The Best Way To Engage Your Child This Holiday

It’s not Coding, Music or Art Classes

Summer holidays are here. It’s a full house of fun, fussiness and fights. This time five years ago I would have made all these grand plans to engage my four perpetually bored musketeers.

Not anymore. But if you opted for holiday lessons as a way to keep children engaged this period, let’s hope you don’t have to prod, prod and prod them all the way.

I found a better way to get through the holiday without all the prodding.

It was the summer of 2014, our first holiday in Lagos. We didn’t have friends to guide us on places to go or things to do during the vacation.

We began a family culture that helped the children record their daily activities _ things like doing simple chores, playing, eating and whatever they liked or didn’t like that happened during the day.

After the holidays what they wrote in their notebooks were useful for writing their grammar essays on ‘How I spent my holidays’ at school.

My first son could draw pretty well so he added illustrations to his journal entries that made it really entertaining. He told me he enjoyed seeing his friends laugh whenever he showed them parts of his journal.

Summer lessons or not, journaling is a practice that encourages children to willingly and actively participate in the coding, music and art classes you signed them up on.

The rule to journaling for us is _ No one reads another’s journal without permission. I have the privilege of reading as the Mom of course, but I do it respectfully by allowing them bring it to me themselves.

I use colourful pens (pink, purple or green never red) to make grammatical corrections then give feedback like “How did you let Eto beat you in that scrabble?” or “You better not let Ida find out what you’re planning to do with Toby, you’ll be in soup!”

Reading my son’s first journal was truly the highlight of my day. He was a quiet compliant nine year old but in the journal I saw a different guy. He was funny, meticulous, irritable and sarcastic _ like his mother!

It’s now four years later and guess what? That guy in the journal has started showing up in my teenage son.

Journaling as you can see helped me learn more about my children. For this and other reasons I list below, I definitely recommend buying your child a fancy journal notebook.

They learn to write a lot more. This is obvious, isn’t it? Writing is a wonderful talent. It is a skill every person needs to cultivate. Journaling is more than just writing though.

Stress happens to us all, children too. From my experience, journaling puts children in a state of mindfulness where their negative experiences don’t seem quite earth shattering.

I believe Psychologists that say it is a coping mechanism that helps lower their anxiety and stress levels because writing down how they feel helps children process small and big emotional bumps.

Memories cannot be bought with money. As busy parents working day jobs or business owners, it’s easy to forget how time flies. I often recall the hours I experienced labour pains for my first child like it was yesterday. And look now _ he’s the one giving me advice on how to organise my dressing table. He’s growing!

While I’m proud of how the young man is turning out, I wish there were things I had done to enrich his childhood memories. I will never be able to go back to when he was six years old.

Reading children’s journals reminds me that I need to enrich their lives with experiences they can tell stories about in future.

Lost time gone forever. This is a quote I use to teach my children about the value of time. As soon as a child begins school they need to be taught time management. Journaling is a helpful tool for that.

Children want to record a variety of activities in their journal _ especially if their siblings are also journaling. If they only get to watch TV all day while someone else is doing dishes, playing scrabble, riding the scooter outside and painting a portrait, they would definitely have a more interesting journal entry for that day.

Creating multiple activities makes the child realise that he has to manage time better to accommodate other things he would like to write about.

Children reflect too. My six year old is an emotional child. He struggles to hold back tears every time he is upset about something as trivial as someone saying to him “You need to stop being a cry baby”. He really wants to stop the habit but can’t seem to fight back tears. Then he started stuttering which makes it worse.

I read his journal the other day and he wrote something like “Ida blamed me for no good reason and that made me sooooo angry”. Writing in his journal definitely helps him release negative feelings.

Intentionality. “Today, I wanted to wash plates, read a book and arrange my bookshelf but I wasn’t able to do them all. I have to do better tomorrow” This is what my daughter once wrote in her journal. I thought it was impressive that she was learning goal-setting by herself.

The journal served as a reminder and a tool for measuring progress on their targeted goals without Mummy’s constant prodding.

Society needs citizens who can speak out. Children inclusive. An audience that can’t talk back or oppose their point of view helps them gain confidence in what they have to say before the opportunity comes to actually voice it out.

Children can question issues without feeling intimidated or judged by someone older when their first audience is their journal.

Don’t we all need a healthy distraction from dependency on social media? The journal is it. When children begin to use social media, they should be able to decide what information to put out and which ones the public doesn’t deserve to have. It is a healthy distraction that helps them value their right to privacy early in life.

This is a journey you have to accompany the child on. You can’t just give children a blank book and require them to fill it up and submit for marking at the end of the day. Families like mine with four children (biological) and another adopted one can be exhausting.

Interacting with each one of my children is an emotional investment I have to make. Their journals help you map their emotions and understand how best to deposit in their ‘bank’.

Journaling is a form of art.

Keeping a diary is not necessarily journaling. Journals allow you to draw and analyse.

As a creative person I understand that when you create a form of art you want to share and let people comment on it. It feels good to get positive feedback. This is where I come in as a parent _ I provide that validation which makes my children feel comfortable about sharing their secrets with me.

Like writing, a child can learn to journal by imitating. Journaling is easy and there are no rules about it. My daughter first learned by copying books like ‘Doodle diary for girls’.

My first son has read all books in the ‘Diary of a Wimpy kid’ series. At the beginning, he copied characters in the book. When he got bored of them he began to change their noses, hair, until he created his own.

It was so hilarious the day I saw my new character_ she had these funny looking boobs and such slim hips with spirally hair that spiked whenever she screamed over spilled water on the floor, unflushed toilets or undressed beds.

You can tell that I love reading children journals already.

Hopefully, you will too!

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