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How to describe an imaginary place or strange land

by | Jul 21, 2011 | Teaching Homeschool Writing

Stretch those creative-writing muscles! Invite children to think up and describe an imaginary place.

Summer is a season of travel, a time of sandy beaches, hypnotic sunshine, stamped tickets, and the excited laughter of children visiting out-of-the-ordinary places.

Summer vacations—and the summer months—fill our minds with those moments of wonder and imagination so natural to childhood and keep us connected to our own children.

But sometimes the household budget doesn’t stretch quite far enough for exotic adventures.

What to do?

Go anyway!

Here’s how!

Start with a Map

  • Gather your family around the kitchen table with paper, pencils, pens, and an atlas. Better yet, pull out a road map of your state. As these maps are more detailed for the traveler, interstate road maps usually have the richer place names.
  • Study some maps, reading place names aloud. Listen for those syllables and sounds that tickle and tempt your ear, hinting at the exotic. Where I live, nearby towns, rivers, and ancient mountain ranges honor the first Americans who dwelled here. Names like “Uwharrie,” “Oconeechi,” “Saponi,” “Lumbee,” “Saxapahaw,” and “Eno” dot the landscape and tease my heart and mind.
  • Make a list of place names you like.
  • Begin to imagine an island or a country or a planet where you’d like to visit.

Set Your Imagination Loose

It’s time to describe an imaginary place! Begin to paint this strange land with colorful, descriptive words and phrases.

Imaginary Mountain

What color is the sky? Are there cliffs, rivers, canyons, or mountains? Name the landforms.

weird flower

Are there trees or flowering plants? What do they look like? Describe and name the flowers.

Weird rock formations near Page, AZ

Place yourself there. What does the ground feel like under your feet? Stony? Sandy? Spongy?

on the wings of a snow white dove

What kind of person—or wonderful being—could you allow yourself to be there?

Create Your World

As ideas shape themselves around your kitchen table, have your children create colorful maps and illustrated “travel guides” of their visionary worlds.

Don’t forget rich descriptions, helping your kids write and edit for an imaginary audience of would-be adventurers or vacationers. This is the magic of writing! In the creative power of words, our children are free to journey through the realms of their own sacred and unique imaginations.

As adults, what a wonderful gift we can give our kids: a love of adventure enhanced with the tools of creative writing.

Enjoy your magical travels this summer!

. . . . .

For over two decades, Janet Wagner taught elementary and middle school in a variety of settings. She also had the honor of helping homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. She enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students, and training dogs. You can find her at Creative Writing Ideas and Activities.

All photos from Flickr, courtesy of Creative Commons.