Beginning Art Journaling for Kids

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Written by Melissa Taylor

Art Journaling for KidsRecently, I wanted to push my creatively, to find my inner visual artist, so I started an art journal—a journal where I could find both written and visual ways to express myself. (Normally, as a freelance writer and blogger, I’m all about words.) It didn’t take long before I realized that art journals would be great for my two daughters, ages six and nine.

Think about it. Kids start expressing themselves visually from the moment they can hold a crayon. They use drawing and coloring to share their feelings with the world in the same way we use words. In fact, kids first understand letters as shapes, not as abstract concepts with meaning and sound. (Which is why we see beginning writers write backwards, reversed, or in mirror images.)

What’s more, there is no “right way” to do art or journaling! Which is good for kids and for me, since my journal pages aren’t all that um, artistically pleasing—yet.

Here’s the thing—I want you to do this with your kids.

Because . . . if you art journal with your kids, you’re modeling your own journey as a writer and artist. It’s literally the best motivation you can give children. They already want to be like you, right? (teenagers excluded) If you live a writerly and / or artistic life, (most) kids will want to do the same, without you even asking.

Ready to get started art journaling with your kids?

Here are a few things to consider.

Space to Create

Have a designated space in your house where your kids can create. Here is one of our spaces. We also have a long card table set up in the dining room which is always empty and ready for projects.

Art Journaling for Kids

Art and Writing Supplies

You want to have your supplies available and ready, access depending on the age of your kids. As you can see from the photograph, I have bins which inside have

  • paper (plain, colored, recycled, index cards, lined, etc)
  • stickers
  • glue
  • markers
  • pencils
  • scissors
  • stencils
  • stamps
  • paints
  • beads, buttons, ribbon, fabric scraps

However, I keep a separate tub exclusively for art journals. This includes my daughters’ Strathmore journals, old magazines for collages, paints, colored pencils, books for inspiration (Doodle Diary and Bubble Writer,) glue, and scissors. This way, the tub can be carried anywhere in the house for the girls to set up and art journal.

Art Journaling for Kids

Art Journal Pages

Again, lead by example. Sit down with your kids when you can and talk about your process so they can overhear.

“I really want to do something about Christmas, it made me feel so joyful – I wonder about a collage?” (Meanwhile, pilfer through supplies, and continue narrating.) “How about if I use wrapping paper and cut out words from magazines?”

OR

“What if I water colored a page, and then collaged over it? I bet that would look cool . . . Hey, do you want to try that with me?”

There are two reasons I do this.

1. I am not an artist so I have no clue what I’m doing. This feels authentic to me—to explore together.

2. Even if I were an artist, I’d prefer to share process ideas (using different visual mediums) rather than product ideas. So, I’d rather say, let’s try using watercolors or let’s try to do something about winter than today is the day we all draw houses. But, that’s just me. Plus, this is a journal, it’s meant to be self-expression. Experiment!

Sample Pages

I started out hoping for brilliant frameable art journal pages like I saw on other people’s blogs. That didn’t happen.

When I considered why, here’s what I realized—for me, art journals for kids (and for us big kids) are more about process and expression that it doesn’t even matter how the end product looks. As we will grow in the experience, I know our end products will probably mature and look different. Essential to my life experience is the need to create, maybe it’s the same for you. One could argue it’s essential to the human experience. Therefore art journaling is about the process of being creative, unrestricted, ugly, pretty, messy, neat, silly, profound, quiet, loud, sad, happy, expressive . . . without judgements.

Whatever happens in a journal is.

Art-journal-collage

Art Journaling for Kids

Art Journaling for Kids

Art Journaling for Kids

Have you art journaled before? What about your kids? Won’t you join us in art journaling, too?

Art Journaling Resources

Daisy Yellow Journal Girl Inkstitch Kelly Kilmer (I’m taking one of her classes online and loving it!) Raw Art Journaling The Art Journal Workshop Journal Spilling

About the author ::

Melissa Taylor Imagination SoupMelissa Taylor is a mom, writer, blogger, and educator. She blogs at Imagination Soup, a playful learning blog for inquisitive kids, and freelance writes for publications online and in print. contact info: [email protected], Twitter, Facebook

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    amy
    January 23, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Melissa, I think those pages look pretty great! We, too, are more about the process and exploring technique than about the product. My boys don’t really take to journals well for some reason, though, so we have lots and lots and lots of loose pages. :-)

  • Reply
    Sharon
    January 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Wonderful inspiration!! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Mindy R
    January 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Great post! I journal with my four-year-old. She dictates the words to me, and then she draws a picture. It’s always fun. It’s a good way to see what she is thinking about, and it also chronicles her drawing ability in one book.

  • Reply
    bridgette
    January 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Great post and i hope it inspires others to art journal with their kids. I started my son in a bit of art journaling when he was 3- we started Bird Journal–a foray into birding for us. When we see a new bird, we either draw it in his book or collage it in. He draws around it, on it, etc. Now that he’s 5 he is doing the writing along with the entry, where I used to do the writing for him. It’s a great activity for us to do together.

  • Reply
    Melissa Taylor
    January 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    thanks – loose pages are tricky to keep track of aren’t they? At least they’re doing something somewhere, right? :)

  • Reply
    Melissa Taylor
    January 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    wow, that sounds amazing!

  • Reply
    Sarah M
    January 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    What beautiful pages…they will be so fun to look over and remember the time you spent with your daughters doing them. I still have mine from when I was around 5 years old…decades old and my mother kept them!
    Thanks for the post and inspiration,
    Sarah M

  • Reply
    Dawn DeVries Sokol
    January 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Melissa: Thanks for including Doodle Diary in your post!!!

  • Reply
    Ann
    January 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I just finished dying my playsilks in Kool-Aid. Thanks so much for the idea. I bought my kids a playstand for Christmas and really wanted some playsilks to go along with it, but couldn’t bring myself to pay $10/piece. Plus, the activity gave me a chance to say, “see, this is why we don’t drink this stuff… it contains permanent dye” :)

  • Reply
    smilymel
    January 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    This is an inspiring idea. I was planning to start a scrap book with my two (age 2 1/2 yrs and 11 mths) where they would each have a page each month, but I love the idea of art journalling as they get older. Can I ask how often you use the journal?

  • Reply
    Jana
    January 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful! I just go crazy for art supplies. I love the big ol’ block of clay, too, my mom used to use one of those on us as kids. So cool!

  • Reply
    Kristi
    January 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Please random number generator, pick me! Thanks for the chance!

  • Reply
    Melissa Taylor
    January 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    LOL!

  • Reply
    Melissa Taylor
    January 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    You’ll have so much fun!! Enjoy!
    ~ Melissa

  • Reply
    Melissa Taylor
    January 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    we tend to go in spurts of artistic inspiration — maybe every day for a week and then nothing for a few weeks. Of course, it always helps when I pull out my art journal because the girls want to join me right away.

  • Reply
    Melissa Taylor
    January 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    you’re welcome – and what a treasure your mom gave you!

  • Reply
    Rashmie @ Mommy Labs
    January 24, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Oh! What a coincidence – the guest post I’ve sent to Jean is about – guess what – art journaling! Great minds think alike is getting reinforced here!!
    I agree about art journaing – it’s such a beautiful way for kids to express with all the freedom and creativity….

  • Reply
    Toddler Approved
    January 24, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Love this post Melissa. I used to keep an art journal and some of the things I portrayed were things I never could completely express verbally… but were perfectly shared through my art. I need to get back to doing that.
    I also think I may try this with my son and see if he can journal about preschool and his relationships with friends. The pictures might be a good jump off point for helping him discuss problems with friends or good friendships he is building. I am always looking for ways to connect with him more and get him to talk (he’s 4). Love this possibility.

  • Reply
    Tara
    January 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I love journals for myself, but never thought of helping my daughter to start her own journal. She’s just beginning to read, and she loves to scribble and write letters on pages. I think I even have some black journals that I could give her to start. In fact, we should start this tomorrow. Thanks so much for a wonderful idea!

  • Reply
    Melissa Taylor
    January 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    We share such a similar philosophy of play and life, Rashmie. I love that! One day I’m flying to India to give you a hug. I’m so glad to be friends!!

  • Reply
    Melissa Taylor
    January 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I think so, too — and it’s so much easier to start with art than writing. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!!

  • Reply
    Dena
    January 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Wow what a great idea!! You should write a post about that!!

  • Reply
    Dena
    January 24, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Melissa, I am definitely starting this with my daughter when she turns three!! Thanks for taking the time to share; and what a treasure these journals will be when they are all grown up; for them and YOU!

  • Reply
    Sara R.
    January 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Great post! We’re working to get our space set up…and then comes a brand new journal and colored pencils.

  • Reply
    Heather N
    January 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Ooooh. I need to try this with my 5 year old. She loves art!

  • Reply
    Ricka
    January 25, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Melissa, those journals are very wonderful & very neat. My daughter is 3 & my boy is 8. Every time i tried to arrange the art space in our dinning table for them to craft. They just only did so messy, and it was so hard to manage their crafting works. After reading your post, i think i will try it again to make it happens.
    Thanks
    Ricka

  • Reply
    AngelaS
    January 25, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    I love this! I hope to be able to do this with my daughter in a couple of years. :) Great post!

  • Reply
    Veronika
    January 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Thank you so much for the inspiration. My 3 year old loves her art journal!

  • Reply
    suzette
    January 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

    thank you for your post and inspiration for young writers!

  • Reply
    Yolanda D
    January 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Great post. I’m dabbling in art journaling now and really like the feeling of it. My mom doodled all the time and so did I. She took an art class by correspondence and actually let me self study all of her books–I couldn’t have been even 9 at the time. I am 50 now and this quote “Essential to my life experience is the need to create.” is me.

  • Reply
    Maggie
    February 23, 2013 at 2:32 am

    What a great and inspired idea, my 4 1/2yrs old son always draws pictures of me and my husband, so I think I can do art jouraling with him. Can u tell me what kind of notebook do u use to place the drawings on it?

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