One of the best ways you can foster a love of reading and writing in children is to offer lots of low-stakes opportunities to practice. These writing prompts can be used with any group of kids you're working with: elementary school, middle school, or high school writers.
Prompts can help kids break through creative writing idea blocks or boredom. Whether in a slump or starting a new project, try a prompt a day and see what happens.
Keep it as simple as possible: one notebook or document, one location, the same(-ish) time each day, and a timer set for 5, 10, or 15 minutes.
Don’t let yourself edit, reread, or rework anything. Just write. Keep the pen moving across the page. There’s no wrong way to play.
Plus, there's a great note for you, whether you're a parent or teacher or both, at the end.
20 Journal Writing Prompts
Journal prompts are fun writing prompts that are great for recording your everyday life. It's like taking a snapshot. It's fun to look back in a month, a season, or a year to see how you've grown or changed.
One additional thought that is important to keep in mind when writing a journal writing prompt is that it encourages kids to explore answers beyond one word or sentence. The best way to get them to write more is to ask why they answered a prompt the way they did.
Asking the question why not only encourages children to consider their beliefs, wants, and values, but also pushes them to really explore their voice through creative writing ideas.
Recommended time for each: 5-7 minutes
1. What is your earliest memory? Describe this memory.
2. What is the best part of your week and why?
3. What is your favorite thing to do after school? Why?
4. What is (or was) your favorite toy? Why?
5. Describe your favorite animal or pet. Why is this your favorite? (Fun variation: Describe your favorite pet or animal's perspective of you.)
6. Describe your typical morning as if you are your bathroom mirror or a door in your home.
7. What is your favorite food? If you could choose anything, what would you pick to eat for breakfast? For lunch? For dinner?
8. Describe your last birthday party or celebration. Why is this your favorite?
9. Describe your favorite game or video game as if you are a character in the game. Walk us through it.
10. Who is your favorite person? Describe how you spend your favorite holiday with them.
11. What is your favorite character from a TV show or book and why?
12. If your life was a fairy tale, which one would it most resemble and why?
13. What is your favorite movie and why? Favorite TV show?
14. What was your favorite book to read when you were younger? What is your favorite book now? Why do you love it?
15. What is something grown-ups or family members ask you about? How does it make you feel?
16. What is one thing you are grateful for this week? Why?
17. What would your dream job be? Why?
18. What do you know a lot about that you could talk (or write) about for days?
19. What is your favorite season and why?
20. What is your favorite sport or hobby and why?
Bonus journal prompts!
21. What kind of ice cream or dessert do you love best? Why?
22. What do you hope to accomplish before you grow into an older kid or adult?
23. If you got to spend a whole day with one famous person, who would it be and what would you do?
20 Letter Writing Prompts
Letter writing may feel like a lost art, but it's a terrific way to help kids practice writing skills because it requires an audience and purpose. Letters can be written to send to real family members or best friends. And every person has a different writing style when they write a letter, which makes them unique!
Letters can also be creatively designed to be a part of a story. Or they can just be practice for writing with a fun writing prompt.
Whether or not you use letter writing prompts for students or as a meaningful exercise to strengthen writing skills with your kids at home, or as a method for creative writing practice in school, letters themselves are a timeless art and method of connecting with others.
Letters can also inspire writers to take up a diary. Who knows, maybe they'll even want to use some of these writing prompts for their next diary entry, just for continued practice.
Give these creative writing prompts a try!
Recommended time for each: 10+ minutes
24. Write a letter to the most used piece of furniture in your home.
25. Write a letter to a best friend or good friend about a wild adventure you'd like to take together.
26. Write a letter to your favorite movie star.
27. Write a letter to your favorite wild animal (or your least favorite!) in a zoo or aquarium.
28. Write a letter to a family member about something you learned on your first day of school.
29. Write a letter to your favorite TV show character about what they should do in a future episode.
30. Write a letter to an alien explaining how you do an everyday task like eating or playing.
31. Imagine you can send mail through a time machine. Write a letter to your past or future self.
32. Write a letter to the inventor of your favorite food, toy, or game. Tell them what you love about it.
33. Write a letter to a historical figure you admire.
34. Write a letter to your favorite athlete or musician explaining why you love to see them perform.
35. Write a letter to an inventor of a household object with ideas for its improvement.
36. Write a letter to a parent, teacher, or other grown up to thank them.
37. Write a letter to a person, school, or organization about something that needs to be changed.
38. Write a letter to your favorite childhood cartoon.
39. Write a letter to your favorite author.
40. Write a letter to a pet you wish you had. (This could be a wild animal or a magical creature!)
41. Write a letter to a grandparent, aunt, uncle or other grownup about the best thing they cook or bake for you.
42. Write a letter to a sibling or friend full of as many jokes as you can think of.
43. Write a letter to the sidewalk explaining why everyone walks on them.
Bonus letter writing prompts: postcards!
Postcards require you to condense your message into as few words as possible. Try these!
44. Write about a winter or summer vacation memory.
45. Tell a friend about your last school year.
20 Story Writing Prompts
If you have a little more time, you can try these prompts to write a short story. Sometimes the hardest part about writing a story is coming up with a story idea that can get you or your students and kids started.
This article is here to help everyone get over that slump. It doesn't have to be the funniest story or best story in the world to be a great story. Every writer only gets better with practice.
Don't feel like you have to take any of these upcoming story ideas too seriously. Writing a short story is not a life or death situation. It is something that you can use to explore yourself, your beliefs, and big, unanswered questions—all of which you get to explore through the eyes of a fictional character you create!
Most stories feature a main character who wants something, but conflict gets in the way. And the conflict forces them to make a crucial decision.
How will your hero pursue their goal? Figure this out by writing out your story idea!
Recommended time for each: 15+ minutes
46. Write a new ending or a next chapter for your favorite or a well-known fairy tale.
47. You get a call from your best friend that their favorite item is missing. Write a story where you work together to find it.
48. Imagine your bus or car suddenly turns into a spaceship with a course charted for outer space. What happens next?
49. A classmate or sibling calls for help and disappears before you can react. How will you find out what happened to them?
50. You're watching your favorite TV show when the screen flickers and you're transported into the show. What happens next?
51. A magical bird flies into a house and won't leave. What happens next?
52. A character finds a diary on their way home from school, and it's full of clues to a well-known lost treasure. Follow the clues.
53. You build a robot that is able to solve the world's most pressing problem, but you've lost control of it. What will you do?
54. Rewrite an historical event from the perspective of a kid your age living through it.
55. A character wakes up as the star player for their favorite sports team. The only problem is that they didn't get the skills to match. They have to go to practice to fake it until they find a way to change back.
56. A character discovers that their friend group is having a bash on the beach without them, but they know their family will be in the same area that day. What do they do?
57. A character's parent needs life-saving medicine but they can't afford it. How will the character get help?
58. In the middle of an acting class, an actor gets carried away and admits a life-changing secret. What happens next?
59. Send a dog and an armadillo on an adventure together to save another animal. (Challenge: no animals die.)
60. A first-time thief accidentally breaks into the wrong house and chaos ensues. What happens?
61. A character takes a wrong turn in a basement and gets lost in a series of underground tunnels where they find . . . finish the story.
62. Rewrite your favorite superhero scene or battle from the viewpoint of the villain.
63. A character inadvertently swaps backpacks with someone who is clearly a spy. What happens next?
64. A bookworm gets locked in a haunted library and can only find the way out by solving a ghost's riddles. How will they do it?
65. A couple kids are fishing from their canoe when a whirlpool opens and . . . what happens?
20 Story Setting Prompts
One element that can make or break a short story is the setting. You can have the most exciting story idea in the world, but if the setting falls short, the story probably will, too.
Use these creative writing prompts to play with imaginative settings that you can combine with story idea starters or character conflict that can amaze your friends and family.
Recommended time for each: 5 minutes
66. Describe a drive to town. (Challenge: Before cars were invented.)
67. Describe an underground tunnel in a forest.
68. You've just moved into your dream house when disaster strikes. Describe the scene.
69. Describe standing in the middle of a rushing stream or river.
70. Describe a new planet where an astronaut landed when they took a wrong turn in space.
71. Describe an abandoned skate park or playground.
72. Describe experiencing a storm from inside a car or bus.
73. Describe a world where everyone forgets something all the time.
74. Describe what it feels like in the top bunk of a cabin in the woods at midnight with no electricity.
75. Describe what it feels like to dangle your feet in the water from the edge of a dock.
76. Describe a restaurant with over-the-top decor.
77. Describe climbing through the branches of a tree. (Challenge: a bear is chasing you)
78. Describe how it feels to play hide-and-seek from your favorite real or imagined hiding spot.
79. Describe a fashion show. (Challenge: for puppy clothes)
80. Describe a summer hike on a challenging mountain trail.
81. Describe sitting in the bleachers during a packed event.
82. Describe a classroom or living room with too much stuff in it.
83. Describe getting stuck on a boat in the middle of a large lake or the ocean.
84. Describe the control room of a space ship or space station. (Challenge: add an emergency alarm buzzing)
85. Describe a supervillain's lair. (Challenge: add a stuffed bunny and make us believe it)
20 Character Conflict Writing Prompts
Conflict is what keeps a character from getting what they want. It can be another person (like a villain) or bad luck, a fear or flaw.
As you use this set of writing prompts, focus on making your character act in the face of conflict.
Recommended time for each: 15+ minutes
86. You receive a letter that you've been admitted to a high school that builds treehouses, but on the first day, you realize you're afraid of heights. What will you do?
87. You discover you have a superpower only to realize that you can only use it in one small confined space. What will you do?
88. A character spent a month and a lot of money decorating and preparing for an outdoor party when a freak snow storm hits. What will they do?
89. In the middle of a talent show, a performer begins reciting a poem that someone else wrote and had never shared with anyone. Write the confrontation scene.
90. A wilderness guide wanders off track losing a group of kids who have to survive on their wits and teamwork. How will they do it?
91. A singer joins a reality TV show contest when their twin sibling shows up one stage and says they are singing the same song. What happens next?
92. A scientist finds a rare rock formation that opens into another world, but his arch enemy appears as they're inspecting it. What will they do?
93. A bully gets trapped inside their favorite social media app and has to figure out how to make amends with those they have hurt to find their way out. How will they do it?
94. A family who often argues gets snowed into a cabin together one winter. How will they survive the storm and each other?
95. A character's cat goes missing and a week later, they see a grumpy neighbor feeding it on the back porch. How will they get it back?
96. A gamer stumbles into a chat room where other users are planning to shut down the network, and he has to find a way to stop them before it's too late.
97. A character is quietly finishing his work at school when there's a knock at the door and he gets called into the hallway where the frowning principal and another student wait. What happens next?
98. A knight is captured and told they will fight the fiercest creature in the land to the death. When they enter the arena, what do they see and how do they defeat it?
99. A spy on a top secret mission enters an enemy camp and sees their brother who is clearly part of the organization they're spying on. What do they do?
100. An assassin accidentally bumps into their arch enemy . . . at a children’s carnival where they’ve both taken their kids for an outing. What do they do?
101. A dancer gets a job on a video shoot for their favorite band of all time, but when rehearsal begins, they realize something isn't right. What happens and what will they do?
102. A tree crashes down destroying a hiker's only known bridge on the path back to their car, and their cell phone has no service. What will they do?
103. A soccer star is headed into the championship game, but they have been in a scoring slump for the entire series. What will they do to get out of their head and lead their team to victory?
104. Last year's art show winner is given the opportunity to judge this year's contest. They weren't supposed to see any of the entries before the competition, but they accidentally see a small section of the school bully's painting as they dragged it down the hall to display. When the judge arrives to view the show, they realize that the bully's work is really good, but the bully has been so mean to them and their friends. What will they do?
105. A student newspaper editor is stuck and doesn't know what to write, but their story deadline is tomorrow and they were just assigned a book report too! How will they finish on time?
A Special Note for Teachers and Parents of Kid Writers
Teaching kids to write can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t feel confident as a writer yourself. I work from three principles that help me encourage writers:
- Writing is hard work whether you are a beginner or a professional. Honor the process and write alongside your kids. It’s magic.
- Build on strengths and state explicitly what is working, what is clear, and what is unique about the writer’s voice and work.
- Beginning and developing writers cannot address everything at once. Invest in a cycle of deliberate practice, feedback, and application. Repeat.
Overall, writing is an amazing way to empower students by teaching them to use their voice and imaginations. Sometimes all they need is a little help getting started.
These writing prompts are designed for kids of all ages. Pull one or several and use as a great activator for a class—or a fun writing session in general!
It's important to teach children to use their voices, and to stretch their imaginations. Starting with these creative writing prompts for kids might be just what they need to get started, and gain confidence in exploring and sharing their ideas.
What are some of your favorite kids writing prompts? Let us know in the comments.
It's time to use some of these creative writing prompts for kids to practice!
Depending on how much time you'd like to write, choose one of the writing prompts from this article's list. Set a timer for fifteen minutes, or ten or five. Then, write!
Don't worry about editing. Just press start and go for it! When you're done, take it one step further and share what you—or your students—come up with together.
If you're an adult/ kid-at-heart who wrote to a prompt, please share your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop here. And once you've shared, be sure to leave feedback for someone else who has shared their writing!
Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveler with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.