Teaching Children to Keep a Journal

Mormon JournalToday, more children are familiar with blogging than with old fashioned journaling. In this day when our lives are recorded in social media, children need to learn to record their lives in a more permanent fashion that can be handed down through the generations. This family night will help your family establish a journaling tradition.

Learn how to hold a family night.


If you journal, select several entries from your journal to share with your children. If you do not, ask your librarian to help you select journals of famous people and select entries from those to read to your children.

Purchase materials to make journals or allow your children to select journals you purchase prior to the lesson.

Decide with your spouse or the children’s other parent what your policy about journals is. Are they private or not? Be prepared to tell your children your decision.

Obtain materials for journal jars.

Tell your children the following story: A mother was listening to her daughter worry about starting eighth grade. The mother remembered her own middle school years as exciting and wonderful. She recalled she had kept a journal during that time, at the advice of a teacher. The teacher told her she thought she’s always remember what it felt like to be in eighth grade, but she wouldn’t. She’d forget, but a journal could help her remember. She dug out her old worn journal and began to read it, sure she really did remember what it was like to be in eighth grade. As she read, she realized the teacher was right. She had not remembered at all. Her memories were of the happy highlights, but her journal was filled with fears, decisions, heartaches, and discoveries. She had a better understanding of what her daughter might encounter in the next few years after she finished reading.

Share with your children the entries you’ve selected from your own journals or those you obtained from the library or your own bookshelves. Ask your children what use these entries might be.

If you or your spouse are journalers, share your feelings about the benefits that have come to you from keeping a journal. If you don’t, talk about an important event you wish you’d recorded, or a relative whose journal you wish you had. Help your children understand that you don’t have to be famous for a journal to matter. Anne Frank was an unknown teenager hiding in an attic when she began her journal. She wrote: “I haven’t written for a few days, because I wanted first of all to think about my diary. It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I—nor for that matter anyone else—will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart” (Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl [1952], 2).

It wouldn’t seem that living your life in hiding would give you much to write about, but her journal has inspired millions and helped them to understand a terrible world event at a personal level. Anne Frank was a Jewish girl and her family was hiding to avoid being killed by people who were killing all Jewish people. She herself was eventually discovered and killed, but her journal survived and was published. However, she was not famous or doing anything she thought mattered when she began the journal and she had no thought of it becoming famous.

Point out to them their journals may not become famous, but they can help their children and grandchildren know them after they’re gone. The journals can also help the writer to work out problems, learn from their own past, and preserve memories.

Help your children decide what kind of journal would be most useful to them in the future. While it might be interesting once in a while to record a typical day, in the future what will matter will be our thoughts, the defining moments, and our beliefs. As we record the things we did, we should share how we feel about them and later, how they impacted us or what we learned.

Display several sentences that might be found in a journal and invite your children to decide how to make them more valuable and to think about reasons those things might turn out to be important.


  1.  I went to a party today and met a guy named Tim. (Tell more about Tim and how you felt about him. If you end up marrying him or he becomes your life-long best friend, you’ll enjoy knowing what you thought of him the day you met.)
  2. I visited Grandma and she taught me how to make our family’s traditional chocolate cake. (Include the recipe for future generations and record some memories of times the cake was served. Tell more about Grandma.)
  3. Today at church, my Sunday School teacher talked about God’s love. It was a great lesson. (Record what she taught and then share your own testimony about God’s love. How do you know He loves you? Your children may one day need to read this at a difficult time in their lives.)
  4. I went to Amy’s house today and her parents weren’t home. All the kids started drinking. It was really uncomfortable and I left. (Explain more—tell it like a story. Was it hard to walk out of the house? Why did you leave? Later, record the results of your choice and how you feel about it.)

Hand out or make the journals and ask your children to write in them every Sunday, if not more often. Choose a family journaling time. Ask them to share with you each week one portion of their journals. Explain your policy about journals and privacy.
Make journal jars to help with the days when the mind is blank. Give each child a jar or box and a stack of paper strips. As a family, create ideas for journal entries. Let your children choose the ones that apply to them and write them on the strips. You may want to type and print multiple copies of the ideas you create as a family, and then let children put in the printed strips.

Samples: The worst thing that happened this week. The most interesting person at school. My feelings about…. My favorite hobby is… When I grow up…

Hand out to older children this material from Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do:

Understand and appreciate the blessings of record keeping.

  • Self-discovery—Journal keeping helps us discover ourselves—our values and priorities.
  • Turning our hearts to our fathers—Inspires us to read about and gather the journals of our ancestors.
  • Legacy—Helps us leave a legacy of love to our descendants.
  • Motivation—Inspires [Christ-like service.]
  • Service to others—Provides a history that can help others deal with the adversity in life.
  • Problem-solving and creativity— “Ralph Waldo Emerson once pointed out a typical problem of a half-believer when he said that his moods had difficulty in believing in each other. He said it was about as difficult for him to manage his attitudes as to manage thunderbolts. At times his brain would become a blank and leave his mind in a state of barrenness. Life often seemed to him like a flash of light followed by long periods of darkness. To give continuity to his work, he began keeping a journal. In his journal he wrote down every thought with every suggestion that he believed would be helpful. Each day he collected in his journal all of his disjointed dreams, his mental reveries, and the fragments of all of those ideas that his mind was capable of conceiving. He discovered that the act of writing an idea down improved the quality of both the idea and his mind. His journal became the hive in which he stored the honey of his mind as the bees of his brain distilled it. When once his ideas were written down, he could then review them again and again with the thought of making any needed improvements.” —Sterling W. Sill (Principles, Promises, and Powers [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], 140.) (“Family History You Can Do,” Ensign, August 1995.)
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