How to Start a Nature Journal
When the weather is nice, we like to head outdoors, to learn while being surrounded by the natural beauty of our world. One of our favorite ways to record what we discover is by creating a nature journal.
Nature journaling is an easy, practical way to capture what you see when you’re outside focusing on nature. It’s like a nature scrapbook or a type of journal diary where you use art, pictures, words, and more to express yourself.
A journal is as unique as you are, so feel free to make it simple or complex.
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What should you use for a nature journal?
You don’t need an expensive leather-bound journal to get started. Begin with a single piece of paper or even a small sketchbook. A favorite among homeschoolers is composition books. They are cheap, easy to find, and simple to customize.
Be creative! You can even make your own books by stapling blank sheets of paper between construction paper or card stock.
If you are going to be using mixed mediums in your books (tools like pencils, markers, and watercolor pencils), I would recommend sticking to heavier paper that can withstand the wetness and won’t bleed through.
Now that my girls are older, we use smaller, spiral-bound sketchbooks with 80lb paper.
The most important thing when selecting a journal or sketchbook is to find something you will utilize and can easily take along on your journey.
Nature journaling should be fun and accessible.
What other supplies will you need?
We use a variety of materials in our journals. It just depends on what we’re trying to capture at that particular time. My teens love experimenting with different mediums.
Our favorites include:
How do you get started?
How do you move from taking a walk to capturing your observations in a journal?
Number one is to get outside! Put the textbooks down and go exploring. Take a hike, walk around the block, or drive to a nature preserve. Just get started.
Remember that this isn’t about perfection. It’s about recording what you find beautiful, interesting, or inspirational.
Make a conscious choice to slow down. That is when you will begin to notice details about the natural world we live in. Pay attention to shapes, textures, movement, and color.
Find something that catches your eye, as well as your imagination, and study it. You can start sketching or recording right then and there. Or take photos and samples (if appropriate) so you can work on your journal at home.
If you’re looking for more concrete nature walk ideas, my favorite resource, hands down, is Creative Nature Walks by Our Journey Westward. Inside you’ll find over 100 creative and detailed ideas for exploration for all ages. We’ve used this book for a number of focused nature walks and I was always amazed at what my kids learned and how much fun we had together.
During our walks, I encouraged my kids to use their journals to record the different things we were out there searching for, once we found them.
What else can you add to your journal?
Over the years our family has experimented by adding other elements to our journals, including:
We have pressed them, sketched them, used our own photographs, and diagrammed them with the aid of a botany book.
My girls love collecting leaves in every color and shade when they happen to be up north in the fall. The leaves in their books remind them of the beauty of the changing seasons.
When Abigail was taking an online photography course, she included quite a few of her nature photographs in her journal. One idea is to add some pictures of birds you find during your journey.
Rubbings and stamping
They enjoy the chance to be “crafty” with bark and leaf rubbings, as well as stamping, using rocks and acorns.
We have written down our observations, poetry, and even short stories based on items we found.
I love going back and looking at the journals my girls have created over the years. It is a wonderful reminder of what interested them during a season, as well as a way to see how their writing and creativity has blossomed.
Nature journaling is a wonderful way to slow down and truly observe the world around you. Head outdoors today and see what catches your eye. I guarantee that you’ll return full of inspiration!
Additional Art and Nature Resources
- Get Outside with Creative Nature Walks – Discover how easy it is to head outside into nature. You don’t even have to come up with a plan because there are dozens of ideas you can use to make your time outside fun and educational.
- Simple and Unique Painting Technique Your Teen Should Try – Sure, you’ve painted with different types of paints, but have you ever painted with blueberries? That’s right, the juice from blueberries makes an incredible painting medium.
- This Tool Makes Studying Wildflowers a Breeze – If wildflowers are abundant near you right now, turn your science and nature studies toward them. This resource makes it incredibly easy simple to add the study of wildflowers to your homeschooling lesson plans.
Helpful Nature Journal Tools
Such a lovely idea that i’ll be doing with my kids
Natasha @ Serenity You
Thank you Natasha. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Thank you for stopping by.
Nature Journaling has been on my list of to-dos with my children for years, but we’ve had trouble getting started. I appreciate your tips for getting started and the book recommended. Thank you!
You’re welcome Sara! It’s sometimes so hard to get started with something brand new, isn’t it? I’m glad I was able to show you how easy it can be to get going. I think your kids will really enjoy it. I know mine do! Thank you so much for stopping by!
We started nature journaling as a way to pass the time in the car, driving home from hikes. The kids love it!
What a great idea Laura! My kids used to draw a lot in the car – I had forgotten all about that. Maybe I’ll start nudging them in that direction again. Definitely a great way to remember your hikes while passing the time.
wow this is a beautiful idea, that never crossed my mind and i think i never heard about it before!! my daughter and twins love nature and are still fascinated by its elements suggesting a nature journal would be a great way to get them engaged with something they are passionate about! thanks for sharing! Marwa from BlossomFamily.net
Thank you Marwa! I’m so excited to hear that your kids love being out in nature. My kids do too. When I started to add more purpose to our outdoor journeys, they seemed to become more reflective. They weren’t in such a hurry anymore and instead were anxious to find things to document. It’s been a great way to expand their art interests too. Thank you so much for stopping by. Let me know how your kids like keeping a nature journal.
This is such a beautiful idea and post! Thanks so much for sharing at After School.
Thank you Anna! I hope you’re able to make some nature journals this Spring!
A nature journal sounds like a fine way to welcome spring! We have to try it!
Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!
I know many people will be welcoming spring with open arms this year Jill! I hope your family enjoys keeping a nature journal as much as mine has. We love your hop and will definitely be stopping by again! Thank you for sharing.
Great flower picture. Love the leaves taped into the nature journal! Thanks for linking up to the Thoughtful Spot Blog Hop. Hope to see you next week!
Thank you Thaleia. We took that on a trip to Colorado last year at their botanical garden. My daughters don’t remember too much about living up North and the change of seasons, so they were thrilled to be in PA one year during the fall. They collected so many leaves!! We love your hop, so I’m sure we’ll have something to contribute next week. Thank you for stopping by!
Thank you for sharing these great ideas. What do you use to carry your supplies on your nature walks?
Thank you Jessi. We usually just take one of our bags, like a carrier bag that hangs to the side or a backpack. Nothing too cumbersome.
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