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How to Get Kids to Love Journals and Journaling

by Jacki Andre August 13, 2018

How to Get Kids to Love Journals and Journaling

Dear Sparkly Unicorn Friends,

Hands UP if you had a personal diary or a writing journal when you were a kid.


I suspect that if you’re reading this, you did too. Amirite? If I am, drop me a comment below and tell me all about it.

I started with my Judy Blume Diary when I was 12, and moved onto my Sweet Dreams Diary the next year. But when I was 14, my mom bought me a regular diary. #oops

It was one of those small jobbies, with a beige leatherette cover and a brass-tone lock and key. Those lockable diaries are pretty much a rite of passage for preteen/teen girls. (And I believe it is also a rite of passage for moms and big brothers to pick those diaries open with bobby pins.) But I didn’t like the page-a-day format. I didn’t always have stuff to write. And when I did, I usually had too much stuff to write, and so I just avoided writing at all. Instead, I haphazardly pasted in stickers, occasionally penned apologies for not writing more, and painstakingly listed what I got for Christmas. (My haul included an Adidas sweatband. Hey, it was 1985. ‘Nuff said.)

And, that, my sparklies, sort of sums up everything you need to know about kids and personal journals.

Let the Kid Choose

It’s important for kids to like their journals. If they don’t like them, they just won’t use them. #beigeleatherettediary

People encourage journaling by saying: “You don’t need anything fancy. You just need paper and a pen.” And that’s true. But it’s also a bit of bunk, isn’t it? We adults have our Leuchtturm1917 journals (dotted, thank you very much, NOT lined or blank) or ones with beautiful covers that speak to us. We have cups and cases crammed full of Tombows and Sakura Microns and Mildliners. And let’s not even get started on the washi tape addictions, shall we?

Kids should feel the same kind of joy and excitement over their own journaling supplies. Let them pick out their own personal journal. If they can’t find a cover that speaks to them, they can always decorate one with stickers, decals, or original artwork. Make sure the page design works for them as well. Younger kids, in particular, need lines for writing.

Let kids try out pens at a stationery store and buy a special pen or two, too. (Look at it this way: at least then they’ll keep their paws off yours.)

Let the Kid Conceptualize

I’m fond of saying that your journal can be anything you want it to be. Unless you Bullet Journal® (Bujo), there are no rules. And even then, the rules are made to be flexible. So, why not encourage kids to be creative in their journals? A journal can be used for #allthethings

  • Artwork. As Kate over at Picklebums points out, having all your kid’s drawings and paintings in one handy-dandy location is awesomesauce. And it's also pretty cool to be able to flip through a book filled with your kid's art.
  • Scrapbook. Most kids are collectors at heart. Lots of those collections can go in a journal. Stickers, feathers, leaves and dried flowers, comic strips, photos of book covers they’ve read, and ephemera can all be pasted into a journal. Other kinds of collections can be listed Bujo-style, like My Little Pony® and Lego® sets, dinosaur facts, and video game levels achieved.
  • Writing. Journals are a terrific way for kids to develop writing skills and literacy. At school, kids are given writing exercises that may not resonate with them. As well, the marks they receive due to grammatical errors may leave them feeling discouraged. Lined journals give kids the freedom to truly explore what writing is all about.
  • Printables. Why have your kid labor over things like creating a neat calendar when it’s easy to print one off and glue it in? If any aspect of keeping a journal feels like a chore, kids probably won’t stick with it.
  • Bujo. You betcha. Kids can Bujo too. Lots of kids are natural list keepers. I kept lists of my Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden collections as well as gifts (purchased and received). Other kid-centric listables include movies and t.v. shows to watch, chores to do to earn money, reading challenges, science experiments, savings (especially if they have a goal in mind), and gratitude. Blog pieces at Neta Marie Designs and Smart Mom Smart Ideas have excellent tips about Bujoing for kids. Check ‘em out!

Let the Kid Have Privacy

Journals can be fun, but their real value is in the safe space they provide. Adults often use journals as a place to vent. Kids deserve to have that same kind of safe space. Many of us start journaling as middle-schoolers precisely because we need to work through the new feelings and situations that burgeoning adulthood is throwing at us. Make sure your kids know that their journals are sacrosanct so that they can express themselves freely.

For more ideas, check out this flip through of a kid's journal by JiGi Fabulous on YouTube.

If you know a kid who journals, ask them for their top tips and share those below in the comments. I’d love to hear from them!

Photo is author's own.

Jacki Andre
Jacki Andre

Jacki Andre has been journaling for over 30 years and still has her jam-packed Judy Blume Diary to prove it. Somewhere along the way, she started writing for reals, and is now a published author and Huffington Post blogger. In her spare time, Jacki supports dog rescue, advocates for disability rights, and educates other drivers via hand gestures about the importance of using turn signals. She keeps in shape by chasing joy (and her ‘80s teen idols) in earnest.

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