Zettelkasten Forum

Starting Young

I'm a big fan of the ZettelKasten/Slip-Box method, and think it is the best way to study and work with knowledge. I also have children, and my oldest is now in 3rd Grade, which is starting to pick up with the subjects the child is expected to study, and learn things about. I'm wondering if it is too early to start this child out with a simplified slip-box system (at least making the notes for themselves to keep, and write them as individual notes). And, if so, do I go fully digital (the child has a laptop on Windows), or start analog and digitize later as they grow up and let them reprocess older notes (with perhaps more details).

Has anyone tried starting such practices with children (or related practices like Getting Things Done in combination)? Any tips to help my child are greatly appreciated.


  • If you start that young I'd surely go with a analog slipbox style. I am not sure how well a brain of such a young child is developed. And it depends on your child, too.

    My best guess is to start a slip box with something your child really likes. Especially, if he/she is more on the systemising brain type. Don't make session to long. Always end them before the fun stopps and concentration buckles a bit.

    Example: Start processing books on dinosaurs or the first mammals. Those are more bad ass and therefore more entertaining.

    If your child is more of a empathizing type I'd start with processing something like social groups with individuals. Like crafting a slip box sociogram of groups perhaps of a novella.

    For skill development you will have a better depth of processing if you go with something that is tangible (cards), requires complex motor skills (long-hand and drawing) and is accessable through multiple means (if creating a animal related slip box you can always go to the zoo and process some experiences there).

    I'd design it like a game of playing detective.

    I am a Zettler

  • This reminds me of creating a herbarium for school, but with dinosaurs. (Only that it was not fun at all back then.) The fun thing with a paper-based approach is that children could intersperse drawings or fantasy maps of dinosaur land. James Gurney made a whole business of this. :)

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • Maybe you find some inspiration in the design of a zettelkasten as a "problem solving assistant". You find more details about it here on this forum.

    I would guess that there are several practices that are accessible to younger students.

    For what it's worth, here are some first ideas:

    • Make a diagram / draw a sketch / write a text about the things you already know about your topic on one sheet.
    • Ask questions about your diagram / text: What are the parts that puzzle you? Can you add details? What parts are missing? What are aspects you want to find out more about? (Obviously, this is related to Sascha's idea of designing zettelkasten work as a detective game.)
    • You can develop your ideas about these questions in an interplay between thinking and writing.
    • Then create a new sheet that shows your new view on the topic.
  • This may probably make me a weirdo, but now that I think about it I did have a sort of ZK basically from 2nd grade. No, I wasn't "processing books", but I was really very much into biology, and I kept a little notebook with me all the time once I learnt how to write, and I would note down in it things that I read and saw. Some were from books, some were notes taken while visiting museums, or any random thing really connected to the topic. I even made a TOC for it as I went. I kept it for years but now don't know where it is any more...... :neutral:
    Anyway, ZK is good for anyone who is interested in collecting information, and children definitely are sometimes!

  • No, you are in good company. Did draw anatomical schemes from fictional animals, made pedigrees in the kindergarten. I'd be suprised if such things would be atypical in this community.

    I am a Zettler

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