Descriptive writing is one of the first styles of writing often taught to young children. It comes more naturally to them than other forms of writing because it is something they use every day when they talk to you. Creative storytelling also falls into that category, but it is a much more complex process to organize and get into paper or print.
When teaching descriptive writing, start by making it practical. Ask your child to describe to you a toy or game that they want for their birthday, a holiday, or that they are saving up for. Ask them to describe it in as much detail as possible so that you know exactly which item they’re wanting. For example, if my son says he wants a Lego Star Wars set, he needs to describe it in detail if I’m to know which one he’s talking about. Kids get this.
Explain descriptive writing the same way. It’s simply putting into print what they might say when describing something. There are several key steps that you can include to enhance these descriptions.
Step 1: Use adjectives. If you’re describing a dog, you could write “A dog walked.” That doesn’t tell me much more than that a dog existed and was walking. But the addition of adjectives tells more. “An impatient, large German Shepherd walked.” Now we know the type of dog that existed, its size, and something about its personality.
Step 2: Use adverbs. Adverbs describe how the dog walked. “An impatient, large German Shepherd walked quietly and quickly.” Now we can visualize the dog and what he is doing much more accurately.
Step 3: Use sensory information. Describe what the dog saw, felt, heard, etc. “An impatient, large German Shepherd wearing a police vest walked quietly and quickly toward the red fire hydrant.”
Step 4: Add more details. “An impatient, large German Shepherd wearing a Secret Service police vest walked quietly and quickly toward the red fire hydrant while on a leash outside the White House.”
Both the sentences in Step 1 and Step 4 are accurate, but we can all agree agree that the latter one more accurately describes the full scene. Teach your kids to do this with real, practical scenarios like this one.
By the way, this photo was taken on our recent family trip to Washington, D.C. This was my younger son’s favorite thing about visiting the White House.