About 10 years ago, I started a tradition with my boys when they were young and just beginning to write sentences. I pulled out composition notebooks and turned them into a keepsake of letters sent back and forth between us. These journals are a great way to help children enjoy writing from an early age. There is no pressure to get it “just so” and no stress of figuring out your own topic. It’s just fun and personal. No audience but Mama. In addition to inspiring young writers, it is a great way to share your child’s heart.
Today I want to help you get started with a journal for your child. I would love to show you a fancy tutorial with beautiful pictures of all of the steps it takes to create this wonderful memory-maker. Alas, it is just pen and paper and a whole lotta love.
An important aspect to the journals is that they are private and your child can share their heart with you in ways they might feel uncomfortable doing face-to-face. My little girls gave me permission to share some photos of their journals to give you an idea of how it can be done.
Several times a week, I write a short letter in their notebook. It is a simple little note with a question. The number one rule I’ve learned is that it should never be a yes/no question. Ask a question that requires detail.
I write in it in the evenings so they can discover it the next morning and write in it privately. You don’t want to write several days in advance because some letters can easily become ongoing and there is no need to rush through them.
As you can see, I don’t grade these and I don’t correct their spelling. I do make a private list of spelling errors so that we can cover words that need some extra practice. I do, very rarely, encourage them to practice improvements, as seen below.
I do try to prompt them to flesh out their answers a bit, using gentle nudges, keeping in mind that this is correspondence with my child who is sharing her heart with me. It is not a writing lesson.
Sometimes, as you can below, they don’t catch on to the nudging. That’s okay. These journals are for inspiring creativity, building trust, and gaining confidence in writing.
It may be tempting to type up letters ahead of time and print them out, but my children have made it very clear that they prefer me writing out a question with my handwriting. They say it feels like I’m right there working with them. I feel it also helps to model handwriting for them.
There are many writing prompts out there which can just be printed, but these are a casual and fun way to get your child writing. They also help build trust, giving your child an opportunity to share things that might be uncomfortable to say in person. The notebook is where one son explained to me that he hated school. He was afraid to upset me or let me down by talking about it in person. Through letters, we were able to gain a healthy perspective on learning vs. doing school.
I keep a list of things I want to ask my children so that I don’t have to think of new things on the spot. You might consider using some writing prompt resources as inspiration for your questions. It doesn’t matter if you have perfect handwriting. Your child will love it because it’s yours. They’ll love having you all to themselves through this journal. It’s an easy way to “be the fun mom” with very little effort. When it comes down to it, the questions don’t even matter overly much. What matters is that you have fun.