Can you really convince your kids that keeping a travel journal is a good idea?
Your family is taking an awesome trip to a fabulous location. You’ve done everything to ensure your kids have a great time, and you want them to remember the trip forever.
So you suggest that they keep a journal to document the adventure.
What response do you get?
- An enthusiastic “Yes!” (Congratulations! You have a natural writer. Stop reading this post, and take Little Shakespeare or Little Jane Austen to pick out just the right journal and pen.)
- A look of horrified incredulity
- Wailing and gnashing of teeth
- Cries of “I’m not doing homework on vacation!”
Most likely, you got a combination of B, C, and D.
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As someone who has started and abandoned many journals, I get it. The thought of writing every day can be daunting. For me, it was always the question of what to write about. Do I cover every detail of my day, including meals? Do I focus on feelings rather than events? It took a long time for me to realize that there’s no right way to journal. Monday’s entry might look like a food diary while Tuesday’s might be a rant about the endlessness of housework.
The same is true for a travel journal.
Still the thought of keeping a journal while on vacation goes beyond daunting. A lot of kids will see journaling as a chore or even a punishment.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. You child doesn’t need to record every detail from every day. Instead, he or she needs to collect an impression or two from each day, entries that will be fun to read 10, 20, or even 30 years from now.
After years of teaching English composition to adults (who are often much more stubborn learners than kids), I have some tricks to get even the most reluctant writers to jot down their thoughts.
First, we have to tackle any important question: Digital or old school?
The English teacher in me says old school all the way. Most of us think better with pen and paper at hand. Let your kid pick out a journal and a good smudge-proof pen.
The pragmatic mom in me says go digital if that’s the only way this journal is going to happen. Let your kid use a tablet or iPad. When you get home, you can download the file and print it.
Now the tricky part: How do you get your child to write?
- Set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day for journaling.
For some kids, just before bed is great time. Journaling will help them settle down and process the day.
For other kids, morning — perhaps breakfast — is a good time to jot down something about the previous day.
- Practice what you preach. When your child journals, you journal too.
- Use prompts to help your child get started. Print this list and tape it into your child’s journal. Or download it to the digital device your child is using. Prompts are the key to helping your child realize that journaling is easy, not overwhelming. Here are a couple of examples:
- Describe one thing today that surprised you.
- Describe a delicious new food you tried.
- Did you attempt to use the local language? How did it go?
Skeptical? Convinced that your kid would never agree to 15 or so minutes of journaling every night?
I hear you! The reward of having a souvenir they’ll treasure 30 years from now is NOT going to sell most kids on keeping a travel journal.
But small, regular rewards will.
For each journal entry, “pay” your child. Sure, you can pay them cash. But I would argue you should reward them with something that further engages them in the trip.
If your child writes a journal entry, then
- reward her by letting her choose where you’ll have lunch or will stop for a snack the next day. One stipulation: The choice has to be relevant to where you are. (No American fast-food!)
- reward him by letting him choose a souvenir from the site you’re visiting the next day. (Tip: Set a budget!)
What would you do to encourage (or bribe) your kids to keep travel journals?