Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 14, 2013

7 Things to Keep in Mind When Writing for Children


Gathering Mussels, from “The Sea-King’s Children” by Vesper Stamper.

Keeping it Simple — Things to Monitor When Writing for Children 
by Rachel Thomas

There are many things to keep in mind when writing books or content for children. Age and skill level will play a very important role when devising your content. You want it to be comprehensible, but not overly loaded with words that are beyond his or her range. Careful planning goes into creating successful reading material and a different perspective is needed during the proofreading of this material. For those who have a range of writing talents, this could be complex at times.

1. Syllables – One of the more important aspects to consider when writing for children is the use of words with extensive syllables. You want to keep this level with what is currently the norm for the age group you are writing for. Simple syllable words can be understood far easier than those containing more. Sometimes, this will mean breaking up the meaning of the word in order to get your point across. Take the word “extensive” for example. It may be difficult for a first or second grader to break down however you can do it by saying, “too much of” or “too much.”

2. Sentences – Your sentence structure will need to be simplified as well. On average, most professional writers could create sentences that are between 15 to 30 words. This may be OK for older children in higher grades, but younger children will need less to work with or they could become frustrated. That last sentence was 24 words, for example. For the younger age groups, you may want to reduce your sentences to 10 words or less depending on the age group of your target audience.

3. Paragraphs – The length of the content can drive many to become bored with it. The same is true when writing content for websites. With children, their attentions can be even harder to maintain. Keeping the paragraphs as simple as possible can help keep the flow of reading for a child. Not to mention that paragraphs can be used as stopping places and easier to pick up where someone left off. Each paragraph needs an individual point that the child can assimilate into their brains in order to keep the process fluid.

4. Metaphors and Slang – Try to stay away from metaphors and slang. While dating a book isn’t necessarily bad as slang words evolve over time, you want the child to be able to understand the material without having to find a translator. A first-grader shouldn’t have to think too deeply about the meaning of the content in order to get something out of it. He or she should immediately have a working knowledge of the content in order to provide a synopsis of what they had read.

5. Appropriate Material – Could you imagine if Stephen King were to write a children’s book while keeping his style of trilling horror? There is a good chance the child would never sleep again. Make sure the material you are creating is appropriate for the age group you are writing for. This may take a little bit of research to find out what children are reading in school these days, but it will help you from turning a pleasant story about a dog and its favorite chew toy into a nightmarish gory tale of the toy chewing on the dog.

6. Vocabulary – Not every age group has mastered the same words. You don’t want to fill a book with words that the child hasn’t had a chance to learn yet. However, you could produce a story with words above the target audience’s age range in order to develop a primer for the future. While this may be a good idea to some, it may be too much for specific children to wrap their minds around. Like stated above, a child shouldn’t have to dwell too long on a word in order to understand the meaning.

7. Closure – One thing that some writers don’t consider when developing material for children is the need for closure. It doesn’t have to be a complex ending to the book, but you should end the story without leaving the child wondering where the rest of the pages are.

Keeping the language as simple as possible regarding the target audience’s age group is a priority. You want the child to obtain something from the story through the use of the words provided. Any content can be leveled down as long as it’s a simple to read text. You don’t have to enroll in child psychology, but understanding your target audience is paramount in any content writing.

Rachel’s article appeared in Write4kids on April 30th this year. If you are starting out writing for children Write4kids is giving away an ebook titled, 11 Ways to Writing Your First Children’s Book. All you have to do is give them your email address. Here is their link:

Author Bio:

Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to

Look for future articles written by Rachel Thomas posted on Writing and Illustrating for Children.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Another excellent list, Kathy. Thanks! 😀


  2. 7 great reminders, especially while I’m revising my novel. Thank you.


  3. thanks for this post. It’ll go on my “writing for children” wiki now.


  4. This is a great article. Would you do something similar for CHILDREN who might want to be writers/illustrators? I’d love it for a future post on my blog.


  5. Love Vesper’s artwork. I’ve read a bit of her lovely story and this art matches well.


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