Have you found some beautiful flowers? Do you have a favorite tree? Did you plant any seeds recently? Are there any rabbits or birds that you've noticed around your neighborhood? Have you seen any interesting rocks or bugs? What if we had a special place for keeping track of all these wonderful things?
Thoughts for Parents
As we all know and appreciate, it is helpful to give the children in our lives the tools to be independent, and a nature journal may be perfect for that! This is a great thing to have on the shelf, that they can get whenever they want, to take with them to the backyard or whenever you go on a trip to the park. It is special and just for nature, and it can be a great reminder that learning really can happen naturally. Feel free to get as creative as you'd like with this, and let your children know that there really aren't any limits to what they can put inside this journal. It is there tool to explore nature, to trace, draw, color, to write out their feelings about their time outside, practice writing words, jot down their observations, explore anatomy of plants on their own, and so on. This isn't a one time craft, it is the door to a childhood of exploration, observation and appreciation for the world around us.
Setting Up a Nature Tray
Something that can be great to have at home is a nature tray: a designated tray for your children to put the various knick knacks that they find outside, to examine more closely and feel with their hands. This can be particularly helpful to have if you want your child to be able to work on their nature journal while they're inside too, as they will have some of the things they found in the backyard or at the park right in front of them!
I found the picture above on this blog that has some good pictures of a child exploring and finding things that she put in her basket, and then transferred to the tray. And as you can see, they even made a counting game out of it!
How many rocks can you find? How many acorns can you find? How many leaves? Flowers? The list goes on. What happens if you count all the different things you found together? Can you find 10 things? 20 things? 100 things?
For Younger Learners
As you wonder around the park or yard, what are some things you see that you really would like to draw? I found this big leaf as you can see below, but next time I want to find a lot of acorns to draw!
More the tracing, drawing and coloring, we can take this opportunity in nature to go over language. You could play the I Spay Game/Sound Game with objects from nature:
g - grass
l - leaf
r - rock
b - bark
s - stick, sky
f - flower
p - petal
For Learners Who are Writing
After you explore nature and find some things you like and draw them, you can write words that describe what you found! What color are they? Are they rough or smooth? Heavy or light? Soft or hard? Long or short? You can also practice just writing the names of what you found, such as leaf, rock, wood chip, and so on.
Can you count the things that you've found and practice writing the numbers on paper too? Look at all these rocks I found! I even counted all the veins of the leaf that I traced! Guess what, I had 16 rocks and there were 16 veins! That surprised me!
If you are writing sentences and stories, remember that you can use your nature journal to write about your favorite things that you find outside, or your favorite places. You can go to the park and then write about what all you did with your friends or family, and don't forget that you can create your own stories about nature too!
A Child Shares Her Nature Journal!
You may not need to watch the whole video, but children might enjoy seeing a girl around their age showing a couple pages of her writing and drawings.
This is a helpful video that has some advice and narration from a teacher, and shows children exploring nature and taking time to appreciate and observe what they see.