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Nature Journals for the Littles

Updated: May 13, 2020

I was so excited to start offering #hikes with the little ones this spring, with some #yoga and nature art, but I see many of you are sharing pictures of your hikes ("bear hunts") on facebook. I am loving it! Since I can't be with you quite yet, I thought I would encourage you to consider keeping a nature #journal.

"As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child." Charlotte Mason

My older children and I always had a journal with us as we walked in #nature, and would note the date, season, time of day, the moon phase, the time of sun rise and sun set, and the weather. We would draw pictures of the clouds and try to name them. It not only helped them develop their drawing skills but they became more mindful of their environment. Each time they would notice a new plant and recognize more that were familiar. If you'd like to be super fancy, you could add Latin names, diagrams, make notes on your finds such as describing textures, measurements, and aromas. You might press flowers and leaves into your journal, write poetry, or note scriptures. We would try to find insects we had studied or wildflowers, trees, or even mammals. I definitely did my best to avoid all slugs though.

It might be fun to keep a list of "your first finds." Maybe draw your first oak-leaf, your first tadpole, first ripe blackberry, and your first woodpecker. Where did you see it and when? As you journal from season to season you begin to anticipate what and when to find your favorite blooms, birds, and #moon phases.

We are blessed to have a long trail in Thorntown that we can explore nature, even into the creek, but we also really enjoy Eagle Creek, Holiday Park, Turkey Run, and Mounds State Park. There is a park with a beautiful waterfall on the east side of the state as well. While it is great to find a park close to your home so you can make nature walks a regular part of your routine, I am hoping to visit a new park each week this year. Explore a local park, woodland, meadow, and we've certainly spent a great deal of time in our own yard as well.

My littlest children, my three and ten year olds, always come home with pockets full of their favorite finds. They often stick these rocks in the #soil of our houseplants, but also we have a basket of pinecones in the garden and of course a pile of their favorite walking sticks on the back porch. Feathers, acorns, and fossils also make their way home and into jars on their dresser. You may deside to designate a special place in your home for the nature finds of your little ones, maybe a small shelf and clear it at the start of each month so it remains fresh. My boys are rather sentimental and would never let me remove any of their finds. Their dresser is quite full of larger rocks, houseplants, and a plethora of stones, even some shells and teeth from the creek. We had a deer skull on the porch for much longer than I wanted, but I finally gave that back to nature.

If you're packing for a hike with your littles, definitely offer them some fresh water, a simple journal with some colored pencils. You might even try heavier paper and let them watercolor. Sometimes we would just sketch with a pencil and then come home and color or paint. Experiment and see what works best for your family, but certainly don't forget the magnifying glass. You may also carry a little bag with you for your fun finds although I always forget this and end up with my jacket pockets full of sand and dirt.

This is from my own journal after the kids and I spent some time studying parts of a flower. The picture below shows finds in our home garden. The middle of the journal shows the notes we took for that day, back in 2007.

We also spent time studying the seven days of creation and then trying to draw some of we imagined in our nature journal. This was challenging for us as we can be a little critical about our own drawings but spending time drawing and learning about the world around us was one of my favorite memories as a mother. It's certainly demands a bit of vulnerability, but as the kids shared, I felt honored to see into their hearts a bit more. My oldest son was frustrated that there weren't enough colors in his colored pencil set to draw all the beautiful skin colors of the people and cultures he wanted in his journal, so for Christmas one year, I bought him a set of colored pencil just for skin tones.

Here is another page where we learned about leaves. I did this as a watercolor too and gifted it to someone. People are so hard to draw but we sure try!

Share with me in the comments, if you'd like, pictures from your nature journals! And stay tuned for upcoming dates when we can once again join in hikes together. Getting your face in the sun and your feet in the dirt is among the most important things you can do to stay healthy!

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