatures
Dragons, unicorns, fairies, and mermaids. Trolls, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. Lore, legend, and myth are heavily populated with mythological beasts and creatures.
Maybe a character in your story discovers and befriends a legendary creature. Or maybe one of these creatures is the main character in your story. Better yet, invent a mythological creature of your own.
Magic Portals
Alice went down the rabbit hole and found herself in Wonderland. Lucy stepped through the wardrobe and into Narnia. Wendy, John, and Michael were sprinkled with pixie dust, which enabled them to fly off to Neverland. All great adventures begin somewhere, and some of the best stories start out in the ordinary world and then take readers through a portal to a fantastically magical place.
How do your characters get from one world to another? Create your own magic portal, and then, if the mood strikes, build the fantastical world beyond. 
Silly Nonsense
The nonsense of writers like Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein is a wonder to behold. What is it about their stories and poems that delight children? Much of their work defies logic and is purely nonsensical. But it is riddled with wondrous images and language that rolls off the tongue like music.
Forget about the laws of physics and the rules of the real world. Write a bit of silly nonsense in prose or verse. Fill it with unusual but mesmerizing characters and images and try to make it rhyme!
Loving Lessons
Children’s literature is often full of simple, useful lessons. But presenting a lesson without sounding preachy, whiny, or nagging is anything but easy. These stories have to be fun and intriguing, and the best lessons are not immediately obvious.
Think of a lesson or value that you’d like to impart to children, then build a story around it. Better yet, just write a story for children and see if holds a message within it. 
Sing-a-Long
Nursery rhymes like “Hey Diddle Diddle” and “Ring Around the Rosie” have captivated children for centuries. They are often nonsensical and always easy to remember and fun to sing.
Write a nursery rhyme from scratch. If you get stuck, use an existing nursery rhyme for your rhythm and meter, and then make up new words for it.  

Some Tips for Using These Writing Prompts:

  • Children’s writing uses simple language and made-up words.
  • Nothing speaks to children like bright, vivid images and lively characters.
  • Use rhyme and other musical devices and choose words that are fun to say.

Do you still read children’s poems and stories? Do you remember the ones you loved best as a child? Have you ever tried writing for kids? Do these writing prompts inspire you? Share your thoughts in the comments, and keep writing!

Creative Writing Prompts

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

17 Responses to “Writing Prompts for the Young at Heart”

  1. Tiffiny says:

    What a great post. I can’t say I have ever seen a post on writing for children other than teen novels. So this is very refreshing. This is one of the main areas I write in. There is something really fun and special about writing from a child’s point of view, trying to see the world in the magical way that kids do. It is a wonderful way to stay young at heart as you say.

    Thanks for posting this.

    • I have a niece and a nephew (both toddlers) so writing for children is often on my mind. I’m not sure I want to tackle it, but I know that the books I read as a child had a significant impact on me. I love children’s books :) Thanks for commenting, Tiffiny.

  2. Elmer Escoto says:

    Hello.
    Thanks for the great post.

    Talking about literature for the kids, I was thinking that it must be one of the hardest types of literature.

    I mean, kids are no literary snobs. A grown up might read a boring book just out of ego. But not a kid. If they don’t like what they are reading they will simply put it aside and forget about it.

    Let’s celebrate all those pieces of literature that got many kids started in literature, kids who will grow up to be great writers.

    Thanks again!

    • Yes, I imagine that writing for children would be particularly difficult. Children aren’t literary snobs but they’re viciously honest about what they like and don’t like, and they are fickle!

  3. I have a friend who has launched a business of e-books that feature the child whose parents purchase it. In playing with some story ideas, I began to realize how difficult it is to write for this group!

    There are certain authors that my children grew to love, but only because we read the books aloud FIRST. These include Edith Nesbit, Brian Jacques, Jean Craighead George (actually, quite a few of the older Newberys). There was something about the snuggling and reading — even when they were pre-teens, that made those books more deliciously satisfying. Because they had listened to and then read Nesbit, Lewis and Tolkien, when they read Harry Potter, they immediately recognized where ideas had been borrowed, and were disappointed in the author. They did enjoy them, but a little less due to the breadth of their exposure.

    By the way, if you ever get a chance to listen to a Brian Jacques presentation of one of his books on CD or mp3, it is magnificent. He originally wrote his stories for blind children. The descriptions had to be rich indeed!

    • I received a book like that as a gift when I was a child. I (Melissa) was the main character and all my cousins and pets were characters in the story. I’m not sure where my aunt got it, but this was back in the 80s, so it definitely wasn’t from the web. I think it’s wonderful that your children were able to identify similarities between Harry Potter and earlier works and to recognize them as inspiration for Rowling. Of course, Nesbit, Lewis, and Tolkien were themselves inspired by earlier works. It’s a bit like the food chain, isn’t it? Thanks so much!

  4. Jess P says:

    I love reading children’s books and children’s poetry. I keep a whole shelf of kids’ books around in case I need a little ‘inner kid’ time. Being able to write for children definitely takes a special mind. When I’m feeling not so creative or like being an adult and having all the associated responsibilities is terribly overrated, I read to myself a bit about faeries or something from Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein to bring back a little magic to everyday life.

    • I love my collection of children’s books; and my Suess and Silverstein books are absolutely precious! Children’s books definitely bring a little magic to every day life (as do children!). Another favorite of mine, which I read to my niece and nephew, is called Haiku Baby. My little nephew loves to find the tiny bluebird on every page and he practices his words from the pictures in the book: turtle, sun, moon, flower. It’s wonderful (I highly recommend it!).

  5. Bailey says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I really enjoyed writing about the portals; I got five pages out of it. I thought it was rather interesting because I always wondered what it would be like if we got sucked into the T.V. (literally!), so my main character Glacie went to touch the remote and got sucked in (the remote was the portal), and when her sister went to turn the T.V. on, she was put in it, but the sister never noticed Glacie was in the T.V. because she was too busy painting her nails, even though Glacie insisted she was stuck in the T.V. She finally got out when she yelled at her sister to turn the T.V. off, and her sister conveniently had to go out with her friends, so when the T.V. was turned off she got out. It was really fun!

    • I love the idea of using a TV and remote as a portal. It reminds me of the movie Poltergeist (a classic). That’s awesome, you got five pages out of the prompt. Great job! Keep writing :)

  6. Great ideas! One thing to add – if you create a mythological creature, please make sure it makes sense. Don’t go crazy breaking all the natural laws. It bugs the heck out of me when I read about a made up creature that would never really exist.

    • I’m not sure which natural laws you mean, but any creature or character should definitely be believable. I think that believability comes more from giving it an authentic personality. Throughout history, literature has given us lots of creatures that would never exist but we believe them and love them anyway.

  7. Terry Dassow says:

    Thanks for bringing up silly nonsense. It’s easy for writers to forget about silly nonsense, but even in stories for adults, an element of nonsense in a story can add a whole different element to a story where it could have been flat and less attention-grabbing. I recently read something about adding quirks to characters to make them more three-dimensional and better serve the story and the readers. I really think your tip on nonsense can be easily added to a story at any level in any genre by taking it as an element of a character to make them more flesh-and-blood and less papery.

    • I think reading and writing nonsense is great for promoting language skills. I’m working on a story now (not a children’s story) and I can’t think of a way I’d bring nonsense into it unless I introduced a character who is a little crazy or something. That could be fun and interesting.

  8. I’m not really into children’s books, but my writing/critique partner has a series she’s working on that uses dragons. Had to share it with her… Thanks, Melissa!

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