Beyond the Day: The Importance of Journaling for Children (and Young Adults)

Journaling in and of itself has its benefits, but even more, are its perks if started early.

On the evening of the Standard 4 overnight school trip, my mother came to my bedroom and handed me a pink glittered notebook. “Use this. Write about the things you see, the things you think about.. make notes about what you need so you won’t forget. Always travel with a book.”

A close second to her morning prayers, journaling was the greatest gift my mother gave to me. She taught me the art of “traveling with a book”, always having a place to write as I go through the journey that is life. It’s a practice that I have continued with faithfully for close to two decades, and though in some seasons it has been less present than others, journaling is the gift that keeps on giving. I cannot think of a time when I didn’t journal (I started when I was 9), and having a private notebook acted as a sanctuary for me in the midst of the turbulence that was puberty (LOL). It took me through the indecisiveness of my young adulthood and still keeps me focused as a young professional. Journaling has allowed me to be more intentional about cultivating emotional awareness, curiosity, and mental clarity, and if I could change anything about my journaling, it would be the regularity, and how early I started (should have been earlier!)

A journal idea for mothers and daughters is a shared journal, which works great for building relationships while doing life together :)

Journaling articulates

Taking time off of one’s day to recapture how it went and reflect on the day allows a child to take an inventory of what they observe, feel, think and experience for themselves. As a child, I found that I was able to coherently articulate my emotional needs and express what I was thinking. Journaling goes a long way in fostering communication skills that set children apart in the long-term. A coherent child can clearly express their needs, articulate boundaries, and ask questions, all of which are helpful when building relationships with family and friends. Being able to understand themselves, their thoughts and their feelings builds confidence and autonomy that will serve them, even as adults.

Journaling cultivates

Journaling also improves general writing skills, as regular journaling helps children improve their spelling and attention to detail. As children get older, journaling can be a wonderful tool for developing arguments and logically expressing them, especially when journaling is infused with a reading routine. Engaging with difficult text, and rewriting reflections enables teenagers and young adults to master the art of engaging in critical thought and reflection.

Journaling creates

Journaling, especially when using storytelling forms such as story prompts that guide the exercise, allows children to activate their imagination. It allows children to rationalize something that has happened, assess it and share different perspectives. Encouraging this, no matter how unrealistic and disjointed the stories are, can do wonders for a child’s imagination and creative confidence. As children get older, this skill comes in handy, allowing them to freely exercise the art of solving complex problems in a creative manner.

If a child can write, a child can journal. There are plenty of ways to make it a habit, but here’s a place to start:

1. Have regular journaling time.

Find a time when your child is fairly alert and keep it consistent. You can start a few days of the week, and for shorter periods of time (5 minutes), and build the regularity over time.

2. Use prompts before it becomes a habit.

The writer’s block is real, especially if journaling is new, and for children, this isn’t any different. I’ve included some basic journaling prompts for each age group here.

3. Make it enjoyable!

Find a colorful journal for your child, take them out to buy their own stationery, incorporate colored pencils, paint and paper, and making an enjoyable process for them.

P.S For parents with illiterate toddlers (lol)😊 — If you’re eager and willing to start really early, you could consider answering prompting questions during bedtime, and using your phone to record the answers.

A 10-minute break to journal regularly goes a long way for children and adults alike. And the best part of it all is, it’s never too late to start.

NB: The journals posted here can be found at Papaya Kenya, a Kenyan-owned online stationery brand. You can find them on @papaya.ke on Instagram.

Educator. Founder at The Learners’ Club. Harvard ‘19