Play Your Words Writing Prompt: A Bag of Bugs–Alliterative Writing Prompt

David Kirk’s Sunny Patch for Melissa and Doug Bag of Bugs

For today’s writing prompt, it’s time to get a little silly.

Last weekend my husband and I went garage sale-ing, a favorite summertime activity. At one particular home that had a titan’s cornucopia of crafting supplies, I found a bag of wooden, brightly painted, bug pins and I bought it. When I got in the car I said, “I love my bag of bugs!” and my husband started riffing on other alliterative insects in containers. Laughing, he finally suggested I use some of them as a writing prompt. So,  here they are:

Write a poem, paragraph-length description, or short story using one of the alliterative terms below (or you can make up your own.)

a bag of bugs
a sack of snails
a box of beetles

Have fun! Let your inner child out to play. It is important that we not only encourage our kids and ourselves to build writing skills, but we remember that writing can be fun.

And please, oh please, use the comment space below to share your response or riff further on alliterative containers for insects.


Play With Your Words #85: More Fortune Cookie Writers’ Prompts

searchToday my husband and I had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, “China Faith.” If you live in Salem, Oregon, or visit Salem, Oregon, it’s the best! It’s located on North Lancaster.

As usual, when done (and the servings are so large I brought some home to take to work for lunch tomorrow) I eagerly waited for our bill and fortune cookies. Why? Because fortune cookies provide great writing prompts.

Here is mine for today: “An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly!” (The exclamation point came with the fortune.) Hmmm. Do a smell a science fiction or fantasy story brewing here?

My husbands: “Be generous, and the favor will be returned within the week.” Again, oodles of story possibilities.

Try one of these out and enter your title and a short summary of your story in the comments. I’d love to see what these prompts inspire.

Descriptive Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #56: Three Wishes


  • List three wishes you would like to make.
  • Get out a piece of paper and divide it into three sections.
  • At the top of each section, write one of the wishes.
  • Within each section doodle, list words, make outlines or timelines, even stick figure comics that will help you to imagine what it would be like if that wish were to come true.


  • Pick just one of the wishes.
  • Circle or highlight ideas you want to use.
  • Describe in detail what it would be like if that wish were to come true.
  • Practice being descriptive—using specific nouns and verbs, using precise adjectives when needed
  • Craft a setting and mood in which your description will take shape.
  • Proofread.

When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share as a comment:

  • Consider how easy or difficult it is to envision your partners descriptions.
  • Note the use of sensory detail: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch.
  • Compliment one another on the vividness of your descriptions.

Preschool Literacy:

Get out writing materials.

Ask your preschooler what she would wish for if she could wish for three things.

Divide a piece of paper into thirds and list one of each thing in each section.

Ask the child to tell you a bit about each thing. Allow him the opportunity to draw a picture of each.

Ask: If you could only choose one wish, which one would you want to come true?

Get a new piece of paper and write this wish across the top.

Ask your preschooler to describe what it would be like if this wish were to be granted.

Write down what she says. Ask further questions like:

  • What will you do with it?
  • What does it look like, sound like, et cetera?
  • What happens next?

When you are done, read back what he or she has said, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoken word.

A Pre-write for a Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #20

When writing a poem about an object, feeling, or idea it is challenging to find something new to say. However, a little pre-writing can provide you with a list of vivid associations and images to draw on that will make your poem uniquely your own.

Decide on a topic for your poem and then follow these steps:

  • Get out a sheet of paper and fold it vertically down the middle and divide it horizontally into thirds so you end up with six boxes.
  • Head one box “facts,” the next “emotions,” the next “memories,” the next “associations,” the next “imaginings,” and the last “fuzzy connections.”
  • Now take some time to fill those boxes with information relating to your topic. Use synonyms, describe events or images, create similes or metaphors, list adjectives, adverbs, onomatopoeia, sensory imagery, and highly specific nouns.
  • Now look at all the information you collected in your boxes. Highlight some things you want to use then write your poem.

Lay your poem aside for a few days then review the information in your boxes and read your poem. Is there anything you want to add, anything you want to replace with something that seems richer? Revise your poem then revise again for sound. Give it a title.

When done, read what you’ve written to your writing partners or share it here as a comment. Compliment one another on the strength of the language and imagery. Enjoy each other’s poems.

What Could You do with a Butter Knife? Expository Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #49

Today’s expository writing prompt calls for you to use your imagination and your logical, concrete/linear thinking skills as well. Ready to stretch your brain?

What else could you do with a butter knife other than prepare food?

Could a butter knife be a tool that could help you with yard work? Housecleaning? At your desk? In building and construction work? With your car?

Suspend the scoffing voice that’s saying, “Don’t be silly.” A mark of creative people is their ability to use old things in new ways. So brainstorm—truly brainstorm. Don’t throw out any idea as too wacky. Then write a how-to article that details the many incredible uses for a butter knife.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the breadth of ideas, clarity of expression, and the organization of your writing. Share your article as comment. I know I’m not the only one who would love to discover some innovative uses for the common butter knife.

Write a Current Event Poem/Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #17

We live in a world of media saturation. So much is going on in so many places, it’s hard to process it all.

One way to do so is to write a poem.

Go to a text-based news source—a newspaper, newsmagazine, website. Read. Find an article that speaks to you. It might make you angry, sad, or tug at your heart. It could be international news, national, state, or local, a human interest story or an international event.

After you have selected your story, go back and read it with a highlighter in hand. Mark the words and phrases that communicate clearly or powerfully to you, or that speak to you as a call to action.

On a fresh piece of paper, write down the title of the article. This will be the title of your poem. Copy down the phrases you highlighted from the text.

Now write a poem selecting from those phrases and adding your own thoughts and feelings. Write any form of poem you like—metered, free verse, counted syllables…, any kind of poem you like. Your poem may commemorate or memorialize an event. It might explain the emotional impact of this event on you, or reflect your own call for people to take action, to care. It may show how you are personally impacted by this event and how you make sense of it in your world. The only rule is that you must use phrases both from the article and of your own.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the strengths in the writing, the power of the word choices, and the imagery used to communicate your thoughts.

And, please, share it as comment.  We can all use a little help dealing with the myriad of events in our fast-paced, whirlwind of a world.

A Scene, A Conflict, A Train: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #45

Write a scene that ends with the words:

“The train roared on into the night.”

Your scene can have any characters, any setting, any conflict you want to imagine. When you are done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the vividness of the setting, and the level of tension and conflict, both in action and thought.

Proud of what you’ve done? Then please share your scene as comment. I would love to read it.

Tell Me a Good Dog Story: Play With Your Words Art Prompt #7

What’s this pair up to, and who are their furry friends?

Write a story about these dogs. It can be from the dogs’ point of view, an owner’s point of view, their toys’ point of view, or anyone else’s.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment the strengths in one another’s writing. Share what you enjoyed most about the story. And please, share your story as comment. Who knows? You may inspire someone else to give it a try.

Preschool Literacy:

Show your preschooler the picture of the dogs on your computer screen.

Ask your child to tell you a story about them. Help him to get started if he needs it. Type out the story as she dictates it. When you are done, read back what he or she has said, pointing to the words on the screen as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoke word.

For fun, print out the picture and the story and post them somewhere others can enjoy them.

This picture was featured in the Martha Stewart Pets/PetSmart ad in the October 2011 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Play With Your Words #39: A Birthday Party for Someone you Love

Today is my oldest son Jeremiah’s birthday. Over the years he’s had a lot of fun birthday parties. Some of the most memorable included a big splash contest in my parents’ pool and a food fight in our back yard… (Deck the boughs with strands of pasta, tra-la-la-la-la tra-la-la-la.)

It’s fun to plan a party, be it a child’s, a grandchild’s, or my mother’s seventieth.

Think of someone you love and dream up a fantastic birthday bash you wish you could throw for them. Money, even reality, is no object. Write out the party like a scene from a novel. Include dialogue, setting, characters—guests and the guest of honor.

When you are done, share your party with your writing partners. Compliment  the strengths you see in each others’ writing. Particularly note vivid details and original thinking.

If you are working with a preschooler, ask him to choose a guest of honor he loves and tell you about the party he would give. Write down all she says.

When you are done, read back what he dictated, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one-to-one-correspondence between the written and spoke word.

And please, share your parties as comment. Who knows what the next party I throw will look like with a little inspiration from you?

Prewrite Goldilocks: A Whole New Tale/Play With Your Words #38

Imagine. What would have happened if Goldilocks had stumbled upon the home of three goats, or three llama, or three squirrels, or three of any other species besides humans or bears?  Think about it for a few minutes. How would this impact the story? What kinds of possessions would she find in the new three’s home? How might she interact with them and the three animals. Now, make a timeline of your new story. Write a brief description of each key event (and if you feel ambitious, draw a quick sketch—who knows? You may end up with a graphic storybook). Now choose one event from your proposed story and write it out as a scene—complete with characters who live and breathe, a rich and detailed setting, and the king of conflict that sucks readers into a story for the long haul. When done, share your scene with your writing companions. Compliment the strengths and originality of each others scenes. Post your timelines (in the form of a list) here on the blog and the scene you wrote with it. I would love to see where your story took you! Have fun!