Journaling with Children: Starting Points, Strategies, and Story Prompts
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth
Journaling might sound like a complicated task for children. But writing down thoughts on paper can be as simple as a few scribbles or as fancy as the directions for an original Lego creation. For young children, journaling can begin with pictures and alphabet letters and sometimes little marks in a notebook. Simple writing allows children to apply reading skills and their knowledge of alphabet letters and sounds in a practical way.
Write out things in front of (and with) children. In other words, make it a visible part of regular life. To some extent, much of what we “write” these days isn’t actually written. Our grocery lists and reminders are typed into an app on a phone or computer. Now there’s no need to forego the efficient organization technology has given us, but think about expanding on those lists and reminders with your children. At the end of a day or after an errand, take a few moments to jot down your thoughts: maybe what you accomplished and still need to do tomorrow. Read it aloud as you write so those little ears can hear you. Write together about the day and things that went well and events that went awry. Anything goes; it’s journaling.
Write about everyday happenings. When they were little, my children and I started working on a journal after some of our neighborhood walks. We would write down interesting things we observed and about people with whom we spoke. We drew pictures of the weather—a sun, some storm clouds. And when we found a cool rock or stick or a colorful leaf, we brought it home, drew a picture of it and wrote about it, too. A few sentences were all it took to summarize our walk together.
Then my children drew pictures and sounded out words from our little adventures. They made the sun and a large tree and sometimes a neighborhood dog. I would help them label each picture so they could practice the alphabet sounds they had learned. The journal entries are fun to look at, not only for the memory, but also for my children to see how they used to write, and how far they've come.
They continue to build on those writing skills in elementary school. They write and illustrate their own thank-you notes and birthday cards. They use scrap paper to create menus for their play kitchen. I even have them write down their tattletale complaints (so we have it on record). It gets them thinking, and writing, and creating—while learning and practicing at the same time.
Build on what excites your children. Perhaps they have been telling everyone about a special vacation or a day with the grandparents. Maybe it’s just a new pair of shoes they keep showing off. Start with stuff they can’t stop talking about; for my children it’s Legos and cars and food. For your children, it might be something else. Sit down with them to write it out, or have a notebook available for them to jot down thoughts anytime they want.
Recording what’s in their head:
• Draw a picture or write about the most fun thing you did today.
• Draw a picture of the toys you played with today.
• Tell about something that happened today you did not like…
• What food would you like to eat for supper, and why?
• The best trip I took with my family was to…
• My favorite thing that happened this week was when…
Telling stories and using their imagination:
• If you had a whole day to do whatever you wanted, what would that be?
• If you could be the prince or princess of a country for a day, what kinds of things would you do?
• Make a diagram of a castle. Write about who lives there and what they do.
Arkansas Women Blogger Rhonda Franz Rhonda Franz is a freelance writer, licensed teacher, home operations specialist, and domestic chef. She combines her professional background and mommyhood experiences to write on family, parenting, cooking, and education. A city girl at heart, Rhonda is raising three lively boys in the woods of northwest Arkansas with her husband. You can read more about her at captainmom.net and rhondafranz.com