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8 Reasons to Use a Nature Journal With Kids

eight reasons your kids will benefit from keeping a nature journal.

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.

Apollo using a magnifying glass. Nature journal kids.
Apollo loves using this magnifying glass to get an up-close view of nature.

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

Nature journals are a great way to encourage your children to spend more time 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

Prickles on a bush in the Pacific Northwest.

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.

Keeping a nature journal will help your children reflect on what they are learning.

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

How using a nature journal with your kids can encourage time outdoors.

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

Keeping a nature journal is an exciting way for kids to track their outdoor adventures.
Kalina at Semiahmoo circa 2006

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.

Our large family loves the ocean! Here is an evening well spent at Birch Bay.

5. Time Spent in Nature Helps Children Realize Their Part in the Natural World

Beautiful morning at Semiahmoo Resort. Bellingham photographer.
Semiahmoo 2020

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!

slug-nature-journal-kids_0001

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.

The Conversation makes a great case for why drawing should be taught to draw as part of children’s academic education.

How using a nature journal with your kids can encourage time outdoors.


Drawing plays a big role in our cognitive development. It can help us learn to write and think creatively, develop hand-eye coordination, hone analytic skills, and conceptualize ideas.

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

Sketch Thinking: Learning to Communicate Your Ideas with Simple Drawing Techniques

Simple Line Drawing Techniques PDF

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.

My unit on Tessellation covers the overlap of math, art, and patterns we find in nature.

7. Boredom is an Important Part of Child Development

8 reasons to use a nature journal with your kids.

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.

And that’s okay.

8. Nature Journals Can Be a Doorway to Other Learning

Keeping a nature journal is a fun way to record your child's learning.
Tilly explores Bellingham Bay circa 2006

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.

close-up of bumblebee enlarged through magnifying glass.


Outdoor/Nature Art Activities for Nature Journals

eight reasons your kids will benefit from keeping a nature journal.

Make Your Own Nature Paint Brushes

How to Build a Fire

Make Pressed Flowers for Art Projects

Solar Oven Projects to Try with Kids

Online Nature Journal Resources

1000 Hours Outside

10 Reasons Why Kids Need to Spend Time Outdoors

Children need 4-6 Hours Outdoors for Development and Overall Well-BeingForaging With Kids

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

a child holding a leaf in his hand.
nature journal teachers pay teachers

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.

Clipboard

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!

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