I think most of us will agree that our kids could benefit from more time spent outdoors. Whether you live in a condo in the city or on acreage like us, time spent outside is beneficial for young minds and bodies.
Using a nature journal with your children is fun and practical. With a nature journal, your children will be recording their own learning and observations which helps them retain the information. Oh, and if you homeschool, it means they are also recording their learning…which helps you!
Now, to the top eight reasons your kids will benefit from keeping a nature journal.
1. Using a Nature Journal is a Great Way to Get Your Kids Outdoors
Let’s be honest, kids aren’t always enthusiastic about the idea of going outside. My children have been raised on acreage surrounded by woods and time spent outdoors is both normal and routine for us. Despite this, when my kids were younger I noticed an interesting pattern. At the beginning of each spring, as the weather warmed up and the near-constant winter drizzle stopped, I would have to kick my children outdoors. Somehow, over the long months of winter spent indoors, they would “forget” the joys of being outside. After a few days of kicking them out into the sunshine, they quickly reverted back to the majority of their daylight hours spent outdoors.
2. Keeping a Nature Journal Can Help Increase Observation Skills
Being outdoors introduces a new way for children to practice their skills of observation. It is easy to involve all the senses in nature observations. New smells, sounds, sights, textures, and yes, even, tastes.
A nature journal gives those kids a way to record those observations, which in turn, helps them tune into their senses.
3. Nature Journals are a Fun to Practice Writing and Fine Motor Skills
Why give your kids boring worksheets and tedious handwriting practice when they can be creating a record of their time outdoors? Kids hate busy work because it feels contrived. And it feels contrived because it is contrived.
Along with record their time outdoors (what they see, hear, feel, etc.) it is a great time to teach your children the basic fundementals of drawing (more on that below). This drawing will strenghten their hand muscles and improve their fine motor skills, which in turn will improve their handwriting.
4. Nature Journaling is a Great Way to Naturally Grow Your Child’s Vocabulary
If you spend time outdoors with your children, observing your surroundings, questions will arise. You will likely have to do some research (what are those purple starfish called? Pisaster ochraceus ).
It is well-known that a large vocabulary is corrolated with a higher IQ and better SAT scores. But the real win? A large vocabulary means an easier time reading, expressing yourself, and more knowledge in general. You understand what you are reading, what is said in the news, and your knowlege base grows naturally.
5. Time Spent in Nature Helps Children Realize Their Part in the Natural World
What better way to introduce the idea of respecting the natural world around us than to have our children spend time outdoors? Whether in your backyard, in a national park, or a hiking trail, or botanical garden, opportunity to respect nature abounds!
You will see micro-ecosystems (think a tidepool or the life found under a rock). We found this leopard slug under the bark of a fallen tree.
6. Nature Journaling is a Great Way to Practice Drawing…as Communication
My very favorite how-to-draw resource is the Drawing Textbook by Bruce McIntyre. Sadly, the book is now out of print, but you can still pick up used copies. What sold me on Mcintyre’s book is his philosophy that all kids should be taught to draw as part of their education. The reason is simple, not because we all want or need to be artists, but because drawing is a form of communication like reading, writing, and speaking. My not teaching our children the fundamentals of drawing, we are robbing them of a way to communicate visually with others.
But drawing is rarely used as a tool for learning in schools. Generally, most high school teachers aren’t trained in visual education.
“Drawing is not something that should be confined to art lessons – it’s a skill that can play a role in many different subject areas in school education, and later on in the workplace.“
Resources for Drawing with Kids
One of my favorite books for this is Star, Branch, Spiral, Fan: Learn to Draw From Natures Perfect Design Structures. Not only does this book show you, step-by-step how to draw plants and animals in nature, but it also talks about the patterns of math in nature.
7. Boredom is an Important Part of Child Development
But my children hate being outdoors. They find it boring…
Our kids are growing up in a fast-paced, over-scheduled, technology-focused world. Spending time outdoors can help slow them (and us) down. And, chances are, if your kids are new to nature journaling or nature walks, they will complain that they are bored.
8. Nature Journals Can Be a Doorway to Other Learning
The best part of homeschooling your children is being involved in their learning. When children learn at home, they become aware of the natural connections and overlap between subjects. Home education isn’t (or doesn’t have to be) broken down into separate 45-minute boxes in a daily schedule.
Because you are sharing learning with your children, you can point out connections and share the joy of making new discoveries together.
Outdoor/Nature Art Activities for Nature Journals
Online Nature Journal Resources
Babble Dabble Do has a great post with five different ways of binding books. These would be great at-home projects to do with your kids.
Recommendations for Nature Journals
I have a brand new Nature Journal for Kids in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It has 18 pages of printables that include learning to write Haiku, journaling, nature bingo, sketching what they see, and more. The pages you see Apollo using are from my printable nature journal.
You do not need these supplies to do nature journaling with your kids! I am a huge fan of the pens and colored pencils linked below (I own them which is why I am recommending them) but this can also be done with regular paper and a pencil.
24 Fine Line Colored Pens– Great pens for introducing kids to line drawing.
Micro-Line Pens– I use these for line drawing. Best for kids 10 and up.
Faber-Castell Color Grip Pencils– best colored pencils we’ve ever used.
Faber-Castell JUMBO Color Grip Pencils– same as above, except jumbo-sized for younger kids.
These Rite in the Rain notebooks are great for kids 12 and up. We bought these for our three teens back in 2006 when we were studying marine biology. They would take them on field trips to the ocean and love tossing them right into the sea…where they would come out unharmed!
Paper (I use regular printer paper)
Have any great resources for nature journaling? Be sure and share in the comments!