Mary Richards, author of the Take Me To series of activity journals, talks to us about the benefits of journaling.

As an author and illustrator, I’m used to turning words into sentences. At the moment my four children are at home with me too (they are 8, 8, 11 and 13), and we’re encouraging each other to do a little bit of writing every day. So, just why is it a good idea to keep a journal?

  • The activity of writing – whether it’s with a pen or pencil on a scrap of paper, in a diary or journal, or on a computer – can be relaxing and help you feel better. You can write anything down. It’s personal, so only you are judging what you’ve written. You don’t need to worry about handwriting, spelling or making perfect sentences – just focus on writing down the thoughts in your head. You can draw pictures, too.
  • Keeping a journal will help you remember what you were doing at this point in time far into the future.At the moment,days and weeks can seem to stretch on and on, with no beginning or end. You may think that you’ll always remember exactly what it felt like to work at home, rather than going to school. Or how you kept up with your friends on phone and video calls instead of playing in the playground. But you’d be surprised! Make a note of your daily activities as if you were a detective observing someone else. Where do you sit in the house? Do you do your homework on paper, on a tablet, on a computer? What do you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What do you do to relax? Years later, you’ll look back at these notes and remember your experiences clearly.
  • Writing things down will help you to focus, to think clearly and to understand the way you feel. As well as writing about what you’ve done in a day, you can also use your journal to write down what’s on your mind or to make lists and plans. Make notes on what has made you happy or what you’d like to change. What went well today? What would I like to do tomorrow? What do I want to tell my friends next time we speak?
  • Don’t worry about writing the same amount – or even anything at all – every day. You can use your journal to write very short notes – perhaps just a few words – to sum up how you’re feeling. You can take a break for a few days or even for a week, and then come back with new ideas. When you re-read what you’ve written, you might be surprised at what you find – and you might even learn something about yourself.
  • Use your imagination.Your journal might spark new ideas for stories or pieces of art. In writing my new book, I’ve been researching a young journaller from the 1820s called Mary Yelloly, who grew up in Norfolk. At the age of 8 1/2 she invented a story – in words and pictures – of an imaginary family she called the Grenvilles. Mary based this story (which she called a “picture history”) on her own life. She created detailed drawings of this fictional family with four children, their home and their daily activities. Mary must have enjoyed the world she’d created, as she continued writing her story for four years!

Feeling inspired? Visit for some free downloadable activity pages, including a diary page.

Take Me Outdoors, published by Agnes & Aubrey, is an activity journal written and illustrated by Mary Richards. The book has space for five separate outdoor “adventures”, and includes pages for creative writing, recording things you notice and drawing what you see.