Even though children aren’t in school during the summer, it doesn’t mean they can’t be learning.  “Summer Journals for Children” is the perfect Summer Journals for Childrenproject to encourage kids to practice writing skills, express themselves creatively, and to document things from their own perspective.  Here’s how we started making Summer Journals…

On the last day of school I sent an email to my son’s teacher thanking her for a fabulous first year of school for him, and asking what we should focus on over the summer to make sure he is ready for first grade.  I don’t want to sit and do flashcards or make him write lines or anything…but I do want to keep him sharp and practice skills he may need extra work on.  As a preschool teacher by trade, I look for fun natural learning experiences for our children.  I fill their summers with all kinds of learning, like nature walks, reading for the summer reading program at the library, learning about math while cooking, and things like that.  Max’s teacher had the greatest suggestion for working on his emerging writing skills.  She suggested that he keep a journal over the summer, which would help him work on handwriting, as well as sounding words out and spelling them on his own.  I loved this idea!  And I figured it would be great for all of them.  Ella can work on her creative writing skills, and she loves to write in journals.  Sam is at a very basic level with pre-writing, we’re just now working on his name.  But he can draw and “write” whatever he pleases.

Making Summer Journals with Children ::

First we went to the store and bought four composition notebooks.  Yes, four, I bought one for the baby (ahem, toddler).  He loves to do whatever the big kids are doing, and at 16 months, I think he is ready to be using crayons & pencils more often without chewing on them.
Summer Journals Composition Book

Then I covered the front of the book with white card-stock paper, and let the kids decorate their covers (I decorated Henry’s for him.)
Summer Journals Covers
Then we got to work on the journals.  I gave them some writing and drawing supplies: color pencils, crayons and writing pencils.  You could really expand the selection of materials you offer your kids…markers, photographs they have taken, construction paper for making pictures, etc.
Summer Journals Supplies
For the first page of the book I asked them to do an “About the Author” page.  It was fun watching them draw their self portraits & Ella wrote quite a bit on her page.  Max wrote “I’m the Big Brother” on his, and Sam’s self portrait was the best stick person I have seen him draw to date.  So already the journal is helping him hone his skills!
Summer Journals About the Author
I absolutely loved watching them work on their books, with such intention and seriousness.  I told them that they could use the journals to write about whatever they liked over the summer.  I suggested that they could write about adventures we had, places they wanted to go, or just write stories.  I encouraged them to write whatever they wanted.  I want this to be a totally creative outlet for them, with very little direction.  I might suggest a theme for the day, or ask them all to draw a picture of their favorite place to go or something like that if they are in need of inspiration, but so far they went at it with zeal and enthusiasm and needed no prodding or ideas from mama.  Even little Henry was hard at work for quite a while making lovely green lines.
Summer Journals Henry
Summer Journals Sam

Summer Journals Ella Max

The first day we worked on them Ella and Max wrote about a science program that we had attended about Colors & Rainbows.  It was great, because they spent a while discussing what they had learned and put it on paper, without me prompting them at all.  Sam drew weaponry in his journal…because that’s what Sam does, he’s a Jedi at heart.  Here’s a sample of Ella’s work:

Summer Journal Writing

We have only been on summer vacation for two days now, so there has not been much writing yet, but I feel safe in predicting that these journals will be written in all summer long, judging from the excitement shown on the first day.  I want to take the journals with us when we travel, encourage Ella to take pictures to add to hers, and encourage them to add other mementos from their summer…ticket stubs, items found on nature walks, art work from the art class they are taking, etc.  These journals are going to be treasures that remind them of their fun childhood summers someday!  And all the while they are working on these, they will be learning & practicing writing skills.  It’s a perfect project for the summer!  That being said, I feel I need to say that I won’t be forcing them to write in these journals.  I want them to learn and practice handwriting & spelling, but I don’t want it to be a chore.  I want summers to be fun, relaxed and enjoyable.  I just think that with my children’s love of books, creating their own book is really going to make them happy.

Summer Journals Words That I WriteIf you do decide to do this project with your new writers, I have to tell you about this excellent resource that Ella’s teacher gave the children this year…it’s the Words I Use When I Write booklet.  It’s a spelling dictionary for young children, it helps them to find the word they are having trouble spelling, instead of them having to ask how to spell every other word.  This is perfect for Ella because she is very particular and wants to make sure all of her words are spelled correctly.  She can use this booklet to self-correct.

The pages have quite a few words for each letter, and then lines on which the child can add more words that they use when writing.
Summer Journals Words
It really is a handy resource for new writers!
I hope that your family enjoys this FUN learning project for the summer, and please leave a comment below if you have some fun learning projects planned for the summer.