A collection of rocks collected at Mt. Vesuvius in Naples, a souvenir from the leaning tower of Pisa, crayon-on-construction paper drawings of the beaches in Naples, Italy are all part of the travel journals that Sonia Pruneda-Hernandez preserved. These are keepsakes that her son began creating when he was in preschool. Recently she perused those journals, reliving the memories with her son who is now a 22 year-old college student.
“As a military spouse I had the opportunity to live in Naples, Italy,” said Pruneda-Hernandez, who now works as the Director of Early Childhood Education Initiatives at Montgomery College. “When we traveled in Europe, I provided my son travel journals. As a preschooler, he drew pictures of the places we visited and I would write parts of our conversations on the drawings. As he learned to write, his travel journals began to become more complex with him drawing and writing. I saved those journals and he is able to relive the memories of those experiences.”
Journals created during summer vacations allow families to maintain the experience of their trips long after they’ve returned home. Whether one’s plans include a safari in Kenya or a staycation among the monuments along the National Mall, keeping detailed records gives children who are living in the age of selfies and social media posts, a thoughtful option for holding onto memories.
“Travel journals are important because they [allow children], to have those memories of those experiences,” said Pruneda-Hernandez.
Advanced planning leads to creative journals that are a form of self-expression, suggests Wendy Rowe, a writing tutor and art teacher. “Before you leave for your trip, ask your child to think about what they’re most excited about and the type of journal they’d like to keep,” she said. “For example, my daughter likes to paint watercolor pictures of things that she sees. Other children might make a journal that’s a written narrative. What’s important is that parents allow children to choose the type of journal they want to make and then purchasing and packing the supplies that they might need, whether it’s colored pencils and craft paper or a simple notebook and a pen.”
Such diaries can spark family conversations and create opportunities to practice writing skills, advises Michelle Villano, a fourth grade teacher who encourages her students to write accounts of their summer adventures. “Children can enjoy a vacation and learn from the scenes around them,” Villano said. “A child’s travel journal shouldn’t just be a list of things that they did or saw. Parents should encourage them to engage all of their senses like sound, touch, taste and feel. For example, if you’re on a vacation in Paris, did you smell freshly baked baguettes when you walked into a restaurant for lunch? If you ate a croissant, could you taste the butter or feel the flakes on your tongue?”
The options for both the format of journals and the way that a child chooses to describe their experiences are abundant, says Rowe. “Children can include museum tickets, airplane boarding passes, leaves they collected from a park they visited,” she said. “Parents should encourage them to think long-term about things they might enjoy remembering later.”
“Travel journals allow young children to be actively involved in the experience of their journey,” added Pruneda-Hernandez. “They do not have to be written. Children that are not able to write yet, should be provided opportunities and materials such as a simple notebook, markers, crayons, or pencils to draw what they see and their experiences.”
Prompts can be used to encourage those who are resistant to keeping a record of their vacations, says Villano. “Start by asking them to write about something they saw by describing its color or shape,” she said. “They can describe the shape and color of a rock they saw while hiking in the Grand Canyon.”
“Parents can sit and ask open-ended questions at the end of the day,” said Pruneda-Hernandez. “This provides a [them] an opportunity to express themselves orally and provides opportunities for them to think about the experience.”
When helping her children create travel journals, Glenda Hernández Baca, PhD of Montgomery College often uses photographs and her children write captions.
“They often have words scratched out and that’s okay,” she said. “It’s important to remember that it’s about capturing memories the way the child wants to. Over-correcting or forcing them to start over due to mistakes takes away from the purpose, fun and creativity of journaling.”