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From the moment they are born, children are trying to communicate what they are feeling. Babies cry when they are hungry, tired or need their diaper changed. Toddlers will often throw tantrums that tell onlookers they are angry, but in reality they may just be frustrated about something.
Displaced emotions are common in young children… and can continue to rear their ugly head even as the child grows, if they are not taught how to manage them properly. That is where journal writing can help.
It’s important to establish and open the lines of communication with your kids from the earliest stages of their development. Some parents try signing with their babies before they can speak, while others look for verbal and physical cues. And many parents find drawing a great way to get their young children to express themselves.
As children develop a vocabulary and the ability to write, journaling can be an extremely effective way to get them to open up and dig deeper. Whether you’re a parent, caregiver or teacher… if you want to get to the bottom of what a child is feeling, or thinking, you’ll benefit from having a handful of journal prompts for kids in your arsenal.
(Side note: Don’t know the “right” way to journal? If so, then check out this seven-step process for building a journaling habit that sticks.)
Also referred to as writing prompts, journal prompts are meant to help you concentrate so that you can put your feelings and thoughts down on paper. Prompts can be a few words, phrases, complete sentences or questions. The point is to serve as a compass, pointing you in the direction you want to go off and write about.
Journal prompts for kids are most often used to spark their creativity, and perhaps get them to delve deeper into their thoughts. The process may even paint a picture of who they are or want to be.
The prompts should be fairly simple… yet, not so much so that you underestimate a child’s ability to think outside the box. Prompts should push them, but not too far that they become frustrated.
If you have a child still unable to read or write, these prompts can be used verbally. You can even make a fun game out of it!
Below is a list of prompts, designed to encourage children to process feelings, build writing skills, and communicate their ideas.
- If you could change your name, would you? If so, what name would you give yourself?
- If you could have any pet in the world, which would you choose? Why?
- If your pet and your mom switched bodies, would you be able to tell? How?
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose? Why?
- If you could go back in time, how far back would you go? Why? What would you do? Would you change anything?
- If you could go forward in time, how far would you go? Why?
- If you could spend the day with any famous person, who would you pick? What is the first thing you’d ask them?
- If you could spend the day in Heaven with one of your relatives, who would you choose to spend it with?
- If you could find a cure for any disease, which one would you pick?
- If you were a fortune teller, would you give people bad news? Or just good news?
- If you could have one superpower, which one would you choose?
- Imagine you were only able to see one color for the rest of your life. Which color would it be?
- Think about you as a grown-up… what do you think you’ll look like?
- Describe what you look like to someone who is blind…
- If you could switch places with one family member or friend for a week, who would you want to be? What is the first thing you’d do?
- I’d like you to write a letter to your future self. You’ll open it when you’re 21. Write down some of the things you’d say about your life now. What advice would you give to your future self?
- Imagine waking up one morning and suddenly being able to speak any language. Which language would you be speaking?
- Would you rather be able to walk, jump and bounce on water – or hold your breath underneath the water for 1 hour?
- Think about what you know about war. What do you imagine it’s like?
- If you could go into outer space, which planet would you most like to visit? What do you imagine it to be like?
- You just found out aliens are real. What would you do if you saw one? What do you think they look like? Draw a picture of it.
- If you could have any job in the world as a kid, which would you choose?
- If you could choose a couple on television or in the movies to be your parents for one week, which couple would you pick? What do you think would make them good or fun parents?
- Describe your best friend using only colors and shapes…
- If you could eliminate one subject in school, which would you pick and why? You’d have to replace it with another subject… which one?
- If you could talk to three animals, which ones would you choose? Which would be the first one you spoke with? What questions would you want to ask each of them?
- Think about your favorite song on the radio right now… tell us why it’s your favorite and describe how it makes you feel.
- If you were given the choice between knowing the answers on every test for one year, or going on your dream vacation for two weeks, which would you pick? If you picked the vacation, why? Where would you go? Who would you invite along?
- A genie has granted you three wishes… tell me about them.
- The world has decided to eliminate one number from 0-100… any number. You are going to be able to vote for which number you don’t want anymore. Which number would you vote for and why? Once that number is gone, how would someone tell how old they are? Or how much money they have? How would we adjust?
- If you woke up to be someone’s mom or dad tomorrow, would you know what to do? Would you be happy or scared? Tell us how this would make you feel.
- You get to create your own amusement park… describe what it would look like. What rides would it have? What foods? How about characters or mascots?
- Think about the last good dream you had… What was it about? Who was in it? What happened? Was it all fun, or scary in parts? Was it silly or did it make you feel special?
- Who do you think has the hardest job in the world? Why?
- Your family is going to host a student from another country for one month. Which country is she from? You will need to write to her before she comes. What would you tell her? Would you ask her to bring anything?
- If your parents said you could design your own bedroom, and that nothing was off limits, what would your bedroom look like?
- You just found out that your bedroom closet is a door to another place… where does your door lead? What will we find there?
- Write a short story that starts with this sentence: If I were invisible, the first thing I would do is….
- Name three places that start with the first letter of your name. Write down what you know about these places. If you don’t know anything, write down questions you have about them.
- Write a story that ends with this sentence: It was the best vacation I ever had!
- Write down these colors: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Orange, Purple, Black, White and Pink. How does each one make you feel?
- When you hear the word, “calm”, what do you think about? Why?
- What are you most afraid of? Tell us why.
- What is your most favorite memory? Write down everything you can remember about it.
- Talk about 5 things you are grateful for.
- Describe your favorite toy without telling us what it actually is, so we can try and guess.
- List your favorites: Food, TV show, Game or Toy, Friend and Outfit. Now you have to give one up forever. Which would you say goodbye to? Tell us why.
- If you could change one thing about the way you look, would you? What would it be?
- Describe your brother or sister in 5 sentences.
- If your dad were a fruit, which would he be? Tell us why.
- You’re running for class president. Write a speech about why the other kids should vote for you.
- Finish this sentence: The movie about my life would be called…. Then write a few paragraphs about the plot of your movie.
- Who would you pick to play YOU in a television show? What would the show be about?
- If you could be famous for doing anything, what would you be famous for? Write a letter to your fans, thanking them for their support.
- Think of something new that you would like to try this week. What would it be? How would you prepare for it?
- Picture this: You see a boy bullying someone else on the playground. What do you do about it? Tell us about your plan.
- You get to write a book of jokes. Tell us five of the best jokes you know.
- You just found out your teacher is going to be your babysitter for the night. How does this make you feel? What are some of the things you’d do together?
- Your school just made a rule that homework won’t be given even again. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea? Make your argument.
- You get to be a teacher for the day! What would you teach? Write down your schedule for the day. Would you give them more recess time or a longer lunch break?
- Finish this sentence: Something new I learned in school this year is….
- What is the chore you hate doing the most? Which one don’t you mind so much?
- If your mom said you could cook whatever you wanted for dinner, as long as you could make it yourself, what would you make? Tell us how.
- You wake up to see snow outside and your dad tells you school is closed. How will you spend the day? What is your favorite thing to do in the snow?
- If your house could talk… what would it say?
- You see a ghost in your bedroom. What does the ghost look like? Are they young, old? Scary or friendly? What are they doing?
- You have a chance to be on America’s Got Talent! What is your talent? Does anybody know about this talent?
- Write down something you have never told anyone. Why have you kept this to yourself?
- If you could have $1 million dollars or three best friends, which would you want more? Why? Do you already have these friends? What are their names if you do?
- Describe your perfect day.
- You have a pair of magic shoes. Write about all the different things you can do with them?
- Write a letter to your little brother telling him what to expect when he’s in your grade.
- Why are you a good friend? Give us all the reasons.
- What is your favorite thing about yourself? Do you have more than one?
- You’re a magician and can make one person or thing disappear. Tell us who or what you’d choose and why?
Children are amazing, especially when they are young… when the world hasn’t yet had a chance to challenge their beliefs and morals, or entice them to give up on their dreams. Elementary age students, in particular, are typically optimistic in nature and genuinely like other kids. They have no reason not to believe that anything is possible.
As adults, we are encouraged to foster that belief in our children… yet still need to be cautious as to not shelter them entirely from processing feelings such as fear, anxiety and loss. This is where journal prompts for kids can help.
It is a low pressure and roundabout way to uncover what is really going on in a child’s mind, both the good and the bad. If you find these questions to be a hit with your kids, try teaching them to keep a gratitude journal so they can find something to be thankful for everyday.
Finally, if you don’t know the “right” way to journal, then check out this seven-step process for building a journaling habit that sticks.)
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.