What if I told you there was a way to make all of your outdoor, family activities even more fun, meaningful, and memorable? There is—just add nature journaling! Nature journaling is a wonderful way to immerse yourself and your family even further into nature, improve observational skills, awaken creativity, and feel better overall.
What Is Nature Journaling
You might hear the phrase “nature journaling” and imagine intricate sketches of birds and plants. Or maybe you think of pages and pages of habitat descriptions. While these are indeed examples of nature journaling, they by no means encompass all of the possibilities.
At its core, nature journaling is recording your experience in nature on paper. Notice that I didn’t say “draw” or “describe” or even “write.” Nature journaling can be done in so many different ways.
Perhaps you want to make a list of every animal you see. Maybe you would rather write poetry about how being in nature makes you feel. Or you might be the kind of person who likes to collect things on your adventures and glue them into your journal. All of that is nature journaling.
Benefits of Nature Journaling
Beyond being fun to do, there are many other benefits that have been attributed to nature journaling. We know that just spending time outside provides its own benefits. Just 20 minutes out in nature boosts vitality levels. This not only means people feel more energetic, but also makes them more resilient to physical illness. Another study shows that taking a nature walk significantly reduces depression.
Journaling alone also provides many benefits. From decreased stress and anxiety to boosting memory, journaling can help us physically, mentally, and creatively. So, combine journaling with time in nature and you have quite a powerful recipe for feeling better!
Nature journaling gives you and your children the opportunity to slow down, relax, breathe, and calm your mind. It helps people connect with the natural world, encourages observation skills, and promotes creativity. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to memorialize a camping trip!
Nature Journaling Tips
If you’re new to nature journaling, I have good news—you don’t need much to get started! While more art supplies are always fun, all you really need is a journal and a pencil. That’s it! This might just be the least expensive new hobby you’ll ever have.
Some of the trepidation many parents have with nature journaling is that they think if they aren’t artistic, then they can’t teach their children how to nature journal. This is not at all true. You don’t need to be a great illustrator in order to journal with your family.
First of all, you could nature journal without drawing anything. Maybe you just want to stick to lists and recording observations. Second, if you don’t think you’re good at drawing, nature journaling is a great way to improve. Finally, it can actually be beneficial to not be an artist. When your kids see you journaling with them even though you don’t know how to draw, it will make them realize their journals don’t need to be perfect. Nature journaling should be more about the process than the final product.
While you can journal with nothing but a pencil and paper, there are some materials that can enhance your journaling experience, even if you’re new to all of this. Here is a list just to give you some ideas. You by no means have to have all of this before you begin nature journaling!
- A journal
- Sketching pencils
- Colored pencils
- Watercolor paint (think cheap, eight-color set from the drugstore)
- Watercolor pencils/crayons
- Tempura paint
- Pencil sharpener
- Field guides
- Camera (Instant cameras are especially fun, plus they will blow your children’s minds if they’ve never seen one.)
- Magnifying glass
- Bug box
- Clear contact paper
- Envelope (Glued into the back of your journal for collecting mementoes!)
So, how to get started nature journaling with your family? Start simple. One of the great things about nature journaling is that it can help you get that time outside we all desperately need. You don’t have to be out on a grand adventure to journal. Start around your own home!
Activities to Get You Started
- Leaf Rubbings—Do some leaf (or bark) rubbings. Can you tell what kind of leaves you found? Look in a tree guide and try to figure it out. Describe the leaf as well as you can. Read your description to someone else. Can they draw the leaf based on your description?
- Listening—Close your eyes and listen. Make a list of all the different things you hear in one minute.
- Pressings—Find a flower or an interesting leaf. Bring it home and press it. (You don’t need a plant press. Put it between newspaper and put heavy books on top.) Put it in your journal with clear tape of contact paper.
Nature journals are a great way to observe and record things you found and discovered on a family hike. There are some journals specifically for kids that have areas already included for recording the weather, writing down what you saw, and sketching your discoveries. These are especially great if you’re new to nature journaling, because the journal prompts are already there for you.
Hiking Journal Activities
- Hiking Supplies—Make a list of everything you brought in your backpack for your hike. You can draw some of them on your hike or when you get back. You can also find images of them from magazines and glue them in. This is a great activity for beginners because it provides several subjects for drawing that won’t move, plus, now your kids will remember (or can go back and look at) what they need for a hike!
- Wildlife—Draw a picture of an animal that you see. Do a quick sketch first. It’s okay if it’s messy! In nature, animals might leave before we can get a full drawing of them, but that’s okay. Write down details that will help you identify it later. Orange beak. White eye-line. Things like that. When you’re home or back to your campsite, you can look up the animal in a field guide. You can even trace the drawing from the field guide into your journal.
- Seasons—Is there a place your family hikes several times during the year? Pick a tree along the trail to draw. Make sure it’s one you’ll remember! Draw the tree each time you go on the same trail and see how it changes though the seasons.
Keeping a journal on a family camping trip is a wonderful way to bond as a family and remember the trip after you return. Each family member can use their own nature journal, or you can have a single, family camping journal that the family takes turns writing in. Either way, it will be something you and your kids will always treasure.
Camping Journal Activities
- Constellations—Don’t worry, you don’t have to know the constellations for this activity. Look up at the stars in the night sky. Do some of them look like pictures of things? If you’re into constellations and mythology, feel free to read some stories. Focus on a group of stars that look like they form a picture. Plot the stars in your nature journal and fill in the picture. Now write a story about how your constellation ended up in the sky.
- Mapping—Draw a map of your campsite! Where is your tent? Where is the fire pit? Have you made any friends? Where are they on your map? Fill in as many details as you can.
- Remembering the Day—Sit with your family around the campfire. Or in your camper. Or wherever you can all sit comfortably with your journals. Talk about everything you did that day so everyone can record it. What was your favorite activity? Did you see anything interesting? Did anything funny happen? This is a great way to record the events of the day while connecting with your family.
There are so many benefits to nature journaling, and there is really no wrong way to do it! Getting into the daily habit of nature journaling helps everyone remember to get some outside time when things get hectic. It’s also a wonderful way to record family adventures, connect to nature, and connect with each other. So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself a journal and get out there!