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 and pre-writing skills by starting a journal with your preschooler. Preschool journal ideas include methods for recording thoughts and feelings without writing 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 success.
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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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. Using the writing/scribbling medium of choice, he uses the color to write/scribble on the journal page.
As they write/scribble, ask your child to describe to you why the day was blue (for example). In this manner, the child is learning how to narrate their own story, develop self-reflection, and give voice to their thoughts and emotions.
You can even record your child's thoughts, either by jotting them down in your own journal, 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 and drawing stands on their 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 can not only use color to represent mood, they can use action words like "buzzy" or "drag" to inspire how they move their pen or crayon. 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 or force the issue. And if your child doesn't feel like talking one day, let them scribble however they want.
Make 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 up to you. 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!
Use A Variety of Writing Materials
Don't pressure your child to move beyond scribbling. Scribbling is also very important for developing pre-writing and pre-reading skills.
Using different types of writing implements and materials increases the variety of sensory experiences, so I like to mix things up during our journaling sessions. I include:
- Stubby crayons with the paper removed. Using a short crayon requires a stronger pincer grasp than using a long one.
- Colored pencils. They require more pressure than markers.
- Markers. Ink provides a satisfying saturated color, but mix up the size: include both fat and skinny pens.
- Oil and chalk pastels with paper removed. Pastels' textures offer a new sensory experience.
- Stickers. Peeling stickers off the backing takes work and feeling the sticky side adds in a bit of sensory fun. Tape is also a great tool. Check out this tape art journal page my son made.
- Writing tools with triangular barrels. The unusual shape encourages children to use the correct pincer grasp.
Name Your Journals
Have your preschooler pick a name for their journal. Call it a "Thoughts Book," or a "Mood Book," or some other fun title. For now, we call ours the "Writing Book." 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 his journal plage before I do, but I do get a few extra minutes of writing in and it feels good.
I HIGHLY recommend this fantastic book for playful ideas to get your kids to love writing: