Trees budding, birds chirping, and rain falling, nature is truly amazing. Nature journaling is a great way for kids to explore and connect with the natural world. Not only is journaling fun, but it is an easy way to get outside together.
Kids of all ages can get excited about making and keeping their own nature journal. What better activity to encourage your kids to become nature explorers than recording in a nature journal.
Read on to find out exactly why this type of journaling is beneficial to kids and some ideas to get your kids started with their own nature journals.
What is Nature Journaling
Nature journaling is the act of keeping a log of observations, questions, and data collected outside. A nature journal, or a nature notebook, is a place to record these observations.
Nature journaling is all about taking the time to look around and connect with the natural world.
Journals can be guided or self led. Use it as a place to record information learned while being outside. Kids can record interesting discoveries including new species or weather conditions.
Pair it with a nature study or make journaling outside a routine part of your day or week.
Why Keep a Nature Journal with Kids
Teaching science is all about giving kids a chance to strengthen their observation skills. Keeping a nature notebook is a great place to start.
Many famous scientists, including Charles Darwin, first recorded observations which led to important discoveries in their own nature journal.
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to get kids outside not only playing, but observing the natural world.
Even if you use prompts, children will create an entry that is their own. No two journals will be exactly the same.
If a child is reluctant to keep a "journal" consider calling it their own nature field guide, nature notebook, or book of nature observations.
Encouraging young kids to observe natural objects and living things is what science is all about.
Keeping a Nature Journal with Kids
Kids are natural observers as they try to make sense of the world around them.
Creating and keeping a nature journal with your kids is a wonderful way to capture their natural enthusiasm about nature.
Keep it simple and have kids make observations of natural objects. These include living and nonliving things found in the natural world. Think rocks, water, insects, and plants.
The entry above is from a cloud journal. Help little learners use a ruler to add lines for them to write on. If you are looking for a free notebook template check out the cloud journal section of the types of clouds post.
Step into your own backyard. Or explore new habitats at a local park or national park. You might be surprised by what is present even in a backyard habitat.
If keeping journals with different aged kids, it would be fun to see the unique way they each interpret the world around them.
Creating an entry based on a discovery made in your own yard will look very different for young vs older learners. Its amazing how different the world looks through a child's eyes.
Keep Your Own Journal along with your Kids
Don't let your kids have all of the fun. Keeping a natural journal as an adult can also be a relaxing and enjoyable hobby!
Kids would love to see how your nature journal compares to theirs. Keeping one yourself is a wonderful way to connect with your kids.
And no, you do not need to be the best artist or illustrator. However, don't be surprised if your skill's increase the more frequently you use the journal.
Take a few minutes to make a quick sketch or record a few thoughts. Journaling is not only beneficial to kids, but adults. If you find yourself looking to reconnect with nature, try keeping a nature journal.
Types of Journal Entries
Typically, journals contain blank pages instead of lined paper. This gives children the freedom to using both words and illustrations.
Similar to a science notebook, each child will have their own dedicated nature journal. The list below can give you some ideas to get you started keeping a nature notebook with your kids.
Combine a few of each or stick with one type of entry. Nature journaling is all about making connections with the natural world in your own unique way.
Provide more guided instruction if you are turning an entry into a more formal lesson with your kids. Or provide them with a list and let them pick the type of entry they make.
List of Ideas for Entries
- Illustration or Sketch of One Object
- Sketch of a Collection of Objects
- Detailed Scientific Sketch with Labels
- List of Questions and Inferences
- Data Collection for a Specific Species
- Weather Report with Weather Conditions
- Poem or Quotes
- Short Story
- Personal Reflection (diary entry style writing)
- Sound Journal (describe in detail what you hear)
- Habitat Map with a Key
This is just a list to get you started. Once you get the hang of it, keeping a nature journal can be as open ended or as guided as you see fit.
Some kids enjoy drawing and illustrating. Others are more interested in writing stories, poems, and descriptions.
Let their questions and natural curiosity guide the entries once they get the hang of it.
What Skills Can Be Practiced
Even with a self guided nature journal, kids can practice a variety of skills. If you are looking for a more guided approach, have them focus on one or more of the skills when they make an entry.
In their purest forms, nature journals encourage parents to let the child choose what to focus on and how to structure an entry.
However, you do what works for you and your kids. I know from personal experience that some kids need some guidance to get them going.
Math skills including counting, comparing, and tallying are easily adapted for kids with different math abilities.
Making observations including noticing small details, comparing and contrasting, and recording measurements can all be done.
A simple technique is to record how many of one type of species you see. This can vary depending on the age of your child.
Birds, butterflies, or even beetles can be counted and recorded.
A favorite of many children is to practice art skills. Take along colored pencils, water colored pencils, paints, or even pencils with different grades of graphite.
I don't know about you, but whenever I use something other than typical crayons to draw something, I feel like an official artist. It is easy to create that special feeling with a few simple changes to the supplies you use.
Use a field guide to learn scientific names to go along with the common name of the different plants and animals that you discover. Add scientific labels pointing to the different parts.
For a fun way to increase engagement bring along a field microscope or magnifying glass. Kids of all ages absolutely love using these two tools.
Consider bringing along a compass to practice compass reading. Even young learners can begin reading a compass by identifying the letters for each of the four main directions.
Language Arts and literacy skills can easily be incorporated into nature journaling. Presenting writing in a new and creative way may spark the interest of a child who is usually hesitant to write.
Is there any better way to learn about and appreciate nature than to keep a nature journal? Even a gross looking fungus or a slimy snail can open your child's eyes to all that nature has to offer.
The best way to learn to appreciate nature is to experience it first hand. Even the simple act of observing objects in a backyard habitat will have kids experiencing nature in a whole new way.
Sample Journal Entry
The entry below was made while observing flowers blooming in a garden. Illustrations show the different characteristics of yellow flowers.
A few words are added including the color of the petals and centers. At the bottom I recorded the weather conditions, date, and the location.
Flowering plants make an excellent focus for a journal entry. Kids are naturally drawn to flowers.
Look closely to notice small details. Small ladybugs, bumblebees, and even ants love flowers.
Use an official field guide to help you identify the scientific names of common flowers. Or the simple act of learning to slow down and observe them up close is more than enough.
Flowers can be observed all season long. Both a young toddler and a teenager can observe the same patch of flowers and create very different nature journal entries.
Revisiting the garden during the different seasons will make you feel as if you are visiting it for the first time.
How to Make Your Own Nature Journal
Journals come in different sizes and can be purchased. Or you kids can make their own.
I made one using water color paper, scrapbook paper, and embroidery floss. Blank paper was used instead of lined or graph paper to make it easier to add drawings.
I used watercolor paper because of its weight and feel. It can hold its own outside compared to blank printer paper. Card stock is another good alternative.
Get creative and encourage kids to make their own. Even adding decorations to a store bought journal helps kids to become interested in keeping and using a journal.
Make a unique cover page to cover the store bought design. Turn the first page of your journal into an about me page. Add special nature keepsakes along with words as you keep journaling.
Nature Journal Prompts
If you are not sure how to start or looking for ideas, check out the list below for prompts.
Sometimes it just takes sitting down, stopping, and really taking a few minutes to take it all in. Within a few minutes some kids will be eager to point out different observations including new discoveries.
Others will benefit from some prompting from you, the parent or another child. Providing a prompt can get a child ready to focus on a specific object or task.
- Record what you hear. Try to see what is making the different sounds.
- Draw something containing a specific color(s)
- Pretend to be a tree or insect and write from their perspective
- Measure a few small items using a ruler
- Compare the size of three different objects
- Collect 4 different leaves to draw
- Draw and describe the weather
- Count the number of ____
- Make a sketch of ____
If you are just starting out or it is your first time writing an entry, kids will need some types of guidance to get started.
This post about insects has printable guides for collecting beetle and insect data. Along with a free printable insect scavenger hunt. All three can be used in collaboration with a nature journal.
A color scavenger hunt would be a perfect activity to pair with a nature journal. Bring along the journal as you explore outside.
Or collect color samples outdoors and do the journaling inside. This is a great option to continue nature journaling during the colder months.
The Value of Getting Outside in Nature
There is no denying the fact that kids in general are spending less and less time outside in nature. Exploring the woods, a patch of dirt, or even the far edge of the lawn where wildflowers and long grass grows.
Being outside often brings people of all ages peace and joy. By starting and keeping a nature journal with kids you are showing them just how valuable it is to be outside in nature.
If you are looking for more resources be sure to check out the list of resources below.
Have you ever thought about keeping a nature journal with your kids? Let me know in the comments below!
Books, Field Books, and Resources
- Keeping a Nature Journal: Deepen Your Connection with the Nature Around You by Clare Walker Leslie
- Go to guide for nature journaling and learning how to make observations of nature
- Creative prompts and sample journal entries from her personal nature journal
- Emphasizes using simple techniques to capture and document the natural world
- Field Guides from the National Audubon Socieity
- John Muir Laws Nature Stewardship Website and Blog
- Ideas for how to set up and start your own nature journal
- How to draw videos (amazing resource for older kids)
- Nature journal ideas and inspiration
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