24 Ways and Reasons to Keep a Family Journal

Written by Monthly Contributor, Trina Holden

I’m a journalist. Not of world news or current events, but of something much more interesting and dear to my heart – the story of Gods’ hand in my life and my family.

I’ve kept a personal journal for over 20 years, filling nearly 80 volumes. Before my children spoke their first words, I began a journal for each of them, to record all the cute things they would say and developmental milestones. My motley collection of notebooks — a true eyesore to look at on the bookshelf — is a treasure trove of fond memories and testimonies of a faithful God.

The benefits of keeping a journal have so richly enhanced my life, I long to encourage others to begin or cultivate the habit. But the challenge of keeping a daily log or starting one for each child may be intimidating or overwhelming,  so I propose…

The Family Journal

  • What: A sturdy, spiral bound, hard cover book with lines spaced wide enough that a grade-school-er would not be intimidated.
  • Authors: Anyone in the family who can write legibly, though younger artists are encouraged to add illustrations.
  • Where: Kept in the open, pen sandwiched inside, ready for instant reporting.

The Family Journal Contains:

  • Humorous quotes from the children (or parents!)
  • Ways the Lord has blessed the family
  • Significant family events
  • Gratefulness lists
  • Requests and answered prayers
  • Notes from visiting friends

Benefits of the Family Journal: 

  • A place for young writers to showcase their progress
  • A record to instruct the children in God’s faithfulness
  • Young children can be encouraged in the skill of narration as older family members take dictation
  • Best of all, the Family Journal provides a unique way to honor a family member on their birthday. The Librarian or Scribe of the family can spend some time prior to a birthday looking back and bookmarking passages that record personal development, funny quotes, and ways that God has used or blessed the birthday person. These selections can be read aloud at the birthday dinner or over dessert, and the whole family can laugh and celebrate that member of the family as the gift from God that they are.

Hints for Filling Your Family Journal:

  • encourage participation from youngest to oldest
  • have family recording time, perhaps directly after a meal — everyone can narrate a memory, with one person appointed as scribe
  • Don’t put it away — leave it open and available
  • Let it double as a guest book!
  • Take it in the car
  • Bring it on vacation!
  • Encourage extended family to contribute to special pages for birthdays
  • Don’t be a perfectionist. No one should be graded on punctuation or grammar — the only requirement should be legibility.
  • Choose a spiral bound book — they’re much easier to write in than one with traditional binding.

Bonus Idea: A Family Journal makes a great gift! Gift wrap a quality journal for a family Christmas or housewarming gift, with a nice pen and a copy of this article so they’ll know what to do with it!

Thrifty Tip: Find journals for $2-$5 at dollar stores and discount retail stores.

Without our family journal, I’d never remember precious things like…

“Me wanna be a pirate when me grow up. But me miss you, so me only go on pirate ship on Wednesdays.”
- Jesse, age 4

Don’t let the adorable things your kids say or the miracles God has worked in your life be forgotten – preserve them so you can rejoice over them in the future!

About Trina Holden

Trina enjoys offering hospitality from their 1800’s farm house in Upstate New York. She loves to encourage women to nourish their families, celebrate the journey, and choose to thrive at TrinaHolden.com.

33 Responses to 24 Ways and Reasons to Keep a Family Journal

  1. Teresa June 30, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    This is idea has touched me! I am making it a purposeful decision to implement this with my family on a daily basis.


  2. Sherrin October 30, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    I really enjoyed reading about what you do. I compile little notes about each month for a scrapbook with pictures as well, usually doing one or two 8 x 8 pages per month. This is another fun idea that may be perfect for busy seasons if there really is NO time to scrapbook! How lovely to include the whole family.

  3. Crissy October 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post. I never grew journaling but when we adopted our daughters and someone talked to me about it I started very loosely. I try to keep one for myself but haven’t in a while one for each of the girls and then I try to have the oldest do one of her own. My husband and I used to have one but that fizzled. I don’t know if I am doing to much or what but just wanted some wisdom on how to keep one for myself and I wanted to keep one for the girls but maybe I just need to do a family one. I so want to preserve what God has and will do in our lives. I don’t want to make things too complicated because then I won’t do it. Thanks for listening and any advance! Lord bless!

  4. Lyndall October 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    What lovely ideas here! I have had a few flirtations with journalling over the years. While pregnant with my first child, a friend gave me a ‘guided’ pregnancy journal – what a thrill! I treasure it dearly, and it inspired me to do it again with my second child. I then went onto ‘Baby of Mine: A Mother’s Memory Album for Baby’s First Year’ by Tracey Clark – another guided journal – not a baby book per-se but a book for me to recall all those memories…

    I also started the ‘One Line a Day’ by Chronicle Books – this undated diary is designed for you to write a brief entry every day for five years… five years of records for that date are visible on the one page. I’ve just completed my first ‘lap’…what a treat it is already to look back at a glance to see what was happening this time last year!

    I also make a photobook for our family each year chroniclling our activities for the year. It may take me until about June of the following year to get it done, but I love it all the same. I envisage lots of laughs in coming years looking over these treasured books.

    As for my daughters’ individual memories… at the moment, I’m typing them into a Word file, backed up in a few locations, with the intention of making photobooks for them in the future combining their milestones, cute comments and photos in one place. That’s the intention anyway!

    Thanks for the inspiraton! Keep up the great work!

  5. Rachel October 12, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    The Family Journal is such a fantastic idea!
    I also am a journaller – I could not live without writing my thoughts, experiences, etc, down on paper!! This is very much how I process things.
    I love the stack of journals you have! Who cares what it looks like – seriously, those pages filled with your life are just invaluable!!!

  6. Dawn Herring October 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I just love this wonderful family journal idea; and the tips you share are so interesting and doable! It sounds like the kind of activity that would really help knit a family together and keep them close as they share their daily experience. What a validating and intimate activity to enjoy!

    I have chosen your post, 24 Ways and Reasons to Keep a Family Journal, as the #JournalChat Pick of the Day for all things Journaling on Twitter. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal: http://www.refreshwithdawnherring.blogspot.com/.

    You’re welcome to join us for #JournalChat Live on Thursdays at 4 CST/2 PST for all things journaling on Twitter; this week’s topic is on techniques we can use in our journaling practice.

    Thanks again for such a wonderfully fab idea for families: keeping a journal.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter

  7. Courtney October 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    I love this idea! :) Thanks for sharing it.

  8. Shonda October 11, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    I was going to do this with my soon to be 3 year old. I was going to get a notebook for his birthday so we can start writing what he did. I want to put in pictures and have him start coloring in it too. I used to journal all the time, but somehow fell out it once I got on the computer!

  9. Ashley Willcox October 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    We have been keeping a “blessings” family journal over the last couple of years and have enjoyed it so much! Thanks for all the suggestions on how to expand this practice in our family!

  10. Lori October 11, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Thank you! I started a journal when my first was born 3 years ago–the circumstances of her birth were so amazing and we saw God answer so many prayers, that I wanted to make sure she knew that, too. But thanks for the extra tips about birthdays and vacations and guests. I appreciate new ways to use it!

  11. megan October 11, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    I love this!! We’ve kept a journal for both of our daughters and have it open at their birthday parties for people to write them a little note. I need to get in the habit of writing in them more frequently and I love the idea of getting siblings to participate!

  12. Katharina October 11, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    Thank you! So do you have one for each child as well as for the family? Where do you leave them? Do you also have photo books? Do you have a place for the children`s art?

    • TrinaHolden October 12, 2011 at 4:37 am #

      Katharina (love your name!) –
      I do have one for each child, though that can be overwhelming to people, that’s why I suggest the family journal. I keep the journals with a pen stuck in them on a shelf in my kitchen – though often they are left open on the counter! I also throw them in my purse when we travel together as a family so I can get caught up on recording stuff while my husband drives.

      I do photo books (handmade scrapbooks) as well, but they take so much time that I have lowered my expectations in that area. My goal is to make a baby book for each of my children covering their first year. I also maintain an adventure album detailing family times and vacations. Beyond that, I try to keep taking pictures and keep them backed up so that I’ll have them for a future season in which I’ll have more time for crafting.

      I have a file cabinet with a file folder for each child. After the picture has been taped to the diningroom wall to be admired for a few weeks, I date and sign it for them and file it away. I don’t keep everything, but I do want them to know their creative pursuits are valued. I show them what I am saving, and often ask them permission to throw scribbles away. :)

  13. Kristine Christopherson October 11, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    This is great! Thanks for sharing. One question for you, do you have a family journal and then also a personal journal for each of your children?

    • TrinaHolden October 12, 2011 at 4:38 am #

      Yes, Kristine – I actually keep a personal journal and then one for each of my children – see my comment above!

  14. Amanda October 11, 2011 at 5:57 am #

    I LOVE this idea! I’ve always been awful at keeping up my son’s baby book, but *this* I could do. I always tell myself I’ll remember the cute things he’s said, or write them down someday… but I need to write them down now!

  15. Bethany October 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    Love this idea! I was recently thinking how I always want to remember things my girls do. Just tonight my mature little three-year-old cupped face in her hands and said “you’re my sweet mama.” Never want to forget. :)

  16. Jessica October 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    This is a FANTASTIC idea. Thank you so much!

  17. Susie October 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    What a great idea! I have kept journals for over 40 years. Most of them are my own personal journals but when my sons were in their early teens, I started a journal for each of them in which I would write encouragement to them or other things I wanted to share with them. Sometimes they would write a response back, although most of the time they didn’t (which wasn’t the point anyway). I wasn’t always consistent in writing regularly though, which I regret.

    One thing that was very interesting to me about these journals was that whenever I would add a new entry, they would read the whole journal again, not just the new entry.

    • Katharina October 11, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      beautiful idea for your teens!

  18. Charlene October 10, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    Trina—Enjoyed your guest post! Thanks again for a brilliant idea.

  19. Charlene October 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    My darling daughter-in-law introduced me to your blog to learn about soaking grains. I’ve been hocked ever since.

    This is a wonderful idea for a family but I think it’s just the thing for my dad’s 81st birthday as a way to record his family memories. Thanks so much.

  20. Jenna October 10, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    That is so amazing. I’ve been thinking the last month or so that I really need to start a daily journal of all the happenings in my family’s life. Thanks for the words of encouragement! It’s really a great way of remembering those special moments!

  21. Christie October 10, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Me thinks your Jesse and my Eden would sail on a pirate ship together with the funny quotes. I’ll let her know to keep Wednesdays open. ;) Great post!

  22. Joy Y. October 10, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    I truly love the concept of journaling our children’s lives in all aspects, but especially spiritually. Spiritual growth can be seen in so many different ways…..through their actions, words and so forth. It is an awesome thing to look back and see what the Lord has done in their lives, and I think it encourages them in their faith as well!



    • THolden October 10, 2011 at 8:46 am #

      OH, yes, Joy! I have tried to record every conversation about spiritual subjects so that my children will have a record of their childlike faith.

  23. Cheryn October 10, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    I love this idea of an open-book journal that everyone can be involved in! I had become very discouraged with journaling (I used to spend hours writing every day before I had kids), and haven’t done anything in a long time. Then a friend suggested to me that I write just a little something every day on my calendar, just to record those little cute sayings and accomplishments. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past month or so. This idea is even better!

    • THolden October 10, 2011 at 8:45 am #

      Cheryn, I’m so glad someone inspired you as to how to transition your journal habit into motherhood. I’m glad this post could encourage you, too.

  24. Jen (Real Food Healthy Living) October 10, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    I love journaling and I love this idea! This is similar to the journals that I came up with. You can see them here. They are very similar except that they include pictures. I like putting pictures in them because my kids have a visual of WHO we are praying for in the requests. I also have journaling pages.

    Thanks for a great post! I want to incorporate some of these ideas to our own family journaling. LOVE the idea of it doubling as a guest book.

  25. Mandi October 10, 2011 at 5:36 am #

    I, myself, am a journaler! I love keeping written memories of what’s going on as my little family grows! What a great post and thanks for the new ideas!

  26. shannon October 10, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    Great idea. I just need a notebook!

  27. Heather October 10, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    What a beautiful idea! I wish that I had started something like this when my kids were born, but it is never too late! I think I might like try to incorporate it into a family gratitude journal. Thanks for the wonderful ideas!