Writing Exercises: Painting Word-Pictures of Still Life

This is a fun game designed to get children playing with words by using their senses.

A wordsmith may be great at telling a story, but fall foul of plot. Others can conjure up unforgettable characters, but their dialogue is limp.  And even many experienced writers often trip up on description.

This exercise is amazingly powerful at their creative juices flowing. And it’s simple and easy to do.

The aim of the ‘Still Life’ game is to paint word-pictures!

What do you need?

  • Pen and paper
  • An object

The Rules of the Game?

  • Select an object
  • Create an air of mystery about the object.
  • Then present it! 
  • Encourage the children to use their senses…

  • Get the children to walk around the object – instruct them to try different angles

Ask them: 

  • What is the object? Can they think of alternative names?
  • What colour is it? Can they think of different ways to describe the colour?
  • What is its shape?
  • How does light act on the object? 
  • Does it resemble another object?

If safe, pass the object round:

  • Is it hard, soft? Heavy, light? 
  • Warm, cold?
  • What kind of texture does it have?
  • Does the object make a sound?
  • Which part of the object does the sound come from?
  • Is it a pure sound? A note?
  • Does the sound resemble any other?
  • How long does it last?

  • Do they think the object has a taste? 
  • Could they describe it?

  • How does the object make them feel?
  • Is it special in any way?
  • Does the object recall a memory?

  • What is the story of the object? How did it get there? Where is it going? Where was it made? By whom?
  • How is it placed? How does the object relate to other objects around it…


  • Get them to read out what they’ve written

Once they have the hang of the exercise, ask the children to write what they see as:

  • A poem
  • A short story
  • A title
  • A letter
  • A text message
  • An email


Extra tips:

  • Prepare beforehand – I suggest selecting five objects.
    • Five objects could take more than 30 minutes to describe!
  • The more intriguing the object the more involved the childen will get.
  • Children will improve each time the do the exercise – but don’t do too many objects!


If your group enjoys this exercise, suggest keeping a notebook handy to take notes. Writers depend on random scribblings to populate their writing. You never know when you might need a descriptive piece of writing.

Have fun!

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