How To Start Nature Journaling with Kids So They Love It

Does the mere mention of nature study immediately make you worry about how you’re going to  start nature journaling with your kids? You’re not alone! Today we’re going to go over all the ins and outs to help you start nature journaling with kids. And even more importantly, we’re going to discover how to make them love it!

How To Start Nature Journaling with Kids
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Last week we looked at fun things children can make and do with their nature finds. This is a great way to show them we value their time in nature and the wonderful things they bring home to show us. But there comes a time when we want our children to be doing more than just crafting or playing with nature, we want them to be actually studying it!

This is where nature journaling with kids comes in to the picture.

But I know from experience that not all kids are going to be keen to start a nature journal. (Yes, we have had a few false start in our home too!) To make sure keeping a journal is a fun and rewarding experience for your children, and to help ensure you can make nature journaling a habit, there are a few things you need to know.

In this post we will look at

  • what is nature journaling?
  • how and when should you start nature journaling with kids
  • simple tips to get your kids on board with nature journaling
  • how to keep nature journaling with kids fun and interesting
  • some possible problems and their easy solutions

What is Nature Journaling?

It almost sounds too simple but nature journaling really is just recording your observations of nature in a book. That’s it.

Sounds easy, right?

If it’s so easy, why aren’t we all doing it?

The short answer is, we aren’t sure where to start. We want nature journaling with kids to be an enjoyable experience, for them and for us but we feel a whole lot of pressure. There is nothing worse than putting in time, money and effort for an activity with our kids and having it fall flat.

Trust me, we’ve all been there.

One thing we need to remember when it comes to nature journaling with kids is the purpose behind the activity. We aren’t out to turn all of our children into little Monets. There are a lot of reasons we want to include nature study in our children’s lives but the reasons for keeping a nature journal boil down to giving our children a gift.

Teaching your kids to keep a nature journal is giving them the gift of loving nature PLUS the skills they need to notice and understand the world around them. And I know you want that for your kids.

So how do you get started?

How and When to Start Nature Journaling with Kids

Like most things in life, the easiest way to get started is to just jump in and do it. But there are a few tricks to help ensure your success.

First, don’t let your enthusiasm trick you in to starting too early. If you have a little one who has seen you or their older siblings journaling and wants to give it a go, for sure give them their own little book to draw in. But don’t expect anything much to come of it.

There is nothing that kills a child’s enthusiasm faster than believing that something is too hard for them to accomplish. Don’t sabotage your journaling efforts by starting before your child is old enough to understand what they are doing and to have developed enough skill with a pencil that they won’t be immediately frustrated.

By the same token, don’t have unrealistic expectation of what your child’s nature journal should look like. And don’t let them develop unrealistic expectations either! Praise the effort over the finished result.

You are also more likely to see success if you let your kids see you start first. Lead by example. Younger children will naturally want to imitate and older children are more likely to sit and work on their journal if you are working on yours too. Make it a moment of connection in your week.

By waiting until our children are ready, leading by example, and making journaling a special activity to do together, you are more likely to find they want to spend time drawing.

Start slow with few expectations and build from there.

Nature Journaling with Kids
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Tips to Get your Kids on Board with Nature Journaling

So you’ve got them ready and willing to start. You’ve let them see you working on your own nature journal. What now?

Now we build their enthusiasm.

Start off by spending time in their favourite natural space. Go for a walk together, play in the wilderness, collect something special to bring home. Once you get home (or to a picnic spot, your choice!) out come the journals. The whole activity should be enjoyable for the best chance at success. Keep it fun and relaxed.

Choosing materials that your children want to use is one way to win them over. Make a fuss over gifting them special nature journals of their own and perhaps some new pencils or watercolours that come out just at journaling time. I like these journals and these pencils.

Make nature journaling with your kids a moment of connection in your week. Dedicating time to sit with your children and work together, praising their attention to detail or showing them a new technique, will help them to feel special. Because they feel special in this time spent together, the activity itself becomes valuable to them.

Now you’re on track to creating a much loved weekly tradition!

How to Keep Nature Journaling with Kids Fun and Interesting

But what if, after a really positive start, enthusiasm dwindles?

It may be that you’ve got into a bit of a rut. Go on a nature walk, bring home a specimen, look it up in a guide book, make a journal entry. Rinse and repeat.

Stop!

This is supposed to be enjoyable. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Try something new. There are lots of different ways to record your findings in a journal. You don’t have to stick to just drawing.

Try these activities for a little variety.

  • leaf rubbings
  • swap the pencil for a paintbrush and watercolours
  • add quotes or a few lines of poetry
  • write down observations instead of just drawing. What did they hear or smell? How do things feel?
  • press or dry flowers and leaves to stick into the journal with a little note about where it was found
  • try taking photos and gluing those in for something different

Add Interst to Nature Journaling with Guide Books

Showing their journals to people they love is another way to renew interest. Has Nanna seen what they’ve been up to lately? Next time you visit why not take the journals for a little show ‘n’ tell session. I’m sure Nanna will make a fuss and they’ll be keen to add in a few more entries for her to see next time 😉

And remember, they don’t need to journal everything they find. Make sure they still get to spend time in nature just enjoying it without the pressure of having to record what they see. Don’t forget encourage them to keep up their collections of interesting finds too!

Some Possible Problems and Their Easy Solutions

You’ve built enthusiasm, got off on the right foot and made sure to keep things fun and changeable to maintain interest. There are still a few problems you might run in to. Don’t be discouraged! There are solutions to everything.

Maybe your child has come out with, “I don’t like drawing”

Often when children claim to not enjoy drawing what they really mean is that they have become aware that what they draw is not exactly the same as what they see, and they are not happy about that at all. Or they think their drawing isn’t as ‘good’ as their brother/friend/parent’s drawing. Comparison really is the thief of joy here. But there are a few things you can try.

Now may be a good time to invest in a few ‘how-to-draw’ books. You could also try art classes (online or in person) to help your child develop their drawing skills and by extension, their drawing confidence.

Letting them see you make mistakes can help, as can pointing out the progress they have made since their first journal entry. You could also take a break from drawing and try one of the other journal entry suggestions above. When the crisis is over work do work on developing art skills away from journaling before you encourage them to draw in their journal again.

Another common problem is a lack of consistency. Honestly, this has been the number one problem in my home too. We love nature study but the actual journaling doesn’t always happen. Ooops.

But the truth is, if you value nature journaling you need to make the effort to schedule it in to your week. Work on making it a habit in your home. If it’s written into your schedule and it’s still not happening, you may need to shift it to another time in your week.

If you are always too tired to journal at the end of a nature walk, maybe you need to schedule journaling in to the first half hour of your trip each week. If leaving it til Friday means it doesn’t happen, perhaps you could schedule it for first thing on a Monday morning. Maybe you feel like your week is just too busy to fit in one more activity.

Why not try making nature journaling a family time activity on the weekend? We’ve had success with this in our home. There is just something special about waiting til the weekend and having Dad join in too!

Nature Journaling with Kids for Connection

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your kids are just not interested in keeping a nature journal. And that’s ok!

No really it is, and here’s why.

We didn’t decide to start a nature journal with our kids because we want them to be lifelong nature journalists. We did this to encourage a love of nature and to help them learn to take notice of the little details. It is ok to do that without a nature journal if that is what works in your family.

Truth.

Maybe you started too early and you can try again later. Maybe they are bored and you can try one of the suggestions above to jazz things up. Maybe you can just spend time in nature, noticing  all the things, talking about all the things, loving all the things.

Now you have the tools you need to get started and to ensure this is an enjoyable experience for you and your kids. Relax, have fun and remember your why for nature journaling. That’s all it takes to make this a loved part of your home learning.

Nature Journaling with Kids
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Do you have a secret to success with nature journaling? Leave a comment below to share your experience with other mamas.

 

About Kirstee @ This Whole Home

Wife, mama, intentional homemaker. I blog about suburban homesteading, homeschooling and homemaking at www.thiswholehome.com

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