Preschool Journaling

April 1, 2014

It is never too early to start a writing ritual. Even if your child is at the pre-writing stage you can start to shape writing habits. Remember, scribbles are a child's stories. The children in our pre-k room begin journaling on the very first day of school.


A guided activity is made available to preschoolers at our journaling center during our center rotations. Our journaling activities are explained and demonstrated by the teacher before the children are let loose to journal. Some journaling topics have been: drawing a self-portrait, coloring with our favorite colors, using stencils to make a picture, writing practice, drawing a picture using shapes, scribbling to music, making a pattern, and drawing our favorite animals.


Journaling is a wonderful way to help children realize that writing has meaning while practicing pencil grip and self-expression. PCDP highly encourages parents to offer journaling time throughout the summer as a way to continue working on pre-writing skills.


Journaling tips:

  • Choose unlined paper. A sketchpad works great! You can also staple together a stack of plain typing paper and put a sheet of colorful construction paper on the front and back.

  • Stay away from pencils for now. Young writers will appreciate the color that markers and crayons bring to their writing. Pencils can be frustrating for children without a very strong grasp.

  • Don’t overwhelm your preschooler. Consider offering stamps, stickers, post-it notes, and other writing tools one at a time.


Journaling goals:

  • We want to foster an early love of writing. You can get there by keeping the pressure off. Writing time should be relaxed and fun!

  • We want children to learn that they communicate through their writing. If your child draws or scribbles, ask what the writing says. This may be hard for him/her at first. Model it: draw something yourself, and then tell your child just what you want it to say. Keep giving him/her the opportunity to tell you a story. Some teachers and parents like to write what the child says alongside the writing. This way your little writer can see how his words look in print.

  • We want children to have the confidence that they can write! Get there not by focusing on what your child can’t do, but by building on what he or she does do.


Understand the early stages of writing:

  • Children begin scribbling as toddlers.

  • Most three-year-olds learn to draw basic shapes and pictures.

  • Eventually, children will attempt to write scribbles that represent real writing.You will start to see letter-like forms within the scribbles.

  • Around age three or four, many children learn to write the alphabet correctly.

  • Some preschoolers will be able to attempt spellings of real words.


Establish a simple writing routine that works for your family:

  • Have a designated time that works with your family's schedule.

  • Journaling does not have to be daily. In our classroom, we journal once a week.


Keep your materials accessible:

  • A basket of materials in the kitchen or play-room is a great way to have items handy.


Expect a brief writing session:

  • Younger preschoolers may only journal for 2 to 4 minutes.

  • Older preschoolers may choose to journal for up to 30 minutes.

  • Make sure you encourage your student to journal but do not make it a chore for them.


Keep writing time structured, but open-ended:

  • Start with conversation and modeling. Talk about your week. What fun things could you write about? Write in your own notebook first. Model what your child can do. For example, if your child is drawing and can write a few letters, draw a picture of something you’ve done and label it with a single letter. If your preschooler is more advanced, model writing a simple sentence.

  • Give your child a chance to write – with a few parameters. We don’t have many rules for writing time, but we keep our writing to a single page. This encourages my students to think before they commit to their story. It also limits waste and encourages them to expand their writing and picture to take up a large space.

  • Be encouraging.Whatever your child is doing – whether that’s scribbling, drawing, or forming letters and words, call it writing!


Build on what your child can do, and always encourage growth: 

  • If your child is just drawing, ask him to write some words. See what he does — is he attempting to make letters?

  • If your child is learning the letter sounds, help him figure out the first letter of what he’s drawing and form that letter alongside it.

  • If your preschooler is learning to sound out basic words, help him stretch the sounds in a word and write it next to the picture.

  • If your child is ready, assist your preschooler in writing a complete sentence.

  • Show interest, ask questions, and celebrate any small successes! Did your child draw something you can recognize – scribble from left-to-right, write a letter to stand for a picture, or attempt to spell a new word? Call attention to it! 

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