Making and keeping a nature journal or nature notebook is a fun way for kids (and adults) of all ages to study nature and record their observations and experiences in the natural world. Here are several ideas and resources to get you and your little naturalist started with nature journaling.
Learn how to make a nature journal and how to keep one with this beginning guide to nature journaling. Teach your little naturalist how to keep a nature notebook just for fun, as a way to connect with the natural world, or as a part of your homeschooling adventures. You might also enjoy this list of outdoor learning ideas and nature activities for kids.
There are several ways to put a nature study journal together and different notebooks that you can use to make nature journals. So, we have two complete tutorials with step-by-step instructions. Scroll down to see “How to Make a Nature Journal” and “How to Make a Nature Notebook.” Each step-by-step tutorial also has a separate list of recommended supplies and materials.
First, use any of the nature journal ideas below to assist your children with a homemade nature notebook, or purchase one of the ready-made options at the bottom of this article. And, be sure to make or buy one for yourself, too! Next, get some nature study printables (such as these bird-watching printables), learn how to keep a nature journal, and try some of the nature notebook entry ideas at the bottom of this article.
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What is a Nature Journal?
A nature journal is a perfect place to grow your thoughts, feelings, ideas, observations, and experiences with nature. And keeping a nature journal provides a rich opportunity for children and adults of all ages to study the natural world–and develop a deeper relationship with the earth.
“Nature always has secrets to share.”~Nell Regan K. (Founder of Rhythms of Play)
Nature notebooks are also an excellent place to record any nature study or outdoor learning activities you, or your children, complete each week. Whenever you head out on an adventure into the great outdoors, take your nature study journal to write, draw, or paint your observations, feelings, and experiences with nature and the wild.
Related: Caring for the Earth: 12 Ways to Help Kids Get It
What is Nature Study?
Learn more about Nature Study on our Nature Study Resource Page.
Related: 15 Reasons to Climb a Tree and other Benefits of Risky Play
How to Make a Nature Journal
Making a nature study journal is a fun and easy activity for children preschool age and up at home or in the classroom. First, gather nature journal craft materials from the list below, and scroll down to follow the step-by-step directions to make your homemade nature journal.
Alternatively, you can scroll down to learn “How to Make a Nature Notebook” with the following tutorial. Or, buy a pre-made sketchbook or guided nature journal–have a look at the list of purchase options for children and adults toward the bottom of this post.
1. Gather nature journal craft supplies.
- Recycled cardboard (Large cereal and cracker boxes work great!)
- Lined binder paper (optional)
- Cardstock or heavyweight cardstock, (heavyweight paper is best for watercolor art and attaching nature specimens)
- Graph paper
- Loose-leaf binder rings, ribbon, jute twine, yarn, or anything else you can use to bind or tie a nature journal together
- Decorating supplies (optional) – crayons, colored pencils, markers, watercolor paints, nature stickers, contact paper, Mod Podge and fabric, etc.
2. Make a front and back cover for your homemade nature journal.
- Grab some cardboard from the recycle bin and cut two nine-by-twelve-inch pieces for the front and back cover of the Nature journal.
- We like to use recycled cardboard from cereal boxes, because they are thin, light, flexible, and come in sizes big enough to make nature journals with regular paper.
3. Decorate the front and back cover or wrap it in contact paper or fabric (optional).
- Invite kids to use crayons, colored pencils, markers, watercolor paints, or stickers to decorate their homemade nature journals’ on the front, and back cover.
- Another great way to cover a homemade journal is to wrap both pieces of cardboard in contact paper with a nature print.
- Or glue fabric with a nature print to the front and back cover decoupage style. If you’d like to try this method, follow the steps below:
- First, apply Mod Podge (or a slightly watered-down white glue) with a foam brush to both sides of each piece of cardboard for the front and back of the homemade nature journal.
- Next, wrap the fabric around both pieces, gently smooth out any bubbles and allow the front and back nature journal cover to dry.
- And finally, trim off any excess fabric once it is completely dry.
4. Punch holes in the front and back cover.
- Use a 3-hole paper punch to make holes along the long edge of the cardboard to complete the front and back cover for the journal.
5. Bind the nature journal and nature study supplies together.
- Place paper in between the front and back cover. (We like to add lined binder paper, grid paper, and heavyweight cardstock (use a 3-hole punch), so we can write, create art, make bullet journal pages, and collect nature specimens such as flowers and leaves. But feel free to add the type and amount of paper you would like to use in your homemade journal.)
- Use three loose-leaf binder rings. Or use ribbon, jute twine, or anything else you can use to bind or tie a homemade journal together.
- Slip the rings or twine through the three holes, and snap or tie to secure the front and back cover, paper, and other materials inside the nature journal.
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How to Make a Nature Notebook
Another even easier way to make a nature study journal is with a store-bought binder or notebook. All you need to do is add the type of paper and supplies you like to create nature journal entries and collect specimens. Follow the simple step-by-step directions below if you’d like to make a homemade nature notebook, otherwise scroll back up to make a DIY nature journal with the instructions above.
1. Gather nature notebook supplies.
Gather the notebook supplies you would like to use to make your nature notebook from the materials below.
- View 3-ring notebook binder (1-inch binder, 2-inch binder, or 3-inch binder)–Large binders have more room for pockets, pouches, and collecting nature specimens but are less portable.
- Binder paper
- Cardstock or extra thick heavyweight cardstock
- Graph paper (optional)
- Pocket dividers with holes, pouches, and notebook pockets with zippers (optional)
- Crayons, colored pencils, gel pens, markers, a portable watercolor paint pallet with a water brush, or nature stickers–you may also like THESE or THESE.
2. Fill your nature notebook with paper and nature journal and supplies.
- Next, add the nature notebook supplies you want to put in your notebook:
- First, add lined binder paper to the nature notebook to write on.
- Then punch holes in a small stack of heavyweight cardstock with a three-hole punch and place it inside the binder.
- Next, add grid paper, botany paper, or any other paper you’d like in the nature notebook.
- And finally, add pocket dividers with holes, pockets with zippers, and pouches for specimens and art supplies.
3. Create nature art for the notebook binder view window (Optional).
- Invite children from toddlers to preschoolers and kindergarteners to tweens and teens to decorate the front and back cover of their nature notebooks in any way they like, using any of the craft supplies listed above.
- Or, decorate a sheet of paper with nature stickers for the front cover and spine of your nature notebook.
Related: Best Art Supplies for Kids
Other Notebooks, Sketch Books, and Pre-Made Options for Nature Journaling
I like to use a blank watercolor moleskin artist sketch pad that is small enough to throw in my purse (or a small hiking backpack) and is big enough for my creative ideas, thoughts, poems, and nature art. A few more blank nature journal options are on the list below:
Pre-Made Nature journals for Kids
If you want to purchase a guided nature study journal for kids, look at the options below.
Pre-Made Nature journals for Older Children & Adults
Related: Nature Memory Matching Game
Recommended Items to Include with your Nature Journal or Nature Notebook:
We recommend a few other items to make studying nature even more fun! Look at the list of supplies for kids below, and check out our list of Nature Study Supplies for more fun ideas!
- Butterfly net and butterfly garden
- Critter cage or keeper
- Pencil boxes, small plastic bins with and without dividers, and sturdy notebook pouches for holding and carrying specimens and supplies
- And art supplies such as drawing pencils, crayons, colored pencils, and portable watercolor paints with a water brush. For more recommended art materials, look at the best art supplies for kids and why young artists should use them.
Nature Journal Page Templates & Resources:
- Printable Squirrel Behavior Tally Sheet | Rhythms of Play Learning Center.
- Bird Watching Printables | Rhythms of Play Learning Center
- What’s that Bird? Bug? Animal? | The Crafty Classroom.
- Leaf Collecting template | Kidzone.
- Nature Scavenger Hunt Printable Library | Rhythms of Play Learning Center
How to Keep a Nature Journal or Notebook
“Nature always has secrets to share.” Take your nature journal with you whenever you head out into the great outdoors to record any observations you have in the wilderness and all your experiences with nature and her bounty. Mother Earth wants to share her abundance with you and your children.
Some people like to write about how they feel in nature, while others enjoy drawing or painting their rich experiences in the natural world. Record your observations and express your feelings using whatever medium speaks to you.
Add pictures, poetry, song lyrics, flowers, leaves, and other specimens from the natural world. Create a novel, an artistic masterpiece, or a scrapbook of varied mediums to make your nature journal into a reflection of you and your experiences with nature.
Encourage children to choose something to write about, draw, or paint. Give them a few suggestions–a tree, flower, bird, or animal–or something else to focus on if they have trouble coming up with nature journal entry ideas.
We love and highly recommend the Laws Guide Book to Nature Drawing and Journaling. And we have several other nature journaling resources that we recommend to help you and your children keep a journal at the bottom of this post.
Related: Nature Crafts and Art Ideas
Nature Journal Entry Prompt Ideas
- Take your nature study journal whenever you head out on an adventure.
- Write, draw, and paint in your notebook or journal to record experiences with nature. Don’t forget to date entries!
- Write thoughts, feelings, ideas, observations, experiences, and relationships with the natural world.
- Encourage your child to choose something to focus on and draw or paint: a flower, a tree, a bug, a bird, etc.
- If your child is too young to write, you can let them draw and then write down what they tell you, but with no editing because it is their journal.
- Add poetry or quotes that are meaningful to you and related to your experience with nature.
- Place, trace, or press the nature specimens you collect inside of it.
- Print out the free printable templates found below for specific observations and nature journal activities.
Nature Journaling Tips for preschoolers and Kindergarteners
Encourage children not yet reading and writing–toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners–to use crayons or colored pencils to draw or doodle their feelings, experiences, observations, and interpretations of the natural world.
Or, invite them to paint what they see and observe with a portable watercolor pallet and watercolor brush. If children have trouble coming up with nature journal entry ideas, offer something to focus upon.
Next, ask toddlers and preschoolers about their experiences. Ask them questions about what they saw, felt, heard, sensed, etc., and write down what they tell you without editing what they say.
There is no right or wrong way to make or keep a nature journal. As parents and educators, it is important to value the authentic expressions of the children in our care. so encourage them to express themselves in whatever way comes naturally to them.
Children and adults also enjoy gluing nature specimens into their nature notebooks and collecting them in pockets, pouches, bins, and boxes. For example, kids love to press flowers in their nature journals and then glue them to the pages, as shown in the photo below.
Related: The Best Nature Study Supplies for Kids
Recommended Reading for Keeping a Nature Journal
Below we have listed our favorite nature study and nature journaling guides and resource books that will help you keep a nature journal–and act as a springboard to your learning adventures in the great outdoors. Also, look at Nature Study Supplies for more of our favorite nature books and field guides for kids and adults!
- The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling
- How to Teach Nature Journaling
- The Nature Handbook: A Guide to Observing the Great Outdoors
- Nature Anatomy
- The Curious Nature
- Keeping a Nature Journal
- Handbook of Nature Study – Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study is an essential tool for all budding naturalists. Today, there are NEW volumes available with color pictures:
Nature Journal Resources for Kids and Adults
DIY Nature journals make it fun for kids and adults to study nature. Record observations, create art, and write learning experiences in the natural world. Start one today! For more information, please look at our Nature Study Resource Page.
You may also be interested in this fantastic collection of Outdoor Learning Ideas and Nature Study Supplies for kids. Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE.
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