Journaling with Children
A Comprehensive Guide to Creating a Reflective Journal Practice with Children 2 and up.
Journals have been an integral part of most programs I have lead since I started teaching. It's taken 5 years of trial and error, learning a few tricks along the way, to truly come to understand how best to use them. Since then I have developed a deep appreciation for our journaling rhythm. While journaling with children, in particular young children, can sometimes feeling gruelling, tedious, and forceful, it doesn't have too. Journaling can develop mindfulness, promote emotional regulation, and provide a variety of learning opportunities. I have grown to love journaling with my students, and I know with this guide you can create a journaling rhythm in your classroom or home too.
Benefits of Journaling
Why do we Journal?
Journaling has so many benefits, here are some of the benefits I have seen through my journaling practice in my classroom.
Increased ability to focus
Increased understanding of time and events
Reflective practices that lead to increased emotional intelligence
Fine Motor practice
Setting Up a Journaling Practice
Create a Rhythm
Having a journaling rhythm creates an ingrained routine in which children can come to know and expect the practice. I often opt to journal towards the end of our day. We do our best to journal at the same point in our day, every time we are together (although I will admit we often miss day's, or end up squeezing it in last minute, and that's ok). Journaling could also be done at a different consistent time such as first thing in the morning, after a meal, or during a snack. A journaling rhythm also doesn't need to be daily, it could be done weekly, or monthly. Although the more frequently you engage in the rhythm the more meaningful the practice will become. Most of all the rhythm needs to be consistent and should not interrupt play or another favourite activity. Find what works for your classroom or family and start trying it out.
Finding the Right Journal
Once you have decided on a rhythm, now it's time to find the right journal. Picking the right journal can depend on
the interests, ages, and budget. I always prefer a watercolour or mixed medium journal. This gives you the most flexibility with mediums, and will allow you to create seamlessly in the journal no matter what. Sketchbooks/ or blank coil bound books also work well as children's journals. If you want to explore a medium that may not work in your journal type, you can always journal on a separate paper and add it in with glue or tape. Size can be best determined by age. I have found younger children are more inspired to fill a page when it's of a smaller size. Usually half page or smaller journals work best for new or younger children, as they get older and more experienced, larger pages can offer opportunities to expand drawing sizes, and add writing.
Mediums and Mark Making
The medium or even better mediums you use will impact your journal writing practice. I have found that a large variety of mediums, and a consistent rotation helps to keep journaling exploratory. As stated above, if you want to try a new medium but are worried about the possibility of it ruining the journal, you can always use mediums on watercolour or card stock and add it into the journal with glue or tape.
Some of my favourite mediums to mix, match and use are...
Developing the Mindset
One things I have really come to understand in developing a journaling practice is to always ensure my personal expectations are developmentally appropriate. I don't expect a class of three year olds to write their names on every journal page, I keep our time journaling to age appropriate lengths. I know each day won't always be profound, and often the pages are filled with scribbles, and endless pictures of family pets, and beloved siblings on repeat. This is OK... we are building positive relationships to the practice above all else.
Open Mind's and Open Heart's
Keeping an open mind and an open heart allows us to most importantly build a positive relationship to journaling. Allow space for children to journal what they see fit.. again.. even if it is 1000 pictures of there family pet to start. Remember the mindset is all about creating a positive journaling experiance. If we use our journaling time to structure letter practice, force a journaling prompt, or a directed craft/ drawing, we risk losing the motivation behind the practice. Journaling is reflective and deeply personal. Journaling practices with children should be child led in order for them to reap the benefits of mindfulness, reflection, and regulation.
Model the Behaviour
This is a new practice I have committed to this year. I carved out time and made a journal myself. Stopping myself from cleaning, organizing, planning, documenting.. or whatever else might occupy me while they journal. I focus in, and simply co-create alongside my class every day. I often vocalize and model my thoughts of reflection. "I had fun looking at the leaves today... I am going to draw the leaves to remember them." This practice has been the most effective measure to ensure a successful and meaningful journaling practice for my classroom.
Keep it Fun!
10 way's to Keep it Fun
Here are 10 fun tip's and extra you can do within your journal practice to keep it fun, open ended and mindful.
add a tracker ( can you track time spent outdoors? day's you have journaled? km walked?)
embrace natural materials in your journal
try journaling in new space
add a provoking question to journal time
embrace the seasons
change paper textures/ types
add the children's words if they are unable to write yet
try fun process art projects and add them to your journal
use story stones, or story cubes
Most of all... keep it child led, low pressure, and consistent!