When reading articles about wellness and mindfulness, one of the common suggestions you’ll see is keeping a journal. When your mind is racing with thoughts in the middle of the night, the best way to clear your thoughts is to write them down. When you need a place to vent frustrations, you have a private space to share what you’re thinking about. When you want to record happy memories and feelings, the journal works for that too.
Many adults start journaling and wish they had started the habit earlier, so the question comes up—how do you get kids to start journaling when they are younger? We’ve put together this guide that covers the benefits of stating this habit younger, plus a long list of journal prompts for kids of all ages. From elementary school kids that might start with some crayons and stickers to high school kids who are preparing for the next chapter of life, we’ve got something for everyone.
What is Journaling?
Journaling is the simple act of writing about life in a space that is personal and private. No two journals are the same because no two people are the same. You may write your secrets or dreams for the future or you may vent anger and frustrations about things that have happened, but your journal is a place to process emotions.
Journal vs. Diary: What’s the Difference?
You’re probably familiar with a diary. Often, the two terms are interchangeable, but it is not always. A diary, for many people, is a log of things that happened each day. Journaling can be done in many areas of life and isn’t as much of a chronological log of events. Keeping a diary is a good place to start a new habit, but it should be able to grow in time to include more than just daily observations.
The Benefits of Journaling for Kids
Journaling has many benefits for young children and isn’t something you need to wait until you’re an adult to take advantage of. There are a few incredible benefits to getting kids into journaling early. Whether they are in a traditional classroom or homeschooled, this is something that is separate from school and should be done for personal enjoyment.
Improves Writing Skills
Writing is an important form of communication throughout life, so it’s good to have a strong foundation. Practice helps improve your skills, so by having a daily habit of writing in a journal, your child will already be practicing. This will help improve performance at school as well. Another skill that will improve is handwriting. Good penmanship is something that comes with practice, so having a journal gives kids a simple place to practice.
Impacts Reading Comprehension
Reading and writing go hand in hand, so any writing improvements will also improve reading skills. By following prompts, children are encouraged to learn new vocabulary and put it to use in their writing which makes it easier to retain those new words. Rereading the entries they’ve written in the past will also help them locate errors and learn from those mistakes going forward.
Encourages Creativity and Expression
Creativity is developed in many ways including writing. By having journal prompts to think about, you’re helping your kids with problem-solving as they think about what they want to write down. It also gives them a healthy form of expression and outlet for their feelings. When having to make a big decision or handle a tough situation, it can help to write down thoughts as they pop into your head and help gain a little more clarity.
Develops Emotional Intelligence
Feelings and emotions can be hard to understand for younger kids. A journal can be a good place to name your feelings about a certain situation. It’s also good to reflect on things that have happened and work to see things from someone else’s point of view or perspective. When you’re able to define feelings, you’re improving your emotional literacy, and that can start when kids are very young.
How to Help Kids Start Using a Journal
Building a daily journal habit is easy when you’re an adult because you can set reminders on whatever calendar apps you use and track your progress. You can do the same for your kids. Make it a family affair and set time aside each day for journaling. You can all follow the same prompts or just spend some quiet time together where each person has their journal out.
Don’t set too many rules about what goes in the journal. Some days, the words will flow easier than others. You want the experience to be fun and not feel like a chore. Incorporate stickers, colorful pens, and anything else that your child is inspired to include. Let them know that it’s their private space (unless you are purposely doing a shared journal) so they feel comfortable putting whatever is on their mind onto the paper.
Lastly, encourage reflection time where kids return to the things they’ve written in the past. They can even write down reactions to past journal entries to see how their feelings about a situation or moment have changed with time. It’s good practice to process your emotions before reacting whenever possible.
Types of Journals
When looking for journal ideas for your child, there are different types of journals that you can find to help get started. You can find all these journal options at local bookstores, if you want to be able to look at them before deciding, or on Amazon. It’s recommended to let your child be involved in the process, so ask them to pick something out. There are many options, but these are a few of the most popular to help you get started.
About Me Journal
Some great beginner journals have a collection of prompts already populated in the journal with simple questions like, “What’s your favorite toy?” It will feel more like completing a book full of worksheets, but it’s a good way to practice writing and have something to look back at and see what has changed over time.
This is a good way to jump in and start reflecting positively on things that have happened. Expressing gratitude is such a mood booster and starting that habit early on for kids will set them up for success in the future.
Science and Nature Journals
If you have a child that loves being outside, consider starting with a nature journal and encouraging them to document things they see or want to see. They can doodle plants and animals or keep track of the birds or flowers growing to get in the habit of carrying the journal with them.
One Question a Day Journal
One of the most popular journals for beginners is the One Question a Day journals. Each day, there is a question to answer and five writing sections. You can fill it out for the next five years each day and see how answers change over time. You’ll also have a large collection of journal prompts for the future to look back at as well.
Shared Journal with Parents
Some journals come with spaces for two people to write things down. These are fun especially for younger kids because you can make it a special activity that you do together. These make great keepsakes for later in life.
Technology has come so far and many kids are spending more and more on tablets and phones now. There are digital notebooks that allow kids to use a pen to make notes on a tablet and it’s saved just like a paper notebook. It is completely up to you if you want to utilize something like that. Paper works best for some people, especially with little kids, but some prefer having no paper around and want things to be locked away behind a password online.
Journal Prompts for Kids
Sometimes, staring at a blank page is discouraging and you have no idea where to start. Journal prompts can be a huge help. These are simply questions and writing ideas to get the creativity flowing. We’ve got a good number to help your child get started.
Basic Journal Writing Prompts to Get Started
This first list can be done at any age, even elementary school ages. Starting with simple questions can help create a habit that can be built upon over time.
- Describe the coolest thing you learned or did this school year. Was there a special field trip or a project you worked extra hard at and were proud of?
- Who is a grown-up outside of your family that you admire and why?
- What is your favorite TV show? Would you switch places with your favorite character from that show?
- What are your favorite animals? Have you ever seen them in person?
- Write down your favorite foods. What would be the perfect day of food for you—breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks?
- Write about something nice you’ve done for someone else. How did it make you feel?
- What is your favorite hobby or favorite sport? Which sport or hobby would you want to do as a job when you grow up?
- Do you have a favorite season? Is there any weather that you don’t have at home but you wish you did?
- What is your favorite movie? Which character do you like best and why?
- Who are your best friends? What do you like about them?
- Are you afraid of anything?
- If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you pick? What would you name it?
- Would you rather questions are also popular to get kids thinking. If you use these, make sure to ask why they picked a specific answer to encourage them to elaborate.
Fun Writing Prompts for Younger Kids
Once you’ve tried out some of the simple about me type prompts, you can introduce more creative writing prompts for kids. These options will require a little more thinking, but are still good for most ages.
- Describe your perfect summer vacation. Where would you go? What would you do?
- Imagine you’re stuck on a deserted island. What are the five things you would want with you to make it more comfortable and fun?
- Which video game would you want to be stuck in? You would have to complete the challenges just like you’re planning the game. What do you think would be the hardest thing to deal with?
- Design the ultimate treehouse. You can draw a picture of it and describe the features you would include and how you would make them.
- If you could describe a perfect day in your life, what would it look like? List out the things that you would do, who you would see, and even details like the weather. Have you ever had a day like this?
- Pretend you’ve got access to a time machine. Where are you going? What do you think you’ll see when you get there? Pick a time in the past and one in the future.
- What are the three best superpowers to have? If you were a superhero, how would you use your powers?
- Describe what the ocean looks like to someone who cannot see it.
- Make a list of the top five places you want to visit in the world and what you want to see when you get there.
- What is the best vacation you’ve taken with your family? What was the best part of the vacation?
- Think about your funniest memory. Has there been a time that you laughed so hard that your belly hurt?
- If you could add something to your yard to make it more fun for you and your family and friends, what would it be? A pool? A trampoline? A sports court? Get creative.
Set Up Story Starters
You can also try some story starters. These are simple sentences that you build off of. You can find free printable lists online to give you some ideas. It helps set up a scene and then the child’s imagination can run wild and they can write down what pops into their heads. Get inspired by one of these examples below.
- There was a knock at the door in the middle of the night. When I peered out the window to see who was there, I saw a man wearing a wizard hat and holding a wand…
- When ordering pizza last Friday, I knew something was a little off with the person who delivered it. The pizza tasted normal, but I woke up the next day and looked in the mirror and…
- My dog was picked for a role in the new Marvel movie. When I brought him to set the first day, the craziest thing happened…
- The first time my parents ever trusted me to stay home alone and babysit my little sister was the night the great blackout of the century happened…
- I was only five minutes past my curfew, but it didn’t matter, I had broken the rules. My parents had my bags packed and I was off to boarding school…
- It all started the day I got an email from someone saying that they were my twin sister…
- I also dreamed about being able to live under the water with the fish. I never thought it could become a reality until…
- We spent two years on the campaign trail flying from state to state, but I still wasn’t prepared for inauguration day when I realized that I would be living in the White House…
Self-Reflection Journal Prompts
Middle school kids can start to dig a little deeper into emotions and self-reflection. If there is already a habit there, you can introduce them to some journal prompts that require a little more emotional intelligence.
- Which family member are you closest with? What do you love about that person? Have you ever shared your feelings with them?
- What is the earliest memory you have? Can you describe it in detail? Why do you think you can remember that moment?
- What is your favorite place to relax? What about that spot makes it comfortable?
- Who is a movie character that you can relate to? Is there any specific character that you think is similar to you?
- Are there any moments that you wish you could forget?
- Share your favorite holiday tradition. Do your friends have any traditions that you wish your family did as well? What holiday traditions will you keep doing even after you are a grown-up?
- Write a thank-you note to your best friend and share a few things they have done for you that you appreciate.
- Write a letter to someone that has not been kind to you and tell them why you were hurt.
- What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had? Describe what you remember in detail.
- Which animal would best describe you and each of your closest friends? Explain why you picked each one.
Deeper Ideas and Journal Prompts for Older Kids
Once kids reach high school, they are experiencing emotions in a new way and starting to deal with bigger life challenges. Journaling will shift again and be an extremely helpful tool as they process the changes they are going through. It’s also a time in life filled with so many fun and wonderful moments, so having a place to document things will be fun to look back on as they grow up.
- What is the best gift you have ever received? What is the best gift you have ever given? If money were not an option, what is one thing you would like to give and to whom?
- Do you have a favorite book that you have thought about a lot since finishing it? Why do you think it’s stuck with you?
- Check the current trending topics on social media and share your thoughts on the first few.
- Share a poem or quote that you love and why.
- Who is an adult outside of your immediate family that has taught you the most? Write down some of the things they’ve taught you.
- What is your favorite thing about yourself? What do you wish you could change?
- If you are the main character in a movie, who is playing you? What major event in your life would be featured in the movie?
- What do you think your generation will change about the world?
- Do you believe in love at first sight?
- If you had to make a soundtrack of your life, what 15 songs would make the cut?
- List five things that you think are overrated and five underrated things.
- Do you think that the world is better today than it was 100 years ago? What do you wish had not changed?
Get Started with Journaling Today!
Let us know which prompts your kids liked the best or found the hardest to think about. Each personality will be different, so there will be differing opinions on each of the sections above. Just try to keep it consistent and encourage that time for self-reflection.
Need more inspiration? Check out these creative writing exercises for kids or any of our other journaling advice. And don’t forget that our Adventures From Scratch books include dedicated space to record your experiences as a family!
Frequently Asked Questions
To get children interested in journaling, discuss the types and let them pick out one they’ll want to write in. Then, to get them to use it, try some journal prompts for kids.
Once kids learn to write, they can start practicing written communication. Journal prompts for kids can help them get started and learn how to get their point across using words on paper.
If you’re gifting a journal to a teen, avoid diaries geared for younger kids and find something a bit more sophisticated. Find a hard-covered notebook that suits them, and include a set of pens.