Nature journaling can be done in different ways - the important thing is that you take a notebook or sketchbook outside and recording what you see! Some like to write about the nature around them, while some (like myself) prefer to draw or paint what they see.
Why should you do it?
Nature journaling can be beneficial for a multitude of reasons! Below are the two biggest reasons to give nature journaling a try:
It benefits you.
Taking a few minutes to sit quietly in nature is a practice in patience and mindfulness. While focusing my attention on what I see, hear, and smell, I often find myself forgetting about my to-do list, a stressful deadline coming up, or my frustration with something uncertain
Not only is observing nature relaxing, but it's interesting too! It won't take long before you start to notice things you didn't notice before. This is especially true when you practice nature journaling several times in the same area. You may start to notice some plants bloom more quickly than others. You may realize a particular bird prefers one kind of flower over others. It's fascinating and rewarding when you start to realize the connections different animals have with each other, with plants, and with us.
It benefits nature.
Nature is adaptable and resilient, but it can only take so much! Humans are constantly changing the shape of the landscape and the habitats of creatures around us. There is no helping that; we are adaptive and resilient as well, and constantly growing in numbers. But the more we understand the balance of nature, the more we will understand our impact. Often times, the more you learn about something, the more compassion you'll have for it. Bees and snakes become less scary and more admired. You may think twice about dropping a candy wrapper after noticing trash entangled in a bird's nest.
Your nature journaling may have a more immediate and direct benefit to wildlife as well. Have you ever heard of the term "citizen science" or "community science"? There are several programs that allow you to share your observational data with nation-wide or global databases. A couple examples are iNaturalist and eBird. Both of these projects allow participants to use a free app to log nature or bird sightings. Cataloged sightings are collected to better understand how animals, and even plants, are traveling and changing in numbers. Better understanding how these factors are changing leads to research to discover why.
How do you do it?
Journals and sketchbooks can be purchased almost anywhere and range in price and style from dollar store notepads to waterproof multimedia booklets that can holdup to paint or ink.
I like to purchase notepads from the dollar store if I want something inexpensive and lined. Alternatively, this makes a great sketchbook, and this is a wonderful option if you plan to use ink or watercolors. I have also made my own nature journals by stacking 3-4 small paper lunch bags together, folding them in half, and allowing kids to string yarn through punched holes along the fold. Kids can then draw or write on the bags and use the openings along the side for collecting small flowers, seeds, and other treasures.
Now, get out there!
To begin, pick up a notebook of any kind. If your child is a budding artist or doesn't write very well yet, sketching may be the way to go! As you walk around your neighborhood or a trail, ask your child to make a written or picture "note" about what they see around them. Prompt them by asking open-ended questions such as, "What is interesting?", "What do you find pretty or strange?", "What kinds of animals or plants share the same space?", or "what are they doing?". The purpose is to get them to start noticing the relationship we have with our natural world around us, and the relationship other living things have with each other, sparking curiosity and compassion!
If their sketches or descriptions are detailed enough, you can even return home to look up some of the plants and animals that were seen to try and figure out where they are. I don't like to start with devises, but after a good nature-journaling session there are several phone apps that can help you determine what birds or plants you might have seen.