Peanut and I have been keeping a nature journal. He’s 4 now, so right around the preschool/kindergarten age. I think it’s been a wonderful experience for us. I keep it very low-key, but the benefits are many!
What you Need
What you Do
We have a very laid back approach to our nature journalling. In preschool and kindergarten, experiences are important. All of the fine motor skills and the ability to read and write about things will come later. I focus on having Peanut observe nature and document it however we can, while keeping things enjoyable and interesting for him.
What kind of activities do we do?
- Draw what we see in our back yard.
2. Collect objects. We’ve really gotten into a stone-collecting habit. They don’t live in the nature journal, but we keep them in a box and have drawn them in the journal. We’ve taped feathers into our journal. I can imagine taping leaves and other items in there as well.
3.Track something. Right now we’re tracking how much our sunflowers are growing each week.
What Does it Look Like?
As I said, I’m pretty laid back about all of this. I want Peanut to feel ownership of his nature journal and enjoy it. Here’s a sampling of some of his work:
In preparation for a trip to the beach, we studied the ocean. One day when Peanut wasn’t feeling so well, he wanted to draw in his nature journal, and chose a starfish as his subject!
This is our first drawing of the sunflowers. You can barely see it…maybe not even at all, but there are number 3s written below the sprouts, indicating that they are 3 centimeters high. One of the sprouts still has the sunflower seed stuck on top. It was exciting when that came off. We have since measured them twice more, about once a week, and they’re now about 10 cm high!
Peanut has even created a drawing showing how they’ll look in the future. Notice the rain that makes them grow:
Another recent project involved finding two volcanic rocks in our yard: pumice and obsidian.
Using our rock book I mentioned in my post about volcanoes, we also found a few other rocks and compared them to images in the book. It was easiest to identify the pumice and obsidian. Then, we did small observation notes about each rock. I wrote the rock’s name and Peanut had to draw it. Then, he had to circle the correct word for the rock in question: rough or smooth. Next, he dropped the rock in water and observed whether it floated or sank. He also marked this down in his notes, circling “sinks” or “floats” as appropriate. On the last page, you can see how Peanut attempted to write “sinks” all on his own! Although the “s” are backwards and letters are out of order, it was a good effort.
As you can see, Peanut is working on a lot of skills with our nature journal. What are the benefits that I see? (Or basically, why should you bother with a nature journal?)
- It gets you outside!
- It encourages your child to observe details.
- It encourages a love of nature and science.
- The beginnings of scientific practices are here. Lab notebooks and field notebooks are staples for professionals. Nature journalling uses some of the same ideas and practices. In addition, you’ll get started with measuring and performing experiments through nature journalling.
- Practice numbers. If you measure anything, you’ll practice counting numbers and start using a ruler.
- Practice letters. Peanut has shown genuine interest in writing on his own and is practicing his letter sounds by knowing which word to circle.
- Concept of time. We write the date on most of our pages, especially when measuring the sunflowers. He’s starting to get a sense of this and nature journalling helps!
There are many more benefits, I’m sure, but these are the ones that came to me.
What nature journal activities have you enjoyed with your little one?