Over the past three posts, we’ve been talking about writing for preschool-age kids. These could be infants or kids as old as eight technically, though I like to think “six” when writing. These are our blank slates, just waiting for something cool to be written on them. They love learning new things, seeing new colors, and experiencing new sounds. They love to feel things too, which addresses their tactile sense, and that’s why some picture books are flocked or have other materials in them for kids to touch.
So, obviously, you need to give kids a very sensory experience. You want them to see colors. The really young ones can’t really see complex colors yet, so black, white, and red are appropriate; however, remember who buys the books.
Most parents will opt for something more vibrant to satisfy their own tastes rather than keep things simple. But that’s for the publisher to decide for the most part, so don’t even give this much thought unless color is part of your story. Then, tell readers how your color feels — warm, cold, what they can relate it to, etc.
But, you do want them to hear sound, which makes the story more fun for them and the people reading to them. Remember your mom or dad reading, “I’m going to blow your house down!” when you were a kid. How much emotion did they put into that story of The Three Little Pigs? Give adults “sound” words to work with.
Give them things to “feel,” and do it with your words. Describe tree bark so that kids can feel it. Give them the lowdown on how soft green grass feels, and let them in on petting a donkey, perhaps. Like this: “Mr. Donkey, you feel like my daddy’s warm wool scarf.” Give them a reference point they’ll understand. That one’s kind of subjective, but you see what I’m getting at? Let kids “feel” through your words.
Let them taste, too. What’s a mango taste like? The “sweet mango mixes peaches, cantaloupe, and pears together in one pretty peel. ” Does it? I’m not sure, but really think about how things taste and describe those tastes to kids who probably never even knew mangoes existed.
And give them some smells — the warm smell of bread from grandma’s kitchen, the smelly smell of fish mommy made for dinner, or the perfumey smell my cat has when he sleeps on the clean laundry.
Sensory details are very, very important when writing for preschoolers. If you want to write for preschoolers, go to the library and grab an armful of books. Pick out all the sensory details you can find and pay attention to what age group the book is intended for. This will give you some great background for writing what preschoolers need to have in your writing, and it’s always about your audience first.