It's easy to forget that the most important thing, when young children are just starting to write, is to keep things fun.
Personally, if I didn't love writing, I'd have given up years ago. Writing has always been a safe space, a place where I could feel a sense of control over the world, or just escape into another alternative 'made up' world for a while. Writing is a continual adventure in which I discover new things about myself and the world.
Why should I not want the same for my child as she begins to write?
Learning to write can so easily become a source of anxiety about 'getting it right.' I think that we need to give young children the kinds of writing projects that they truly enjoy as well as projects that enable them to make choices about what they write and how they express themselves. We need to help them to experience themselves as writers of their own lives.
I have learned so much from my almost-six-year-old about writing and making. She reminds me every day that it's much too easy to get lost in doing things 'right' and just how much we need to make mistakes in order to develop. I hear myself saying things to my daughter such as: 'You can't always get it right on the first try,' and 'Never mind. How could you do that differently?' and all this helps me to remember that I really need to do more of that in my own life and writing.
At the weekend, we sat down to make some secret love notes together that she will hand out to her class and teachers after the half-term holidays. In my experience, small children love anything that is 'secret.' And they also love anything that is tiny or just pocket-sized.
We experimented with lots of different ideas and I loved that the Valentine butterflies were entirely V's own idea, the result of making paper 'snowflake' hearts, which she thought looked like wings.
She immediately wanted to write little notes - on both the front and the back of the cards - as we went. In fact, writing these personal messages seemed to be the element of the project that she most enjoyed. She put a great deal of care into composing the messages and asked me about lots of new vocabulary. This was such a simple shared project and we both learned so much.
If only I had more time this week, I'd love to organise a Valentine 'poetry bombing' session with my students where we all released little notes with lines of favourite poems or writing prompts around campus and the town. Wouldn't that be a brilliant starting point for thinking about writing as social change? Don't we all need a bit more love in our lives in these times? But for now, I'll just have to be satisfied with 'love bombing' my own small corner of the internet with these butterfly hearts.