Sharon Katz Cooper
Keeping a journal is a personal and exhilarating thing to do. For children, it allows them to practice expressing their thoughts, feelings and observations in writing. Keeping a shared journal with your child can both encourage writing and also provide a cherished family activity. It is fun to have a joint project to explore and talk about. Creating a shared journal with your children will also provide a priceless record of a particular time in their lives. If you are thoughtful about what goes into it, you will have a very personal scrapbook of everyday life that you will be able to refer back to for years to come. It’s easy, creative, and provides time for reflection about the day’s or week’s events. This activity is best suited for children ages 7-12.
What You Need…
• A notebook to use as a journal, one per child
• Pens, pencils, magic markers
• Construction paper, glue, stickers, old magazines, and other art materials
What to Do…
1. Pick out a notebook together at an office supply or stationery store. Having your child pick out his or her journal will make it really feel like their own.
2. Choose a time when you can decorate the cover together. Feel free to use construction paper, stickers, and materials from nature (pressed flowers, pine needles, etc.). Be as creative as you want to be!
3. Start the journal by recording your child’s name and the date and time on the inside cover. Ask your child to write a paragraph or two describing the day’s weather, what she sees outside, and how she feels that day. Then you can take your turn writing about what else you did that day.
4. Take turns writing questions or notes to each other each day (or however often time allows) and then leaving the journal in a designated spot. Some ideas for writing starters include:
• What was your favorite part of the day? Why?
• What are you most thankful for this week?
• Describe something interesting you saw today.
• Describe the most interesting person you talked to in the last week.
• What was the nicest thing someone has ever said to you?
• Look outside. What do you notice that you never noticed before?
• What is your favorite memory of last winter?
• What are you most looking forward to in the next week (or month)?
• Describe an interesting conversation you had recently.
• What is your favorite animal? Why?
5. When each of you answers a question in the journal, place it in a different spot, so each person knows when it is her turn. Take turns writing back and forth to each other.
6. Be sure to encourage your child to illustrate her writing with drawings, stickers, or pictures cut from older magazines. You can also illustrate your own entries. If you have time, take photos of people and things related to your writing and include them in the journal with your entry.
7. Every few weeks, set aside time when you and your child can sit together and go through the entries, commenting on what both you and your child wrote. Take a photo of the two of you and paste it into the journal, with the date.
This Helps Develop. . .
Cognitive skills – the mental process of knowing by developing awareness, perception and reasoning.
Writing descriptions of observations and thoughts is extremely helpful in focusing awareness and sharpening perception skills.
Fine motor skills – the use of small muscle movements in the hands that occur in coordination with the eyes.
Writing and drawing provide practice in fine motor skills.
Language – the expressive ability to communicate ideas and needs, and the receptive ability to understand what is said or written.
Encouraging your child to write about thoughts, feelings and observations is an essential skill that building language ability and writing skills – both of which will carry through to all areas of life.
Social emotional development involves a child’s feelings of self worth and confidence.
Sharing a journal together and making the time to talk about it will build children’s feelings of self-confidence, empowerment, and general thoughtfulness and also strengthen the parent-child bond as you share with one another. v
Looking to experience Hand On Science activities right here in our own area? Visit www.TheChildrensScienceCenter.org, where you and your children can “Explore, Create, Inspire.” The Children’s Science Center (CSC) is committed to building a place where children can grow in their love of learning. Sharon Katz Cooper is an educator and freelance writer in Fairfax. She is a volunteer with CSC.