Encourage Kids to Write Lists

Try getting your kids to write with these ideas for making lists.

By Susan Stephenson
Feb 06, 2015



Feb 06, 2015
When we think about involving our children in writing activities at home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of encouraging them only to write a story. While kids need to learn to write narratives (stories), there are other kinds of writing that can blend beautifully with family life. One of these is lists.

Lists needn't take long to write, and they have purpose. They are very often created to remind ourselves, or help us organize something, but they sometimes have another audience too. Jamie might like to write a list of toys he’s happy to share with his young brother; Bella might need to write a list of picnic foods everyone is bringing to the family’s trip to the park, and then send it via email.

It’s a great idea to look at different list types with our children. We can point out a list of opening hours at the pool, a movie schedule, or a menu list. Some lists have bullet points; some are numbered. Often, people use brief sentences or points. Special lists have their own conventions, e.g. a menu list will often be accompanied by the cost of each item. I like to share with kids when I’m writing lists myself, and explain how and why I do it.

Even quite young kids can make lists on their own or with us. Their writing may be "scribble" but that's an early writing stage that we, as parents, should honor. They may prefer to cut out items from magazines and "list" those. Their lists are rehearsal for more realistic writing later. As kids reach school age, they will invent spelling and begin to form letters we can recognize -- another important stage in writing. They may also want to draw list items. Older primary- and elementary-aged children will use lists for school, and home, and begin to take more notice of real life uses for lists.

Here are some list ideas you might like to try with your children:

List examples for pre-school:
list for Santa
list for pretend shopping
list for taking an order in a pretend restaurant
list of family members and photos
list of favorite toys with starting letter and photo
list of friend’s names coming for a play date

List examples for school-aged kids:
list of school supplies you wish for
list of friends
list of loved books
list of favorite movies
list of ten things to hide from a gorilla
list of names to call a fantasy pet
list of homework excuses
list of toys, present and future
list of possible activities to do next weekend
list of holiday destinations
list of things never to do
list of brainstormed gifts for Dad/Mom
list of favorite sports
list of five things you would like to change about the world
list of favorite animals
list of five things you should never say to a cranky dragon
list of top ten songs
list of top ten sporting stars
list of ten things that would make you say "Ugh!"
list of ten things that would make you say "Yes!"
list of ten grumpy words
list of ten active verbs

List examples for birthdays:
list of party guests to invite
list of party activities
list of party food
list of ingredients needed for cooking party food
list of people to thank

List examples for kids who love to read and write:
list of loved books
list of favorite characters
list of ideas for own stories
list of character traits for a character profile
list of favorite fiction worlds
list of books with a matching movie

List writing is a quick activity that slots easily into family or school life. It gives children an opportunity to practice writing non-fiction in a commonly accepted format. Lists can be written for purpose or for fun, and encourage kids to think logically and organize themselves. Let’s encourage our kids to write lists!

Do you include list writing in your family life?  What kinds of lists do your kids write? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.
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