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How to Journal with Children

BY Ali
Co-Founder of The Positive Planner Ali McDowall talks about how to combat mental fatigue in lockdown

Why journaling is so important for children and how to get started


Mental Health in children is a subject that’s so close to my heart. It’s crucial that we as caregivers recognise that teaching our children the benefits of keeping healthy in mind and spirit can actually lay the foundations for the rest of their lives. Just as we teach them all other aspects of health such as moving our bodies and eating healthily, we must also teach them the importance of mental wellbeing and resilience so that they are prepared for the inevitable situations they will face. But how do we help our children stay healthy in mind and spirit? Well, one way is to journal with children.



Journaling is now widely recognised as a key tool in building and maintaining good mental health and wellbeing. Finn and I are utterly convinced of its benefits and there’s tonnes of research to back us up on this. What’s really fab is that journaling isn’t only good for us adults! There are just as many reasons for children to do it and the benefits are far-reaching. So why journal with children? And how do you even start? Let’s find out!


Why journal with children? What are the benefits?

If you’ve read our blog A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling, you’ll know that there are many reasons for us as adults to journal. Lots of these can be translated into benefits for children, but there are also some ways that children in particular can benefit from creating a regular habit. Here are some of them:


1: It helps a child deal with big feelings

Children, just like us adults, can find emotions tough. Little people will struggle to handle and process emotions, and journaling gives them a space to deal with these. Allowing them to vent, scribble and draw how they are feeling gives them an outlet. You can think of it like us going kickboxing or writing an unsent letter. Creating this drama shows them that it’s OK to have strong feelings and it’s good to have a special way to channel them. 

2: It helps a child express their emotions 

We all struggle with this one sometimes, don’t we? In fact, this is why it was so important to have our weather mood symbols in The Positive Doodle Diary. Giving an emotion or mood an easy-to-identify symbol is a much simpler way of expressing feelings than using tricky words. As children get older they will have more vocabulary, but introducing them early to the idea of naming our feelings is a really great way to get them to think about and understand mental health.



3: It helps a child's writing skills

Whilst the benefits to the mental health and wellbeing of our children are our main focus, we can’t ignore the fact that regular journaling will improve both their writing and communication skills. It might even spark a love of storytelling! What is crucial, however, is that children don’t see this as homework or connected with school. Let it be something they want to do. 



4: It helps stimulate a child’s creativity

A child’s journal is their own miniature playground. It’s a space for them to run riot with colour, pictures, stories and scenarios. Foster and encourage your child’s creativity with not only words but also through embellishing the pages they write on with pictures and stickers - you can even let them raid your washi tape collection! This all goes towards creating an imaginative, eager and curious mind. Something that very much needs to be cultivated in today’s world!




5: It helps a child see the other side of a story

We all experience things through the filter of our own eyes and collected experiences and children are no different here. Encouraging children to journal about situations and things that have happened in a day helps them rationalise and process things. You can talk to them about seeing something from the other person’s viewpoint, trying to imagine how they saw things. This is hugely important in helping a child learn how to deal with challenging social interactions.


How to journal with children. My top tips!

If you’d like to journal with the children in your life, there’s no time like the present to get started! Finn and I always say you don’t really need anything, just some paper, pens and an open mind. But read on for my top tips on how to journal with children. 


Make it a ritual!

I love to try and make a beautiful space for my kids to get creative in. We light candles together and then choose some relaxing music to put on - this is a time to relax and unwind with your child. Show them that it’s something special for you too - a positive experience will make them want to do it again.

Let imperfection rule!

Forget about grammar and spelling. This is not homework, this is about connection helping to build emotional intelligence. For this reason, it’s important that we don’t correct children when they’re journaling. Rather, we must give them the freedom to let out whatever they need as they need to.

This is also a chance for us to grow ourselves. As caregivers, we need to embrace imperfection to help our children feel more comfortable with it. So if you’re someone who likes everything neat and tidy in work and life, why not use this time to practice some self-expression and encourage them to let go too!

Do it together!

Use this time to work on your own journal too. See it as really working together rather than you watching them at work. Keep looking up and engage with them. You can brainstorm if they run out of ideas and look to inspire them with themes or ideas you have seen. Journal prompts are a fab way of kicking off journaling work - this article has loads of great ideas for children.



As our friends Bella and Reb at The Parent Collaborative wrote in the chapter for adults in our Positive Doodle Diary, if you as a carer journal alongside your child, they are far more likely to do it too. Not only will journaling with your child give you precious time to spend together, but you’ll also be promoting resilience and practising great self-care.

Ask questions!

Encourage children to explain what they’ve created to you. Let them know that they’ve inspired you and take the opportunity to try and add some of their ideas to your journal too. This will instil confidence and help build self-esteem.

Give positive feedback!

We all need encouragement, so let your child know that what they’re doing is OK. It’s crucial that we only share positive words here. Tell them you like the colours they’ve used or that it really reminds you of something. It’s important you keep building them up.

Be flexible!

Many children struggle with writing but this doesn’t have to stop them journaling. Pictures work just as well! Get some glue and scissors and cut out pictures from magazines together. Alternatively, you could display tickets, photographs, receipts or even leaves you’ve picked up on your travels together. Have some colouring pens at the ready too so that they can add words or drawings if they want to. It’s really all about our children achieving a state of mindfulness and it doesn’t matter how they reach it. Words can be great but shapes and images are just as good.

Allow some privacy!

Do you remember your first diary as a child? The one with a padded cover and small lock and key? A sense of privacy is as important for children as it is for us adults and we must respect this. If they wish to share their thoughts with you, that’s wonderful, but remember that this is about them, not you.



For me, the best way we can help our children develop healthy minds is to offer them the understanding that their mind is something that is a part of their body, feelings both good and bad are normal and it’s how we respond to them, or even just listen to them that helps us grow. 

I really hope you’ve found this blog on how to journal with children useful and that it’s given you some confidence to start with your little ones. Finn and I would love to know how you get on, so tag us into your pictures with #thepositiveplanner on Instagram and Facebook!


Co-founder of The Positive Planner Ali McDowall sat holding The Positive Doodle Diary - the perfect book to help you journal with children


Love and positive journaling vibes,

Ali xx




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