Lots of parents want their kids to get a head start on their literacy and writing skills, but it's a mistake to force formal writing during the early years. However, you can encourage early "writing" skills by starting a journal with your preschooler. Preschool journaling doesn't not have to include actual letters, words or sentences!
All my life I have been a diarist but–surprise, surprise–since having kids, I have been unable to keep up with my journaling as I would like. I thought that introducing the concept of preschool journaling might be just the ticket to get me back in the game and have my son practice those all important fine motor skills necessary for future handwriting.
I was delighted to discover a very easy way to start a journal with my preschooler! Now we could journal together. Win-win.
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The Preschool Journal Inspiration
The author of The Write Start: A Guide to Nurturing Writing at Every Stage, from Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories suggests using colors as a way to inspire a child to scribble in a journal.
The idea is that you ask your child, "What color was your day?" and then the child chooses a color. Since at this age, the child is a pre-writer, he or she can narrate to you why the day was blue (for example).
You can even record your child's thoughts, either by jotting them down or with an audio recording. (A video recording will be too distracting for most children.) If your write your child's thoughts, I suggest doing so on a separate paper so your child's scribbles/drawing stands on its own.
A great children's picture book to help explain this concept is Dr. Seuss' My Many Colored Days. The book compares moods and days to different colors and actions of animals. For example, "Then comes a Yellow Day and I am a busy, buzzy bee." Or, "On Purple Days I'm sad, I groan, I drag my tail."
A preschooler could use a color to represent the mood, and perhaps even action words like "buzzy" or "drag" could inspire how he moved his pen. Fast for buzzy, or slow for drag, or hopping around the page for happy. You get the idea.
The important thing is to let the child choose and be inspired. Don't suggest. And if your child doesn't feel like talking one day, let them scribble whatever they want.
Making the Journal Part of a Routine
The key to success is to journal with your preschooler as part of a predictable routine. Whether you choose to do it in the morning, or after lunch or in the evening is not important. Pick a convenient time to journal–or to scribble–that you know you can stick with. If you miss a day or two, don't beat yourself up. Just get back to it. Pretty soon you might find your child is reminding you, "It's journaling time, mommy!"
We tend to have quite moments in the late morning so that is when the two of us get out our journals. So far it has been working!
Name Your Journals
You can also pick a name for your journals. Call it a "Thoughts Book," or a "Mood Book," or some other fun title. For now we call ours the "Writing Book" (not very creative, I know). I explained to my son that I use my journal to record my activities and thoughts about each day but that he can "write or draw" whatever he wants. I'm always sure to write the date on each page so we can track his progress.
My son, of course, always finishes before I do, but I do get a few extra minutes of writing in and it feels good.
More preschool journaling inspiration:
- How to use a journal to help fine motor skills
- Journals for kids - that promote self-awareness
- Ideas for starting creative art and writing journals for kids
- 15 Incredibly Easy Drawing Ideas for Kids
I HIGHLY recommend this fantastic book for playful ideas to get your kids to love writing:
This post first published in 2008.
What a cool idea. CJ has never been one to just sit and draw (or even scribble) so I'd like to see what she'd do with this. We have the Dr. Seuss book you mentioned, so I think I'll start with that. Glad you got some journaling time in- I'd love to start doing that again someday myself.
i have many of these from my boys’ early days. :^) lightly written in pencil on the back of the pages are transcriptions of what they said they had written (or drew) -- so sweet, so funny. :^)
I recently bought my 4 yr old daughter a diary, she wanted one with a lock! I tell her to draw pictures of her feelings that day such as happy, sad, excited or try practicing her letters. She doesn't want me peeking at her diary and that's ok with me:) I used to have diaries from probably 5th grade till I was 20 yrs old I wish I still had them because I threw them away long ago
Erica MomandKiddo says
Oh no! Don't let your daughter throw hers away. 🙂
I agree that making it part of every day is the key. I am also a lifelong diarist, since my second grade Hello Kitty locked set! I gave that copy to my mom as an adult after ripping out any pages that said she was too mean. Haha. Anyway, I was wondering what a preschool journal would look like for my toddler. She'll be ready in a couple months. Right now, her art projects will have to suffice. Thanks for this!
Erica MomandKiddo says
My first diary was also a Hello Kitty locked diary! 🙂
Dani Wagner says
This is amazing. My 3 year old will love this but I think one of my 18 month old twins will as well. Journaling is such an important skill and this is such a fun idea. Thank you so much for sharing.
Ivorye Riesterer says
On 5/18/18, one of my early four year old students shared with me she wanted to keep a "book a ABC book, like her sister (a big school student)." Further, she said, "I want the pages together - like a book - not a big writing book (composition book, maybe, (?), not printer paper stamped (stapled) together but a book." In the classroom we found what she did not want - composition books, tablet paper, printer paper (torn in 1/2, stapled at the sides) but nothing she wanted. I will assemble this book show it to her and see her reaction...Thank you, Mrs. Ivr
Pat Jansen says
I keep a journal for my granddaughter and this is a great introduction for her to do the same thing.