Taking Journaling To The Next Level

Today I wanted to share with you one of the activities I did with campers at the medical camp I work with. We wanted one of the activities to result in something the campers could take home with them, and I had gotten a really great idea at the National Child Life Conference earlier this year: journals. But not just any journals, I was taking three different ideas and putting them all together. I call them “6-Word Memoir Smash Journals”.

Ta Da! My 6-Word Smash Book

Okay, so maybe that is a bit of a mouthful and we really just called them Smash Books for fun, but I will say they are a bit different from the Smash Books talked about at conference if you were at that session on activities for teens.

What you will need is a blank journal and a writing instrument. I will note that it is more fun with many different colored writing instruments, but it’s not essential. I explained to the campers that we would be creating a journal that tells a little bit about themselves, maybe about their camp experience, maybe about their experience getting diagnosed, or something else about them. The first thing I did after each camper got their journals was tell them they had to write a title. But their title had some guidelines. It could only be 6 words long and the goal was for it to describe their life. This was taken from the 6 Word Memoir project, which is super cool. You can find more information here: https://www.sixwordmemoirs.com

As a side note, I wasn’t super strict on the 6 words only rule, especially with the younger kids. Adapt this as you see fit. But while it seems hard to come up with something that is exactly 6 words long, it also forces people to get really creative. It was very cool to see some of the things the campers came up with.

After they had created their titles, I had them pick a page and answer the following writing prompts:

If you could have any magical power, what would it be? Draw or write your answer.

Draw or write one thing that always makes you smile.

While I could have chosen any prompt, the theme of camp was magic, so that explains the first prompt. hThe second one was to get them thinking about what makes them happy and recognizing that they can bring happiness into their lives by their choices.

The third part of the activity was smashing the books together. I got this idea also at the Child Life Conference. The presenter had explained how she had a journal where kids of the same diagnosis would write their story or maybe a letter to kids who got the book in the future. It was kind of like a living book that helped connect kids of the same diagnosis, even when they hadn’t ever met face to face. For my activity I told the campers to pass around their books to each other and write notes to each other. It was awesome to see the campers passing around their books and writing little notes to each other. Even the counselors got in on the fun and many of the kids told me it was really meaningful to them.

I really liked this activity and highly recommend it with a large groom of kids. The biggest thing to be aware of is what the difference in the group is. For this activity I did it with kids and teens from 6 years to 17 years. The biggest issue was that the younger kids got done much quicker than the older teens. This meant we had to keep the younger ones entertained while we waited for the older ones to finish. But otherwise everyone gave the activity a thumbs up.

Have you ever done a therapeutic journaling activity. What have you found that works? Leave a comment below!

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