Learning to write is a long and complicated process. When you break it down into all the different stages, it’s a miracle that any of us learn to write.
Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take the pressure off and just use a pen and paper to play games and be a little silly. That way, the writing process becomes non-threatening, and you and your child can take time just to have fun together.
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The games below can encourage reluctant writers to put pen to paper. They will also improve skills like turn-taking and can help develop social and communication skills or improve your drawing skills. The only pre-requisite for all the games is to make sure you have plenty of fun and laugh out loud!
I recommend using a large roll of white paper for all the games. This is sometimes referred to as easel or artist paper, or you could use a roll of wallpaper or backing paper.
For drawing, I like to use fine-line pens. Using a black ink pen is very precise and gives children’s drawings a quality you don’t get from other mark-making instruments, but if you haven’t got one of those, there is no need to worry. You can still play any of the games below using pencils, pens, felts, or whatever you have available.
1. Take a pen for a walk (Warm-up)
This game literally does what it says on the tin.
Roll out a large sheet of paper and start to make marks, explaining that the pen is not allowed to leave the paper. Take the pen for a walk along the paper, and as you do so, give it some obstacles.
Call out :
- jump over the puddle
- climb the ladder
- time to go downstairs
- hop across the stepping stones
2. Make your world
For this game, you will need the following:
- 1 paper cup
- Some dried rice or something similar (dried couscous or barley)
- A large piece of paper.
Tip the cup of rice onto your paper, and mold it into an interesting shape with your fingers. Try to make your shape have both curves and angles.
Draw around the shape you have made with your pen.
Tip the rice back into the paper cup.
The shape that is left on the paper is your new world. It could be a new planet, an island, or a country.
Start to draw features on your new world. You could add:
If you are creating a new planet, you can add aliens or whatever your imagination comes up with.
This is a fun drawing game, but you can use it as a prompt to start world-building for later storytelling activities.
3. Stick man
Stickman games are great because there is no pressure to be able to draw well, so anyone can take part. On a piece of paper, Player one should draw a basic stick man:
- A circle for the head.
- A straight line for the body and two stick legs.
- An intersecting straight line for the arms.
Ask the next player to take a card from a stack of occupation cards.
Give the stick man the tools he needs for his occupation by drawing the clues onto his body, for example:
- A mechanic could have a spanner, boots, and a car.
- A firefighter could have a hard hat, a hose, and a fire.
- A dancer could have ballet shoes and a tutu.
You can add a timer if you want to add some jeopardy to the game.
The other players should try to guess the occupation from the clues drawn before the timer runs out.
4. The Evolution Game
You will need the following:
- A large piece or roll of paper and some pens.
- A circle template.
- A timer or stopwatch.
- Cards with names of animals on them.
The game aims to turn the circle into a creature that players can guess before the time runs out.
- On a large piece of paper, draw a circle using the template.
- Set the timer and ask the first player to take an animal card.
- Can they turn the circle into the creature so the other players can guess it before the time runs out?
Add colored pens if you prefer for this game. You can also repeat this game using mythical beasts like dragons, werewolves, and unicorns.
5. The folding paper game
Fold a piece of A4 paper in half lengthways and then in half again, so you have four equal rectangle shapes. Fold the paper again, so you can only see the top rectangle.
Explain that each player will draw a different part of a person.
Player 1 – draw a hat in the top rectangle, then turn the paper over and pass it on to:
Player 2 – Draw a face in the second rectangle and fold the paper so it can’t be seen, and pass it to:
Player 3 – Draw the body, including the arms. Repeat the fold and pass to:
Player 4 – Draw the legs and feet.
When complete, unfold the paper to see the finished person.
This almost always results in a funny-looking person and causes much laughter.
You can then repeat this game, drawing people you know or celebrities.
6. Fairy tale walk
This game is similar to taking the pen for a walk, but this time, you should have a familiar story in mind first. Decide on a story and explain that you will draw a map of the story.
Re-tell the story and as you listen to the story, draw whatever comes into your head to represent the key points.
For example, in Jack and the beanstalk, you could draw:
- A purse containing some magic beans
- a window
- a beanstalk growing higher and higher into the clouds
- A giant boot
- A golden goose
- Jack’s footprints as he runs away…
- An axe
- Jack’s mother smiling
The idea is to help you remember the sequence of a story by using visual aids. You may need to model drawing a story map with younger children before they have a go.
7. Story walk
As above, take your pen for a walk to draw the main points in a story you invented instead of a familiar fairy tale. Ask the children to tell you their story using their map as a picture prompt. This works well for children who are reluctant to write, as they can be as creative as they like.
8. Graffiti wall
This game is a good idea for a new topic’s beginning or end. Wallpaper is ideal.
- Lay out a very large sheet of paper.
- Give everyone a pen.
- Ask them to draw everything they already know about the topic until they have covered the paper.
For example, if you are about to start learning about animals, the children should draw everything they know about animals. It could be wild animals, their pets, the farm, under the sea – whatever they know, they should draw. Talk to them about the drawings as they sketch and keep going until the whole paper has been covered in graffiti.
This gives you a good understanding of their starting points and any existing knowledge they already have. Repeating it at the end of a topic is also a great way to measure what they have learned.
9. Pick three cards
This is a hilarious game, but it needs a bit of preparation to prepare the cards first.
You will need the following:
- Three sets of cards.
- Set 1 – character cards (people or animals)
- Set 2 – a skill (anything from skateboarding to surgery)
- Set 3 – describing words (anything from dazzling to spotty)
- Large paper and pens
- A timer or stopwatch.
- Each player has to choose three cards, one from each pile, without anyone else seeing them.
- On a large sheet of paper, take turns drawing what your three cards say: a slimy gorilla skateboarding.
- The game aims to see if the other players can guess your three words before the time runs out.
- Take your turns until everyone has had a go.
- Gain one point for each clue that is guessed correctly.
- Count up the scores at the end to find the winner.
10. Butterfly draw
Fold a piece of paper in half and turn it so that the fold is to your left.
Explain that you will draw half a face, and the next player will draw the other side of the face without seeing your version.
When you have completed your side of the face, pass the paper to the next player, and fold it over, so they have a blank sheet.
Describe the features on the face you have drawn and see if they can match your drawing. Open the paper like a butterfly’s wings to reveal the two halves of the face.
11. Write on your head
This one is just for a laugh.
All players should place a piece of paper on their heads with one hand and hold a pen in their free hand.
Give the following instructions:
Draw a boat sailing out to sea in choppy waves.
The boat has a flag and a mast.
The sun is in the sky, and the rays are beating down.
The boat drops its anchor.
The man on the boat is waving at you.
Invite everyone to look at their efforts and see if anyone has captured it.
12. Quick on the draw
This game works best with a flip chart or large easel so everyone can see what is being drawn. If you haven’t got a flip chart, there is no need to worry. You can still play on a large piece of paper.
The aim is to be the first player to guess what is being drawn.
How to play:
- Split into two teams.
- One person should keep score and tell the players what to draw.
- Players from each team should take turns drawing a film suggestion on the flip chart or easel.
- The player with the pen cannot talk or write words.
Jaws – could be a drawing of a shark and a boat
Star Wars could be a starry sky and a spaceship or a stormtrooper
Toy Story – could be a rag doll and a teddy.
Players should shout out their answers and score one point per correct answer.
When the correct film is guessed, it is the other team’s turn to draw.
But you don’t have to stop at films… You can repeat this game with the following:
- TV programs
- Pop stars
- Famous people from history
13. Blindfold drawing
You will need an easel or flip chart for this game, but if you don’t have one, you can still play by pinning a large piece of paper to the wall.
Draw a very large teddy on the paper. This game aims to draw accurately while blindfolded.
- The youngest player goes first.
- Use a blindfold for player one and make sure they can’t see.
- Slowly turn them around.
- Put a pen in their hand.
- Ask them to draw three buttons on teddy’s tummy.
- Repeat with all the players.
- The winner is the most accurate.
You can adapt this game by changing the teddy to a dinosaur, a cat, a fish, or whatever you think your children will like. You can also adapt the difficulty by adding more details.
- This game aims to use your imagination and make something out of a scribble. Give everyone a piece of paper and a black pen.
- Set a sand timer or a stopwatch.
- Give 10 seconds to scribble as fast as you can.
- Swap scribbles with the person next to you.
- Look closely at their scribble. What can you see in it?
- Can you turn it into something else?
- Swap back and tell them what you found.
If you enjoyed playing these games and would like more, try the ideas on the website below: