Nature journaling allows kids to combine art, science, and writing as they make observations about the world around them. Kids can gain a better appreciation for the nature around them instead of just reading about it in books or watching television shows about plants and animals on another continent. Children can gain a sense of place whether they are on vacation or at home.
Nature journaling is a great activity for kids who love drawing or writing (and/or nature). However, if your child is young or a reluctant writer, you’ll find some tips and techniques here that make nature journaling accessible to any child. The activity encourages kids to go outdoors every day and to be observant of the natural world.
This type of journaling isn’t a diary for a child to record emotional responses to experiences. Megan Quint, in “Nature Journaling for Kids” explains that, “Keeping a nature journal is a way to explore, understand, and connect with the natural world.”
Materials for Nature Journaling with Kids
Nature journaling often uses a bound notebook – either with blank or lined pages. However, children can find this an overwhelming place to begin. They’ll often focus on the blank pages ahead instead of the page they are working on.
I’ve seen kids tear pages from nature journals – even those with sewn pages that cause other pages to fall out of the book – all because the child isn’t satisfied with what they’ve done or are embarrassed by words or a drawing that doesn’t match their expectations.
So, instead, try starting with unlined index cards – 4”x6” is perfect. This size isn’t too large and all your child is looking at is one small slip of paper to work on.
Your child will also need pencils, colored pencils, and a black pen. Other options include markers, watercolor pencils, and a watercolor palette with brush. Keep things simple in the beginning and add other materials to suit your child’s interests.
You’ll also need a stiff piece of cardboard or another board to support the index card when your child is working on it.
Start with a simple goal of five or ten minutes once a week. After a couple of weeks of success, add another day. Gradually add days throughout the year. Or, jump right in with five minutes a day (which could work with parents of homeschoolers, preschoolers, or kids on vacation.)
You can either stick to approximately the same time every day (changing the time each week, if that would work) or fitting this activity in whenever possible. With index cards (instead of a bound book) you could fit in this activity when you arrive at the dentist five minutes early, or you are waiting on the soccer field.
Nature Journaling: Getting Started
Nature journaling is a way for kids to observe nature and concentrate on what most intrigues them. Focus on the process of writing and/or drawing instead of the product for each day. Writing and drawing about what they see may help kids focus and relax as they spend time outdoors.
With young children or reluctant journalers, join them in the process. With older children, put suggested activities on slips of paper that go into a jar to be pulled out (return entries after reading them). Allow children to suggest ideas for topics. Include general and specific topics (the sky, a tree, a branch, a leaf, a closed bud, a flower, visitors to the bird feeder, etc.)
Basic Nature Journaling Tips
Start each journal entry by noting the day of the week, the date (including the year), the time of day and where the entry will be made (backyard, Bird Park, Jimmy’s front yard). You can do this part for young children and reluctant writers.
Next, write or draw a few comments about the weather. All of this creates a sense of the place in which they’re basing the entry. This takes a drawing of a tree in the front yard or a haiku into the realm of journaling – as opposed to a piece of art that doesn’t connect to changes in the seasons.
Remember that a child doesn’t have to stick to the same technique with each entry. She may want to draw five entries and then write a poem for the sixth. Another child may prefer to tape a leaf or a photograph to the index card on occasion.
Lists and Journaling
A list is a quick way to note what you feel or observe. Timing an entry (30 seconds) pushes kids to create without dawdling and thinking too much. Start a list with a minute of sensory observations with eyes open or eyes closed.
- List adjectives, descriptions of the surrounding.
- List nouns and verbs into simple sentences (flies buzzing, birds flapping, chickadee singing).
- Close your eyes. Open them after a minute and list everything you heard.
- Wander around the yard sniffing everything and recording the fragrances and their sources.
- Record textures (oak leaves feel like waxed paper, grass feels like a paintbrush)
Poetry and Paragraphs in Journals
Kids can write simple poems, like acrostics, haiku, and diamante or write a paragraph that describes what they see. They can combine prose and poetry with drawings, to add to their record of that moment in nature.
Draw a simple picture of a scene or a specific object in nature. One day, draw a bud on a tree; the next day, draw the branch; then, draw the tree; finally draw the landscape the tree stands in. Or, just encourage your child to draw whatever captures his or her attention that day. To capture things that move, kids can do timed drawings … 5 seconds, 10 seconds, or 30 seconds.
Creating a Nature Journal
Even if your children are creating nature journal entries on index cards (instead of in a bound journal), you will want to keep the papers together. One of the things that adds strength to the task of keeping a nature journal is that it shows patterns in nature over time. A picture or paragraph only shows a moment in time.
Consider storing cards in a preschool calendar pocket chart, an index card file box, or a photo album.
Although it can take a bit of effort getting into the habit, once your child realizes this is a brief, easy-to-accomplish task that makes them more aware of the place where they live, they will enjoy the creative exploration of their world.© Copyright 2015 Susan McCarthy, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting