We’re a couple months into our semester in botany and the weather has FINALLY broken here in western PA, so we’ve been able to get outside a lot more lately to soak in the beauty of SPRING.
We had resumed our nature walks in our woods back in February, but often we’d get so cold out on the trails that we couldn’t stay out long. But hello, April, and hello spring! Today we spent no less than 6 hours outside in the woods. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to come in. Baby even took his nap out there in his carrier, and I only ran back to the house periodically to change out laundry or fetch more food for the children. 🙂
We picnic’d today by a creek bed a little farther than usual from home, and we spent the day exploring and playing and learning in the great outdoors. To be honest, while I sit down now to type this post, a pile of our stuff is still sitting just over the hill in the woods (too many kids & too many trips back and forth) and at some point here, I should probably get out there and clean the rest of our day up.
But! First I wanted to show you real quick how to put together your own wonderful little nature journaling set. Even if they’re not “studying botany” per say, this would be such a great homemade gift to put together for any young person who is interested in nature and art.
Once given, if the child is old enough to work carefully and neatly, it won’t take long before their nature journal will become a precious treasure to them of their outdoor explorations and discoveries.
You only need a few things for a basic nature journaling kit, and even some of the things I’ve included in ours could be left out, depending on the age and abilities of the child you are giving it to.
Here are the essentials:
–A satchel or backpack for carrying everything.
Last year, I sewed some very VERY simple satchels for my children using old, worn out blue jeans. I sewed a different strap on each of the bags I made, using old belts I found at the goodwill. Most kids find satchel-style bags to be very comfortable to wear, and because they sit at their sides, they are easier to access than a backpack. However, a draw-string bag or backpack would also work fine for holding your nature journaling supplies.
Here is what you’ll want to put INSIDE:
—A quality sketch journal, either spiral bound, or a bound notebook that can open completely, like a moleskin (which is what we used).
—Water color paints and a couple brushes
–A good, sharp pencil or two (a set of artists’ pencils (soft, medium, hard) could be used if desired but really are not necessary)
—Several colored pencils, sharpened on both ends
–A small container for your pencils, or a rubber band (we used an empty mini m&m’s container which fits 10 pencils very nicely).
–A black sharpie (optional but great for outlining after doing water color). Be sure that your journal’s pages are thick enough quality that the marker does not seep / show through the pages.
—2 small binder clips for holding open the pages of the journal while working.
–A plastic or metal container lid for holding a bit of water when painting.
Since taking these pictures, we’ve been out using our journals almost daily, and we’ve added these additional helpful items to our packs:
–A small pencil sharpener (we seemed to break pencils each time we went out)
–A rectangular white eraser (for the sketching boo-boos)
–A small magnifying glass (for careful study of the tiny things before/while sketching)
Additionally, for painting, you will want to be sure your child packs a water bottle or canteen if you don’t have access to water outdoors where you’re exploring (creek, stream, pond…). Personally, I don’t feel totally comfortable letting my daughter carry a water bottle IN her Nature Journaling bag because of the potential damage that could be done to her journal if it leaked, but many reusable water bottles come with a strap for carrying. So far, we’ve been able to find our water in the woods each time we’ve gone out.
|Here is the mini M&M container, which we use to hold our colored pencils~works perfectly. Holds 10.|
|We use moleskin journals for our nature sketching and painting, and while there is a band on the right side that helps to keep those pages in place, we really like using the clips on the other side.|
Once your nature journal pack is filled with supplies, all that’s left is to get out there and start observing and recording. Find a lovely spot in the yard, the woods, at the edge of the pond, or by a creek bed. You may be surprised to discover how excited your kids will be to get out there and journal. My almost-7-year-old absolutely loves it, and often asks to go just a bit farther into the woods by herself to sit a while and do some sketching or painting. And why shouldn’t she enjoy it deeply? This is our “Father’s World!”
|My daughter, ready to adventure off by herself|
|My daughter titled this day’s entry “Signs of Spring” and included a sketch of a salamander and the creek bed on one side, and a tree with moss, chives and new grass on the other.|
Just remember, there are no “rules” when it comes to a nature journal.
Not everything has to be sketched or painted or colored by hand. You can glue or tape nature photos into your journal, like the one we did this past week…
My daughter drew these daffodil leaves coming up around the tree, but since they were not blooming yet, we printed and glued a daffodil picture onto the opposite page.
You could also include leaf rubbings or pressed flowers in your journal, something I hope to do with my children for sure.
Some nature-journaling-enthusiasts recommend that at minimum, you should include a label and a date for each entry, and I think that’s a great suggestion. You could also include some details about where you were when you recorded, what else you saw, and how you felt as you observed. Why not include some nature poetry in your journal?
Finally, I would encourage moms and dads to take along your own nature journal when you go out to explore with your children.
Nature journaling takes time, repeated practice, and very often with the younger students, it requires some good modeling as well.
Of course you don’t need to be an artist to sit down with them in the woods and sketch a little bit! Just enjoy yourself and the time you’re spending with your children. Practice good observation, talk, laugh, and have fun learning alongside them. I find that my daughter benefits tremendously when we sit together and draw the same thing. When we do this, she does her work much more carefully as she sees and follows the steps I am taking to complete my own. It’s also neat to see how we differ in style and what details she notices and includes that I don’t, etc.
Remember that while we want to encourage our kids to take their time and be careful with their journals, we don’t want to guard our journals so tightly that we’re afraid to use them for fear we’ll “mess them up!”
The fun is in the creative PROCESS.
Here are some simple sketches I did with my children last week, when we were out in our woods. I went ahead and let my little boys add a bit of water color to my journal because their sister was painting in her’s and they felt left out. They painted on the opposite page from where I was working, and even did a nice job adding a bit of color on my page! 😀
In my bag, I also enjoy taking along one or both of these wonderful resources:
A Nature Walk with Aunt Bessie by Queen Homeschooling is wonderful for drawing the kids up close to listen then do. It’s Charlotte Mason style teaching and short, “living book” stories all wrapped in one. Each interesting little nature story is followed by a hands-on activity. My children ALL love it (great resource for working with children of multiple ages).
Natural Science Through the Seasons from Hillside Education is simply chock full of ideas, pictures, information, and activity suggestions that are appropriate for each season. It contains 100 teaching units that span the seasons!
Well, that’s it. I hope you’re inspired to put together a nature journaling set for your own children, and maybe even one for yourself, and to get out there and explore, learn, and enjoy nature together.
Check out our DIY Nature Collecting Cans.