REAL life activity: Picture Journaling

Sunny Im-Wang, PsyD, SSP

Did you know? Picture journaling for young children can give empowering experience through telling and recording of their experiences.  Journaling also has valuable cognitive and emotional gain.

Journaling is a valuable, educational, and FUN way for children to record meaningful experiences in their lives and document them in words and pictures. It allows them to relive, validate, and express their feelings about those meaningful experiences.


Journaling not only reinforces the importance of your child’s efforts (the words and drawings they record), it also helps them process the experience they wish to journal about in a meaningful way.

Here are FIVE simple steps to start journaling with young children:

Step #1: Discuss

    • The process begins with a discussion about what experience or event your child might like to put in his or her journal. We recommend that you keep the discussion brief to keep your child interested and attentive. The goal is to engage your child and make him or her receptive to the idea of journaling.

Depending on age, some children may have trouble with this step. If your child is having difficulty honing in on an event or past experience to journal about, begin by asking him or her to recall something that happened the day before or in the morning. You know what excites your child or when he or she has experienced an important event or situation, so you can remind your child if he or she can’t remember.

Step #2: Detail

  • Once your child has decided on the event that will be the subject of the journal, ask what he or she remembers most about the experience. If your child becomes overwhelmed by too many memories, you can facilitate the process by asking what are his or her top five recollections. And if your child names only one, go with that!

Here’s another approach: After deciding what to journal about, count the number of pages of the journal together. Ask your child what he or she would like to put on the first page and the last and what else should be included in the journal. If your child does not have ideas, you can suggest that he or she draw a picture (or insert a picture) of the event.

Step #3: Design

  • This is the fun part. Introduce your child to the stencils and ruler, and teach him or her how to use those tools. Younger children can easily become sidetracked with the artful process of making designs with stencils, but that’s okay. If you do not have access to stencils, you can make simple basic shapes for them and have the go on from there. One way to help keep the project on track is to teach how to use stencils or making simple shapes before beginning the actual journaling project a day or two before the journaling project.

Keep in mind that the process is more important than the finished product.

Step #4: Gather

  • Gather things that your child wants to include in the journal. It might be the pictures that he or she drew, photos you took (or will take) on a vacation trip, a ticket to a show, an airplane ticket, and so on. Use tape or glue to paste these items onto pages.

It’s a good idea to ask your child where he or she would like to put the item first before placing it on a page. This allows the child to practice thinking ahead (planning skills).

Step #5: Review

When the journal is complete—in an evening, two days or a week later, or however long the process takes—ask your child to tell you what is happening on each page. 

And ENJOY  the process!!

© Sunny Im-Wang, PsyD 2010


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