If your family enjoys spending time outdoors and learning about nature, keeping a nature journal is a fun way for young children to practice their early writing skills. It’s simple to get started – all you need is a blank journal (loose scrap paper works, too) and something to write with.
While a traditional nature journal usually focuses on recording discoveries of animals, plants and the like, a child’s early nature journal could simply feature a few key details about time spent outside.
When my kids were working on their summer nature journals, they wrote about where they went and what they saw. Children may also want include the date, who came along, the weather, some highlights and anything new they might have seen or done.
As with a traditional nature journal, I encourage my kids to write about how their outdoor experiences feel – what they most enjoyed about a nature walk, day at the beach or visit to the aquarium.
Nature journals usually feature sketches along with written text. For beginning writers, these drawings don’t need to be scientifically accurate. Consider them an opportunity for your child to show how he sees the world around him.
For example, while reading my 5-year-old’s nature journal this summer, I quickly discovered his passion for animals. No matter what activity we were engaged in, he always shared something about a critter, both in words and pictures.
In addition to keeping seasonal nature journals, my kids have created books about animals and even used postcards to make a travel-style nature journal. Your child really can create a book of her own related to all sorts of outdoor adventures.
A few tips for encouraging beginning writers with nature journals:
- Keep it age appropriate. For example, my 5 year old usually writes a sentence or two and a picture with each entry. My 8 year old includes more details in both his text and drawings.
- Don’t worry about spelling. Some kids prefer to sound things out and write the letters accordingly. Others may want to copy words from books. Still others may ask for help with spelling. Go with what works for your child.
- Use favorite writing instruments. Crayons, markers, mechanical pencils, fun erasers – whatever will get your child excited about journalling.
- Add photos or found objects. After a nature scavenger hunt, for example, you might tape a photo of something your child saw or a feather or leaf he or she found.
Remember: There’s no right or wrong way to keep a nature journal, so let your child do whatever feels best.
Have you ever encouraged your child to keep a nature journal?