Are Nature Journals right for preschoolers?
Nature journaling is making a comeback, and who doesn't like seeing beautiful journal spreads in their Pinterest feed? They're inspiring. So are the pictures of small kids sitting quietly with journal in lap and pencil in hand.
But is this real life? Sorry, no. You know how it is with Pinterest. But - Is nature journaling worth the effort with a 4-year old?
In a word, yes. Nature journals are an incredible tool for deepening even the youngest child's sense of wonder, language development, and environmental literacy. More importantly, they can help you connect with your child, too! Read on for ideas for easy ideas and realistic expectations for young kids.
Make it Special.
Each child can make or keep a special journal for nature time that is just their own. Consider a separate stash of favorite markers or crayons, or for older kids, even some simple field guides with pictures like my friend did (below). If you're going out in the yard, set up a blanket with supplies for a special spot.
It's also important to explain to children how the nature journal itself is special. It's used front to back, one page at a time, for keeping track. Gentle reminders and modeling during journal time help create good habits. A separate free journal (we love composition books) is a good idea if you have prolific artists or scribblers!
Doesn't this backpack make you want to explore and draw? (Photo: Kim Steika) You can find local guides like these at The Well Read Moose if you're in CDA.
Make it Relational.
I have a dear friend who does regular nature journaling with her two kids, age 8 and 5, and my biggest take away from her experience was that journaling was something they did together. One early childhood educator recommends starting as early as 18 moths with one-on-one time where the child's observations are written down by the adult (Johnson 2014). You can give kids who are ready to write a "word bank" or date the journal page for them before they draw.
Here's an example (courtesy Kim Steika) of a journal entry from an adult, a 7 year old and a 5 year old. I love how she outlined the leaf for her youngest and he added color and form to it -relational, and still the child's work!
Make it Consistent.
Finding a time each week (maybe at the end of a nature play, hike, or wandering time) to get out the special nature journals can be a surprisingly relaxing ritual. When I was homeschooling a kindergartner, I must admit this was my favorite time of the week (Forest Fridays)! Simple, short, and meaningful.
Happy Journaling and Happy Exploring!