“A notebook is the single most important piece of equipment a naturalist takes into the field.”
—From the preface to the Audubon Society Nature Guide to Western Forests, by Stephen Whitney (Knopf/Borzoi, 1985)
Words, spoken and written, are important to me. So is slowing down and taking the time to create. One evening while “Pinteresting” to my heart’s content, I came across an article and tutorial for making easy nature journals for kids.
When I saw these journals my creative spark caught fire! “Wha??? This is A.W.E.S.O.M.E.”, I thought! So I started digging through my craft supplies. I knew this was a great learning activity and the perfect party favor for my daughter’s upcoming birthday hike. Not only would it give the older kids an activity to do but it would be fun for the toddlers too.
I followed the tutorial by Simply Rachel and experimented a bit (http://www.simplyrachelbyrachel.com/2015/04/14/nature-journals-for-kids/). I made some journals with twine because I found a roll in our shed. But in realizing the fibrousness and roughness of the twine (maybe not so safe for babies and those who like to chew on objects), I decided to make some using washi tape. Washi tape is inexpensive, and covers the staples making it safer for smaller children. Decorative duct tape could also be an alternative.
What I love about the nature journal is that it can be as simple as the one featured here or as creative and intricate as you can dream up. Bigger kids can get involved too! Have a child who loves to draw? Print out one of their pencil sketches as an illustration to color. Or let them design their own nature journal with a focus on their favorite animal (frog journal, snake journal, butterfly journal, bird journal, you get the idea…).
Once you have your journal, pick an amazing place to hike and observe nature. We picked the Grafton Peace Pagoda located in Grafton, New York. Not only is this place peaceful and beautiful, there is a pond with water snakes, frogs and minnows, as well as a butterfly garden.
Kids are natural scientists, curious, interested, and engaged when given the right tools. Help them list what they observe. Ask them questions about what they see. Use the journal pockets to bring home a leaf, flower, or other special token from their exploration. Not only will your child be capturing their adventure, you will also be building memories together.
Erin Vitali is a Branch Ambassador for Capital Region, NY. She lives in Albany, NY with her husband, daughter and fur babies. You can share and explore nature craft ideas with Erin here: https://www.pinterest.com/erinvitali/.