Journaling with Kids

I first started keeping a journal with TRC when he was about four and a half years old. I write a journal every day myself, and I thought it would be a fun way to keep track of what he was doing and how he was changing. The process was simple: I’d have him stand or sit next to me and dictate what he wanted to write, and I’d transcribe it as close to exactly how he said it as I could. Here’s the first entry.

January 3, 2009 This week I’m going back to preschool. That’s happening to me. Also we’ll have a story in my journal. It has very scary things. There are so many ghosts that scare me, and there’s one that says this kind of boo: “moo!” That’s a pretty funny thing, right? I did my workbook today. I did A, a and B. You first come the easy things that you color the letters, and you do what it says to do and color up the letters. That’s what comes first. I am four and a half years old now. My favorite color is purple. I like to do my work.

I’ve continued the tradition with DC, and it’s interesting to see their different approaches to things. TRC loved telling zany stories and saying funny things. DC likes to document exactly what she’s doing at any given moment. I haven’t started one for MC yet, but I will pretty soon.

Of course, these days TRC is in charge of his journal writing himself, and it doesn’t go quite as smoothly all of the time. I’ve wondered now and then why I keep pushing him to do it. The main reason is that I’ve enjoyed being able to look back at my own journal entries from when I was younger, and I wish I’d written more than what I did. But I realize that’s not a fair approach. He shouldn’t have to do things just because I didn’t so them the way I wanted to the first time through. And so I’d considered just backing off completely.

But last night, he got out his journal and spent some time reading his earlier entries and just cracking up. He thought they were hilarious, and he had a great time reading them. So at least I know he’s getting some of the same enjoyment from them that I do.

If any of you are thinking about doing the same thing, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Once a week is about as often as I’d go for entries. The times that have worked the best are when we got in a habit of doing it every week at the same time. Habit is good.
  • If you miss an entry, don’t stress about it. But if you really believe in this, you have to stick with it. Almost all of the motivation is going to come from you, not your kid. Accept that.
  • I store mine on Google Drive, mainly because it’s accessible wherever I am, whenever I want. (Also, yay for backups!)
  • You have to remind your kid to speak slow enough for you to type things down. I guess you could also record it and transcribe it later if you’re a slow typist.
  • Do your best not to interfere with what they’re saying or how they’re saying it. This isn’t your journal; it’s theirs.
  • You might have to prompt them now and then to get their memories working. Try to do so sparingly, because again, you want to capture what was important to them. Not what was important to you.

I’m definitely glad to have it, and I recommend the practice to anyone. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them.

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