Have you tried nature journalling with children? It can be frustrating when our expectations aren't in check. I'm here to say let go, keep it simple and allow your children the freedom to use their nature journal as they like.
Why? What are the benefits to the child?
- Allows the child to slow down, breathe, relax, refocus, it can calm a busy mind.
- Encourages observation - observing the big picture to the small detail.
- Use senses such as sight, sound, smell and touch.
- Helps to create a connection to the natural environment.
- Can assist in self-expression.
- Promotes creativity.
"Many people find that in learning about the natural world, they learn more about themselves." - Clare Walker Leslie, The Curious Nature Guide.
Ideas for children who don't love drawing?
- Add photographs (print at home or we love the Instax which prints immediately).
- Add interesting found things such as (non-toxic) leaves, feathers, wildflowers, perhaps small pieces of bark or take home flowers to dry and press.
- Write labels or descriptions of found things and look up the scientific names.
- Use single words to describe the environment such as "bright", "green", "warm" etc.
- Use colour only to capture the environment, perhaps shade or paint in different greens (trees), blues (sky or ocean), different browns (tree trunks). This allows the child to express themselves through colour rather than through specific images or pictures.
- Use collage, perhaps use some of the dirt or mud, leaves of wildflowers or other found things.
- Use rubbings of the tree trunks or leaves, you may need extra sheet paper and crayons or charcoal.
- Journals - at the moment we are using an A3 Recycled Hardboard journal, it has thick pages (good for using watercolours) and the hardboard cover is perfect for using outside or on uneven surfaces, currently we like the size and the children are able to decorate or personalise the cover which is great for sense of ownership.Crayon Rocks - good for shading large areas.
- Crayon Rocks - good for shading large areas.
- Instax or Digital Camera.
- Child's Nature Bag - to hold camera and collected items.
- Markers - I would prefer my children use pencils but at the moment they love using markers.
- Washi Tape.
Some of our additional extras:
- Black marker
- Field guides - birds, bugs, trees, flowers
- Watercolour or other paints
- Pencils - watercolour or others
- Glue Stick
- Magnifying Glass
- Bug Catcher or Bug Tongs
A few other ideas that have worked for us:
- Date the page and note the location.
- Add time and weather conditions.
- Use the child's nature journal for extension and exploration ideas such as learning about specific ecosystems or species.
- Note down any questions the child asks while journalling.
- Use prompts, what do you see in the sky, what can you feel, what do you hear close by and far away? I see... I hear... I feel... I smell...
- Introduce or encourage poetry.
- Make note of anything rare, under threat or of things you see for the first time or the first time in the season.
In the past, I've felt intimidated by nature journaling and disappointed when my journal wasn't as beautiful as these. However, I remember my purpose and know that keeping a simple nature journal works best for me and my children.
"Just keep in mind that these notebooks are designed to help cultivate within your child the joy of nature and discovery, not to become a source of irritation, frustration, or competition." - From Simply Charlotte Mason, The Secret of the Nature Notebook.
I want to inspire my children and ignite their adventurous spirits. The more time we spend in nature, the more time we spend investigating, searching, exploring and ultimately record keeping, the more I see my children being open-minded, kind spirited, respectful and connected to themselves, to each other and to their natural environment.