Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Journaling 101: How to Journal: Get Ready

One thing my children love doing is journaling.  Yes my 3 boys love journaling, it's not just for girls!  There is often a misconception that only girls like to journal or write in their diaries.  But even the most resistant writers will love journaling if approached in the right way.

What is a Journal?

A diary, day book, memoirs, a biography.  It's a collection of writing or a daily record of events (Wikipedia), and in this case it is private in nature. 


Why Journal ?
*  Writing in a journal improves a child's reading and writing skills, spelling is put into practice and explored.

*  Children learn to observe their environment and express it in a way that is most meaningful to them whether in words or pictures or both.

*  It inspires creativity if approached in the right way.

*  Journaling can be therapeutic as children are given the chance to work through emotions, thoughts, struggles and important events.

*  As they work through these issues, they develop problem solving skills thereby enabling them to cope with life's pressures.

*  Self discovery and exploration - as children write they will begin a journey of discovering of who they are, what they like and what they believe.

*  A keepsake for your child or for you.  I love reading through their older journals. You can see how much they have grown up and how their thought processes have changed.

How Important is the Choice of Journal?
Does it really matter what a journal looks like?

You need to do what you can afford.  Buy a pretty diary, buy a notebook and let them decorate it themselves. Make one. Let them be creative.  Sew a cover in material or stick soccer stickers all over the cover.  Whatever will inspire them.

The more input they have about the way their journal looks, the more chance that they will take ownership.  I gave my children the option of putting one of their photos of themselves on the cover and each one chose that option.  Children seem to be fascinated with photos of themselves especially younger children.

Get Funky Stationary or Even Make Your Own 
 My children love new stationary.  If its new they want to use it. The fact that it comes in a different package just seems to automatically place the new stationary on the most wanted list.

Get some special journal writing stationary that only comes out during journaling time.  Multiple colour pens, new felt tip pens, stickers, sticky paper, pencils with fuzzy creatures dangling from the top.  Whatever will make them just want to use their new writing tools in their new journal.

And if you budget is tight/ or even if its not.  Buy regular stationary like pens and pencils and get them to decorate them or you could surprise them with your own designs.  Again its all about ownership.

How Long Should They Journal For?
 Keep it short, especially for the little ones.  I would aim for about 15 minutes for the younger children and anything from 30 minutes to 45 minutes for the older ones. Don't let journaling become a chore.  If you see that they are loving it then let them carry on for longer, believe me there will be days where they might only manage 5 minutes.  No day has to be the same.

When Should My Children Journal?
 My children normally journal in the morning but sometimes its good to let them journal just before supper, especially after an eventful day when the day is still fresh in their minds.  Of course this is if you journal at home.Our children have even journalled while we have travelled a long distance in the car making notes of what they saw along the way.

Don't feel compelled to do it every day.  After all, there are some days that my life is so boring I kind of wonder why I even bothered getting out of bed.

Teenagers and Journaling
Teenagers don't like you to read their diaries.  My suggestion is to give them the liberty of 2 journals.  Let them keep one for their own use which is not used for assessment purposes.  The other alternative is to let them use one but leave them to initiate sharing what they have written and only read an entry by invitation.

So this should get you started.  I will be running a weekly post on journal writing, how to journal and how to prepare your child for journaling.  So get started! Your enthusiasm will be contagious.  If you are excited about it, they will be too.  And while you at it, why not prepare your own journal?  Children always learn best by example!

Feel free to post any comments, questions or ideas on journaling.    And as you prepare your journals why not submit photos of your children's (or your own) journals and I will include them in next week's post.


  1. Thanks Mel. I definitely want to read all you have to say about journaling, especially how to get two boys to join in! This brought back vague memories of me writing in a journal at some stage during primary school years.

    Elize van der Merwe


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