Some of the world's brightest writers and thinkers kept journals, including Louisa May Alcott and Teddy Roosevelt. You can turn your child onto journaling, too. More than a collection of "What I did today…" compositions, journals can be tailored to each child's unique interests and personality.
There's no special purchase necessary – a spiral notebook or cloth-bound blank book will do. But get one big enough for lots of fun!
Here are six journals ideas that can be adapted for any age. Just remind your child to date all entries.
1) A Best Friends Journal is meant to be shared with one or more friends. Children of all ages will love taking turns writing silly thoughts, jokes, real or made up stories. Include photos, drawings, or self-portraits. Encourage writers and illustrators to take ownership by signing their entries. Tuck the Best Friends Journal into your child's backpack for get-togethers, sleepovers, or campouts.
2) The Nature Lover's Journal is a great way to develop your child's observational skills. She can record sightings of wildlife, the trail of an ant colony, notes about the weather, and the growth of a new pet.
3) Travel Journals are the perfect take-along for vacations and trips to Grandma's house. Encourage your child to write (or let them dictate) stories about the places you go and the things you do. Entries don't have to be long; they can be short observations, lists, or drawings – whatever will help your child remember the trip. Tape postcards or special event tickets onto the pages. Ask the people you meet for their autograph or to write something personal.
4) A Sports Journal will help your child keep track of their favorite teams and all those stats they love to talk about. Include newspaper or magazine photos, game ticket stubs, tables of wins and losses, and cool information about their favorite players.
5) An Illustrator's Journal (or Sketch Journal) is ideal for the child whose passion is drawing. A gentle reminder to label or title their drawings will go a long way. Illustrators might want to include a dialogue box or talk bubbles with their pictures. Younger children and older reluctant writers can dictate stories about their drawings to an adult to record.
6) Saturday Night Journal – this one is for the whole family. Gather together and record the best parts of the family's week. Add photos and memorabilia. Each family member can take a turn writing; the youngest ones can dictate to parents or older siblings and add a few words of their own. And of course, everyone can contribute to the illustrations! A family journal can help during the rough spots a family goes through together. It can be healing to record thoughts, memories, favorite stories, even poetry about sad events. Start a new journal each year. This is one you'll treasure forever.
In addition to good, old-fashioned language arts practice, journaling offers a chance for your child to express herself. And that's a habit that's never too young to start!