Journals For Little Kids

Eight years ago I had the idea to sit my little kids down each week and talk to them about whatever was on their mind.  I would type what they said as they spoke, and that would be their journal.  It’s been a huge success.  I’ve started with each kid when they are two and can communicate in cogent sentences.  As the oldest two got to be about seven or eight years old, they started keeping their own journals, but these first, early journals have been priceless. 

Not many people can say they have journals going back to when they were two years old. 

My younger daughter loves it so much that she asks to write in her journal almost constantly.  She just turned five and already has 29 single spaced pages written. 

As they get older, sometimes the kids will ask why they should keep journals, and then I just pull up these files and we look up whatever they wrote around this time of year throughout their lives.  Two days ago, my oldest son went back and looked up his thoughts about a Jimmy Neutron costume he wore five years ago. 

It’s because of these journals that I know what my oldest daughter, now 12, was thinking about on Saturday, October 20, 2001, when we started doing this: “Today I don’t feel good.  My tummy hurts.  I love to go swimming.  I love my Ellie.”

2 comments on “Journals For Little Kids

  1. Hi, thanks to Ardis’ link here I read this and thought it was a really good idea. Yesterday we went to the bookstore and I let each of my kids (2 preschool-age kids) pick out a journal. (one happened to be on sale from $16 to $4–woohoo!) We did just one page for each. My husband read them and was tearing up and laughing at how perfectly it captured what is in their little heads.

    I didn’t catch or didn’t remember from the first read-through that you were doing this typing instead of written. I like the idea of a tangible item, but I hate my own handwriting, it seems like a shame to have their thoughts in my handwriting! Also I can type faster than write. Hm. I guess since we have the journals and they love them, there’s no changing now.

    For the really little ones, what do you say/ask to get them going? Or do they not need a prompt after a while? I asked simply “What do you want to talk about?” to try to be minimally impacting the outcome, but that still altered the response. For both kids they responded with just a single noun. Then proceeded with full sentences describing that thing. Anyway, it’s fine but just wondering if in your experience you have some more thoughts on the writing prompt.

    Thanks for this idea.

  2. Cynthia, I generally do ask them what’s on their mind, but that yields little until they’re older and more experienced. As toddlers and preschoolers, they need to be asked about what did they do today or yesterday that they liked or didn’t like. I’ll ask even more leading questions if needed–“What did you do at the birthday party that was fun?” if they don’t bring it up first. I’ll also periodically ask about their favorite games, foods, family activities, friends, etc. You’re right, for answers to be memorable, they need to be open ended, e.g. “What are some of the things you like about your new primary class?” or “If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for? Why?”

    After each entry, I also give the kids a chance to type whatever they want: the young ones now like to peck out the alphabet and then just hit random keys for a minute and pretend they’re typing. It makes the whole thing more fun for them, and makes for interesting looking journals.

    That reminds me: at the end of each year, we do a “family journal,” where everybody who can write answers these on a paper, and those who can only talk get help from Mom and Dad; these become fun to look back on in the future as a whole group:

    1. Three words that describe me are

    2. My favorite memory is

    3. The best thing about 2008 has been

    4. The worst thing about 2008 has been

    5. My favorite thing about church is

    6. The funniest thing in the world is

    7. My biggest goal in life is to

    8. My favorite movie is ________________

    9. My favorite thing about my family is

    10. Three things that always make me happy are

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