How to journal with kids (plus 15 writing prompts to get you started) 

By Sarah Cannata

I may be biased but it’s never too early to start writing. While school-aged children are likely to be doing a decent amount of structured writing daily, I feel it’s important to encourage freestyle writing where kids can express their thoughts and feelings while feeling safe. Full disclosure: I don’t have kids. However, I was a child once upon a time (surprise, surprise), and I’ve worked with several clients to adjust and adapt the writing practices and activities I teach for their kids.

Meet your child where they are at with writing

Writing is a wonderful way for children to lean into their imagination and increase their self-awareness levels. However, if your child doesn’t enjoy writing and you can feel their resistance whenever you encourage journaling, it’s best to let it go. There are plenty of other creative outlets you can suggest (art, dancing, singing and so on) that also allow your kids to express their thoughts and feelings. It can also be difficult for children to sit still and write for a period of time. Rather than insisting they sit still and write for a set amount of time, allow your kids to explore how their body wants to move naturally while writing. 

Journaling, diary writing and embodied writing

If you’ve been following my work, you’ll notice I use the words ‘journaling’, ‘diary writing’ and ‘embodied writing’ interchangeably. I do so because I am aware most people would not search for ‘embodied writing’ when they seek the type of information and tools I am passionate about sharing. 

How is embodied writing different from journaling or diary writing?

While I value journaling and diary writing as tools, embodied writing goes deeper. Often, people use journaling and diary writing as a brain dump, which can be quite an out-of-body experience. With embodied writing, we’re remaining aware of the connection between the body and the words being expressed onto the page. We’re remaining connected with the physical body as we’re writing. It’s a two-way street when using this approach – we may feel the mind initially kickstarts the sensations, emotions and movements that arise in the body and the body feeds valuable information back. An open mind and curious approach when writing is crucial. Learn more about the basics of embodied writing.

The importance of cultivating safety before we begin writing

Kids experience big emotions, just as adults do. While I suggest it’s best to keep writing prompts for kids as fun and light as possible (as you’ll see below), the reality is, whenever we write, we never know what may arise during a session. So, before we begin a writing session, it’s best to help your kids create a resource. A resource is a container of safety, presence, groundedness, stability and support. And if none of these words resonate with you, think of the opposite of overwhelm. Your kids may be too young to understand these concepts but they will understand the feeling of safety… even if they don’t use that word. A resource can be anything. A person, pet, teddy bear, place, thinking about a favourite sporting team, a memory and so on. I encourage you to experiment with embodied writing yourself before explaining the process to kids in your life. My Write Your Way to Healing Quick Start Guide PDF will get you started. If you notice your child becomes overwhelmed when writing, guide them back to their resource, cease writing and debrief as best you can with them (in this instance, you can become the resource).

15 embodied writing prompts for kids

  • Write about a time you felt really happy. Where did you feel that happiness in your body?
  • Describe your favourite place in the world. How do you feel in that place?
  • Draw a picture of how you are feeling at this moment.
  • Write about a time you helped someone. How did it make you feel? Where did you feel those feelings in your body?
  • Imagine you have a time machine. What year would you travel to and why?
Journal with kids prompts
  • Write a letter to yourself 1 year from now. How do you feel as you’re writing the letter?
  • List 5 things you are grateful for.
  • What’s the best way to spend a rainy day?
  • Go outside and write about what you see. How does it feel to be outside?
  • If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?
Journal with kids prompts
  • List 3 things you’d like to learn more about.
  • Write about a time you were brave. What do you feel in your body when you think of that memory?
  • What’s your favourite song (or book) and why?
  • Write about a time you tried something new. How did you feel?
  • What’s your favourite thing to do in the world? How does it make you feel?
Journal with kids prompts

Keep in mind

Adjust the above prompts as needed and to be age appropriate. Writing can look like words, disjointed sentences, paragraphs and so on. Allow kids to experiment with their writing.

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