Travel Tips: Creative Journaling for Kids
One of my most prized possessions is a faded, lime green duo-tang folder with a worn and creased cover and JENNY scrawled across the front in black magic marker. Inside is my eight year old recollection of the first winter that my parents had the good sense to take me out of school and drag me around Central America in the back of a 1964 Ford Econoline Van. I sat on my bed in my childhood home and read through it with great nostalgia just days before I threw my kids on a plane and headed for Thailand. This isn’t our first trip, we’ve been a couple of places together as a family, but the memories that flooded out of my journal reminded me of how “right” this travel lifestyle is for our family and how many precious memories are being made, as well as the importance of recording them for posterity.
I remember thinking journaling was “boring” when I was eight. I was even more of a whiner about it when they took us out of school and we traveled again the winter I was 13. My parents, thankfully, were not moved by my attitude and lack of interest and insisted that I keep writing. They even set a one page minimum when I was older. How grateful I am for them taking a hard line now that I’m an adult - and those pieces of paper are worth more than gold.
With the explosion of technology, paper journals are no longer the only way to record memories and experiences of once in a lifetime journeys. Here are a few suggestions for kids of various ages to get your kids’ creative juices flowing:
Collect postcards: Buy one each day of the trip and have your child dictate what she has learned or experienced that day, write it on the back and create a scrapbook.
Alphabet Soup: Create a scrapbook for your child in which you catalog interesting items and experiences from your journey by their letter.
Map It: Take along blank maps, label and colour them and mark the places you visit on the map.
Create a Treasure Chest: Take a small bag in which your child collects little treasures to “show and tell” his friends about when he returns. These will be treasures in 20 years, I promise!
Journaling: This is obvious, and drop dead boring to many kids, so take a new spin on it: make it a video journal, or an audio journal, or a photo journal.
Create a website: Our boys have discovered that finding ways to get more and more people to visit their website and racking up “views” and “shares” has the same addictive quality of a video game, but they are learning so much more and sharing what they learn in the process. If your classroom has a smartboard, then your child’s website might be part of every morning’s “news.”
Pick a Project: One child collected “dead people” the year we cycled Europe (as in, historical figures we encountered) and wrote about them. Another child photographed architecture and learned about the differences. Another collected candy wrappers from each new country we passed through. Some children might be interested in cataloging animals, or musical instruments, or different sorts of art, or sports games. Find out what inspires your child and let him demonstrate what he’s learned through that lens.
Create a Notebook: Country notebooks are wonderful ways to summarize a trip and demonstrate what has been learned across the curriculum. A scrapbook of maps, postcards, journal entries, ticket stubs, art experiences, photographs, as well as documenting what’s been learned about the physical geography, culture, religion, economics, environment, history, and daily life of the region your visiting.
If your kids are returning to a regular school setting, any of these “journaling” or long term project ideas can be used to demonstrate what they learned and translated into school credit at home. If, like us, you’re in it for the long haul and the education that the road provides to your children, then you definitely will want to invest heavily in recording the memories together in whichever ways inspire you most.
What about you? What are your best journaling ideas for kids of all ages?
Jenn Miller is the Uncommon Childhood Editor for Wandering Educators.
She was raised in log cabins on the shores of lakes and in the back of a van across continents. She's the lucky child of nomadic parents and has grown into a gypsy mama herself. She is a teacher by trade, homeschooling mother of four, and a freelance writer for the alternative education and travel markets, having spent over ten years as an educational consultant and curriculum designer. She does a lot of things, but her real passion is found in helping people live their dreams. She and her family are in their fifth year of full-time travel that has taken them across four continents by virtually every means possible, from bicycles to ocean ferries. They're currently exploring Southeast Asia with backpacks - you can follow along at Edventure Project. Her one great desire for her children, and all people, is for them to develop vision and create lives built out of big dreams. She's a believer in hard work, hard play and giving back to the world through pursuing our passions.
Photo courtesy and copyright Jenn Miller