Many children dread writing. The 250-word essay or the history report pump fear into children’s heart every school year. Because children are not in the habit of putting their thoughts on paper, they often clam up, fault writer’s block, and spend hours the night before a due date writing whatever comes to mind.

Fortunately, journaling can break this upsetting pattern. Journaling gets kids writing consistently, easing the experience of transferring information from their brains to the page. It also forces kids to edit their thoughts, spell words they have only spoken, and try new words in a sentence. Journaling allows kids to try these things daily so that it will feel less intimidating trying them for a school report. So, if you want your child to reap the benefits of journaling but don’t know where to begin, use some of the fun tips below.

List it

Good writers always brainstorm. A list journal can help students brainstorm ideas. Help your child create a list journal in order for him or her to create writing topics for future use. Have your child write their responses in bulleted phrases to topics you create. For example, have your child write a list of things they want to accomplish this year. You can provide your child with a number of topics and stick them in the front of his or her journal. Some interesting topics include: “My Favorite Songs,” “My Top 10 Wishes,” “Things I Worry About,” and “Things That are Red.”

Spell out your day

Some children find it frustrating to think of new ideas and write them in a timely manner. If this sounds like your child, have them start with writing out their daily schedule. They can write what classes they attended at school and what they ate for lunch. By writing about their day they are recalling important information and placing it in written form. This gives them the chance to use correct or invented spelling and reflect on their experiences. After they have gotten comfortable with writing about what has already happened, they will soon be able to write about things they want to happen.

Expand a moment

Show your child how to focus their writing on one topic by having them write a detailed paragraph about one experience. Have them recall the happiest, saddest, or funniest moment of their week and write about it. Encourage them to write it in narrative prose, detailing the important parts of the event. Then, have them write how they felt about the experience and why. After a while, your child will have a journal full of interesting moments that they can read and enjoy at the end of the year.

Web it

If your child enjoys sketching or drawing, have them create a web journal about an important moment in their life. Have them draw a big circle in the center of a journal page and write a word in the circle that names the experience. If they, for instance, want to web about their school’s Valentine’s Day dance, have them write “School Dance” in the circle. Next, have students make branches and create word tags to describe the dance. For one word tag, they can list friends who attended the dance. In another, they can write about the music that was played. Webbing the event helps them organize their experience so that later, if they want to write about it, they have a good place to start.

Write from a snapshot

Picture journals also motivate kids to write. To create a picture journal entry, have your child draw a picture of an important event in their life, then have them describe what is happening in the picture using a few sentences. This pictorial representation will jog your child’s memory for interesting details about the event, and it allows them to sharpen their artistic skills.

Teach your kids to appreciate the written word. Get your child in the habit of writing for the new year. Journaling is a non-intimidating, fun way to help your child get his or her thoughts on paper, which is half the battle for any writer.