Nature journaling is a wonderful habit for children to learn. Drawing and recording the changes in the trees, wildflowers, birds, and mammals in their immediate environment will help kids become observant and give them a love of nature that will hopefully be lifelong. If you want kids to be successful at keeping a nature notebook, I suggest you keep it very simple. It’s better to have consistent entries , even if they are rather plain, than to have only a handful of pages of exquisite work. Below I will share how to keep a simple nature notebook.
Video: How to Keep a Simple Nature Notebook
What I love about Nature Study
One of the aspects I love most about Nature Study is that it engages all five senses. We can listen to a chickadee singing or a squirrel scolding. The brilliant colors of wildflowers against the azure sky dazzle our eyes. The lilacs, roses, and honeysuckle change the aroma in the air as they each come into full bloom at their appointed times. We can sample a taste of some wild berries or herbs or wildflowers. At every turn, there is some new creature or plant to observe. Everything outside is alive and it is very exciting for children and adults alike.
Key Focus: SIMPLE
The focus of this post is on one word: SIMPLE. In our large family of twelve with seven kids who are school age, nature notebooks have to be kept very basic or they won’t get done at all. As much as I love Nature Study, I am not able to spend as much time focusing on it as I would like at this current stage in our homeschool. I would rather the kids at least consistently keep a simple notebook rather than miss out on it altogether.
Having a few tools handy will help keep the inspiration strong. Well-sharpened pencils, fresh watercolors and brushes, and field guides will attract the child’s interest. Who wants to sketch with broken and worn down crayons? Investing in some quality mediums will incline them to be creative with their notebooks.
Field guides- We like the National Audubon Society Field Guides and the Handbook of Nature Study
Nature Notebooking In Our Home
It can be hard to fit nature notebooking in with all the other content that we have to cover in our homeschools from day to day. In our home, I assign nature study notebooks one day a week in. place of daily copywork. I put it on their homeschool checklists as a visual reminder to them. This relieves us from adding another subject by replacing it with a subject we are already doing. Additionally, kids look forward to the nature notebooking day when they can get a day off from copywork.
Some people have kids write in their nature notebooks when they are out in the woods. I think this takes away the simple pleasure of being out in God’s creation. I would rather they find treasures to bring home, add to their collection, and save for journal entries later.
A Simple Format for a Nature Notebook
A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the book The Country Diary of and Edwardian Lady. This book inspired me from the start and we started formatting our nature notebooks after the style used in it. The illustrations and text in Ms. Holden’s book are lovely and the content is fodder for imagination. It has given us a simple structure to follow.
I want to show you the basic pattern that we have taken from this book because it has revolutionized our approach to nature notebooking! I want our kids to see their notebooks as a keepsake, a product consistently in the making, so it helps to have a model to follow. This book does just that.
Here is how we organize our nature notebooks.
- Page 1 (left side)- In bold or block letters, write the month at the top of the page. Using inspiration from sights in the backyard or in the woods, draw the plants, animals, trees, scenes as they are in this month. I encourage the kids to make their illustrations colorful.
- Page 2 (right side and following pages, if needed) Write the short form of the date and a journal entry describing what is happening in the natural world around them at this time. The entry should be short, a few sentences, so as not to discourage the child. Since we do nature notebook once a week, they usually have 4 or 5 entries. This helps them to see the slow changes in the seasons.
- *Optional* Pages 3 & 4- For kids who can’t fit it all in the first two pages, they can continue their journal entries on page 3 or draw more sketches on page 4. However, we do like to keep each month in the same open notebook pages so that you can see it all with the spiral open flat.
I let my kids use the book for inspiration. Also, they can write little mottos poems in the margins as Edith Holden does in the book if they like to do that.
Guidelines for Keeping It Simple
The grand goal is for them to love nature. Because of that, I think it is very important how we approach a nature notebook. Here are a few guidelines.
- Don’t set the bar so high. Encourage them to do their best, but let go of all the instagram worthy ideas you find on pinterest. When a child is capturing nature from his or her perspective, he is learning. Do you want their notebooks to look a certain way or do you want them to learn and to love nature? Challenge them to do their best work, but don’t steal the joy by having your expectations too high.
- You don’t have to prioritize nature study year round. It’s ok to focus on it more for certain periods of time and then let it slip to the background for a bit.
Simple Nature Notebook Ideas
- In the back of the notebook, kids might enjoy keeping bulleted lists of birds, trees, and flowers as they learn to identify them.
- Kids can Modge Podge, tape, or press flowers and leaves into the notebook.
- For young children, moms can write their observations in the notebook for them. (They can do their own illustrations.)
What ideas do you have to help kids consistently keep a simple nature notebook? Leave a comment below with your suggestions!
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Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!