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5 Top Tips for Journalling with Kids

I’m tired of glossy, re-touched, plastic, overdubbed, laughtracked, advertised experience. I want crude – straight from the soul.’

Hannah Hichman

What is journalling, if not straight from the soul? That experience of one person and a blank page and the liberty to fill it in any way whatsoever. I don’t know how long I’ve been journalling for. As long as I can remember, that much is sure. I have boxes filled to bursting with my childhood enthusiasms, teenage travails, travelling in my twenties and motherhood ponderings and more in my thirties. And yes, I still write a diary – though considerably less these days, it can’t be denied, what with blogging and all 😉

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One of my 9 year old diaries, kept on a very exciting family holiday we took to….Kenya!

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Flowers I pressed in this  diary – still standing the test of time thirty years on.

But how to pass this enthusiasm for recording these special, troubling and significant moments in life on to my children? I got into journalling with them in a big way this summer, particularly since they missed quite a lot of school and I wanted these non-school days to have some kind of structure, no matter how small.

I hope you find these 5 journalling with kids tips helpful and that you and your children really ENJOY it – after all, that’s what it’s all about.

1. BUY A BRILLIANT BOOK FOR THEM TO WRITE IN – Make sure your kids  are with you when you get this. For many children, it’s all about the book! So they need to love it; to be proud of carrying it around and what they put in it. If they enjoy doing this kind of thing, you can just buy a blank book and let them cut and stick fun pictures on the front. Or buy them a High School Musical notebook. Yes, even if you hate High School Musical. My elder daughter loves Jacqueline Wilson and we found this book for her which was a winner:IMG_4102

2. IF THEY WANT TO DRAW INSTEAD OF WRITE, THAT’S FINE

The key is not to be prescriptive. This is their special book, belonging to them only. If they want to write vertically, not horizontally, no problem. If they want to make it more like a scrapbook, sticking in postcards and cinema tickets, fine. If they want to draw pictures, fine. If they don’t even want to write a single word but simply stick, draw and cover with sequins, fine. You don’t know what this may lead to the next time.

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My elder daughter’s  jumble of words, patterns & a stuck-in strip of icecreams

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A page from my younger daughter’s  diary after an exciting day of her brother and sister getting roller-blades for their birthdays

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On 29 July, she ‘plad the recorder.’ Love it. Speaking of which…

3. DON’T EVEN CONSIDER CORRECTING MISTAKES

Really. I know this can be hard when you are standing over them and watch them write ‘happee’ for the umpteenth time. But there is nothing more dampening to a child’s enthusiasm of journal keeping than an external censor who is constantly pointing out when things are less than ‘perfect’. If they are requesting help with spelling etc, that’s another matter entirely.

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Danny Gregory

4. DON’T WAIT FOR THE HOLIDAYS TO START

As they say, there’s no time like the present. The journal doesn’t have to contain WOW moments, the zooming in on everyday moments is often just as good; in fact, quite often better, as this may open the magic door to many of those ‘feeling’ insights as well as simply a list of events. Just provide the book, a pen or pencil, some crayons and stickers…whatever your child wants to get started, and off you go.

5. FOR IDEAS & INSPIRATION, BUY ONE (OR BOTH) OF THESE BRILLIANT BOOKS

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How to make a journal of your life by Dan Price is a little gem. ‘Has your intuition been telling you to get an empty journal and begin filling it with all the interesting events of your life?’ he writes in the introduction. ‘Well, time is racing by. All those neat things that happened just last week have quickly become your past. Lost in all that white noise of our fast paced, modern lifestyles. So why not begin a new journey today? Find a nice empty book and start what could be the most fascinating and fulfilling activity of your entire life.’

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Whilst this may be a book written for adults, it can very easily be converted to children as Price takes us on a journey of rubber stamping, listening to our voices,breaking old habits and photo booths.

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The Creative License comes from Danny Gregory as a clarion call against the ‘But I’m just not creative’ syndrome. The more we replay this story in our heads the more we will remain walking down those same old habitual pathways, afraid to believe, afraid to dare or give yourself the ‘permission to be the artist you truly are’ as Gregory puts it.

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What this book is about is IDEAS to get you and your child started on your journalling adventure (Note I include ‘You’ here, for one never knows how inspired you also may feel to grab a book and pen after watching your child give it a go.) There is a fantastic chapter on journalling and how to make creativity into a habit. He cites that a journal can be the following:

Compact & portable

Personal

Useful

Cumulative

Familiar

Left Brain. Right Brain

A gateway

An art form

A meditation

Private or public

Forgiving.

Forgiving. I love that. It’s true of course, because whereas people around us continually judge, a diary never will. Once a child cottons on to this in a quiet, wordless yet deeply profound way, you may just find them going to their journal on their own, without you saying a word. They may take it to their room, lock it in a secret box (which you must never peek inside) or scramble up to the highest branch of the tree in the garden, look down at the vast, mysterious world beneath them, and start writing.

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I would love to hear if anyone out there has experience or ideas about journal writing with kids. In the meantime, let’s get scribbling.

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