Children’s Book Ideas: 4 Actions to Spark Ideas That Appeal to Kids

The article Children’s Book Ideas: 4 Actions to Spark Ideas That Appeal to Kids appeared first on The Write Practice.

Do you want to write a children’s book but struggle to come up with great children’s book ideas?

You’re not alone in this. All too often do budding writers (or seasoned ones!) sit down to write their book for kids and stare, glossy eyed, at a blank page—for hours.

Sometimes this discourages writers so much that they give up on their idea altogether. They assume an idea will come to them when the muse decides to speak up.

Writers don’t have to wait for the muse, though. This article shares strategies that can help you come up with your next great book idea—particularly if you want to write a book for children.

The Common Question I Get as a Children’s Book Author

I’ve been writing children’s books for more than two decades. It’s common for people to ask me where I get my children’s book ideas when I’m presenting my work, whether in a first grade classroom or at an educator conference.

My truest answer is “everywhere,” but I admit this is frustratingly vague. The blank page is both an intimidation and an invitation.

I spoke in my article “How to Write a Children’s Book,” I share how to know your Story Intention. I primarily write to give families a way to share love and inspire connection, so I tend to search for ideas that work under this umbrella purpose of mine.

Your writing goal may be different. No matter why or for whom you’re writing for, you need ideas!

Each of my many book titles and concepts started with a spark of an idea. Some took hold when I heard someone speak a certain phrase, others started with an idea for a theme (adoption) followed by casually interviewing people about the topic.

My book, Hooray for You, was inspired by a particular photo I saw in a newspaper that moved me.

Although we can find ideas everywhere, I’ve created the following strategy you can use to jumpstart your own idea finding.

It’s an easy way to remind yourself of the proactive role-to-role you can play when waiting for inspiration to find its collaborator.

S.T.O.P. to Write: 4 Actions to Spark Children’s Ideas for Children’s Books

To put a helpful framework around the process of idea generation for children’s books, I created a simple, four-part acronym: S.T.O.P to Write.

It is easy to remember and implement, and gives you a chance to come up with a story idea that will work for books for kids even if you don’t yet know what the entire story will look like.

You can use S.T.O.P. to come up for idea from board books to stories for all types of children.This is how it works:

Think S.T.O.P. when you want to come up with great children’s book ideas. Learn all about the actions packed into this acronym in this article.
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S = Start with What You Know

This is a natural way to gather ideas for books for children. What sentimental, informative, or silly situation have you experienced that you can parlay into an engaging tale for children?

What is a topic, cause, or theme close to your heart because it’s impacted you in a meaningful way?

Don’t worry if your initial reaction to this is a blank mind. Give yourself permission to prod for a little bit. If you do, it’s likely that you’ll come up with all sorts of ideas—and they might speak to your experiences!

Do you have a lot of knowledge about sports, video games, cooking, dance, monsters, bullies, art, pets, grandparents and travel? Start with this and go from there to expand on ha knowledge to create a story idea that will work for a book for kids.

Nee, consider the themes that could work for a story with that topic. Often, when I’ve talked to students about story ideas, I’ve heard themes about perseverance, courage, resilience, overcoming, fear, and empathy.

Things these kids already know about—but maybe haven’t actually written a story about. The same is true for you.

In the spirit of starting with what I know, I wrote one of my bestselling books, I LOVE YOU SO from a bedtime routine I shared with my own four kids when they were little. Others examples from existing children’s books:

  • THE INVISIBLE STRING by Patrice Karst is a tale Patrice wrote as a single working mom to soothe her young son when he was at daycare and remind him they were always connected by love.
  • EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS by Joanna Ho aims to show the beauty of Asian eyes while also showing that everyone is beautiful.
  • EVERY NIGHT IS PIZZA NIGHT by popular cookbook author Kenji Lopez-Alt is an celebration of the joy of food.
  • I AM GOD’S DREAM by LBGTQ+ author Matthew Paul Turner wishes to cultivate for kids a view of a loving, accepting God.

All these examples illustrate Start With What You Know in action.What might this look like for you?

Here are a few things to ask yourself:

  • Is there a ritual or tradition I share with my family that I can share with others?
  • Am I known for something among my friends? For example, perhaps you are passionate about karate, knitting, climate change, baking or mental health. Or you’re known as particularly funny, kind or generous.
  • Do you have a life experience that you can parlay into encouragement to others? Perhaps you moved a bunch or times, disliked vegetables, loved growing a garden or grew up with a particular physical or emotional challenge.

T = Talk to People

Many writers are introverted, which makes one-on-one conversation a great strategy for idea gathering. Yes, you are surrounded by all kinds of inspiration if you’re willing to engage with people and listen.

This can happen anywhere: In the grocery line, on an airplane, in your neighborhood, on a nature hike. One never knows when the spark of a concept may find you.

If you are interested in writing for young kids, talk to teachers about wha high make a good book for children. Then go and talk tot your friends, librarians, bookstore owners and, of course, children. Ask them what they care about.

Ask them for book recommendations to jog your idea consideration even further.

Are they afraid or excited about something? What makes them laugh? What topics are teachers already building lessons around that you can come alongside?

Conversation is an amazing idea generation tactic to listen for universal themes that connect us all.

For example: When I was writing a book about loss many years ago, I attended a small-group memorial service of bereaved families to listen for emotional commonalities. When I wanted to write about courage, I asked my eight-year-old son while folding laundry to define courage: “A choice,” he said matter-of-factly after I had wrestled with the concept for months.

His brilliant, impromptu answer was they key to my entire picture book and this line in particular. “How far will I go. What things can I be when I get to choose what brave is to me?” Talk and listen. Talk and listen.

Listen more.

Some great phrases to initiate conversation include:

  • Tell me about “XYZ.” Tell me what you’re hearing in your classroom. Tell me what has you excited/scared/nervous right now.
  • Tell me the story of your shoes/scarf/funky hat/ring/your pet gerbil.  There’s always a backstory behind what you see and it may just be where your find your idea gold.

O= Open your Mind

An important step in the search for ideas is to open your mind. Ever notice how demanding inspiration from yourself rarely works? Me, too.

When I think of the phrase “open your mind,” I agree with the dictionary definition: “to become able to understand different ideas or ways of thinking.”

But there’s a cognitive counterpart to this: Putting yourself into an emotionally receptive place.

Open your Mind is a two-fold process. One begets another.

  1. Open the right-brain “portal” to the creative side of the brain
  2. Open the mind to new ideas, stimuli and viewpoints

Pro-tip: To get out of your way, try to move your body, change your environment, and give your brain new stimuli.

The following are specific ways you can open your mind when trying to come up with new ideas for your children’s book, all of which I do to flex my idea receiving muscles.

Move. Take a walk. Go for a run.

Says science writer Ferris Jabr:

“Walking on a regular basis promotes new connec

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