New Year, New Journal!
February 1, 2014

With the new year officially underway, 2014 calendars and date planners are already deeply discounted at most stores that carry them. Now is the time to pick one up and help the kids get it underway. We find that week-at-a-glace planners make the best journals—the amount of space allotted to each day is adequate, without being excessive. Many budding journal-keepers are daunted by the task of “needing” to fill whole pages, or several pages, in more traditional journals that have lined pages with no date.

Getting Started

On one of the front or back pages of the journal, help your children jot down a list thought joggers that they can refer to when sitting down to reflect and write each day—or every few days. (A critical element to successful journal keeping is to be relaxed about it. Don’t worry if there are days or even over a week without an entry; just feel good about the ones that get filled in, rather than feel bad about the ones that didn’t.) Some examples include:

·         Where did I go?

·         Was it familiar to me, or new?

·         What was the weather like?

·         What did the trees and plants look like?

·         What did the clouds look like?

·         What activities did I do?

·         What interesting new things did I learn?

·         What should I do again from this day?

On school days, children will want to write about what they did in class or at recess. Also encourage them to think about their environment more generally, such as the temperature, the condition of any snow (falling, melting, gone?), and when buds first appear on trees and in mulch. On weekends when you go on outdoor excursions, invite comparisons of familiar places (“How were the trees the last time we were here?”) or observations of new places (“Was the terrain more challenging than you’d anticipated?”). Toddlers could draw pictures in the journal, and an adult can write down a few words from their impressions.  

Filling in the Blanks

Despite every journal keeper’s best efforts, life gets busy and there will occasionally be swaths of unrecorded days. If you want to retro-fill these but don’t know where to begin, start with the Weather Channel and see what the weather was like on that particular day. If you see that it had snowed six inches, you’ll suddenly recall that you went sledding, and maybe tried a new hill (we recently discovered an excellent one in the northern part of Morningside Park, near 123rd Street). If it was warm and rainy, you may remember that you went no farther than the sidewalk outside of your building to draw Monet-like art with chalk on the pavement.

Other Journals

Keep in mind that you can turn so many things into a journal. For example, designate a box called “Nature Impressions” and in it, throw scraps of paper that include a date, location, and a few impressions from the experience.

Or, take a large map of New York City and date it 2014 across the top. Then note the places you explored in throughout the five boroughs, and what it was like: Discovered Brighton Beach, 8/1/13: Hot, calm waves, lots of snails burrowing in the surf. That’s probably all you’ll need in December to recall a really excellent day at the beach, and at the end of the year, you’ll have a panoramic view of all the places you went in the city. 

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