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 listed towards the bottom of this article. And, be sure to make or buy one for yourself, too! Next, learn how to keep a nature journal and try some of the nature notebook entry ideas at the bottom of this article.
Related: Sorting and Classifying Rocks
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 (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 with you to write, draw, or paint your observations, feelings, and experiences with nature and the wild.
What is Nature Study?
Learn more about Nature Study on our Nature Study Resource Page.
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.
Step 1 – Gather Nature Journal Craft Supplies
- Recycled cardboard (Large cereal and cracker boxes work great!)
- Lined binder paper (optional)
- 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, or Mod Podge and fabric
Step 2 – Make Front and Back Cover for Homemade Nature Journal
- Grab some cardboard from the recycle bin and cut two 10-inch by 12-inch pieces for the front and back cover of the Nature journal.
Step 3 – Decorate 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 the front and back cover of their homemade nature journals.
- Another great way to cover a homemade journal is to wrap both pieces of cardboard in contact paper with a nature print on it.
- Or, glue fabric with a nature print to the front and back cover decoupage style. To do this, use a foam brush to apply Mod Podge (or a slightly watered-down white glue) to both sides of each piece of cardboard for the front and back of the homemade nature journal. Wrap fabric around both pieces, gently smooth out any bubbles and allow to dry. And finally, trim off any excess fabric.
Step 4 – Punch Holes in the Front and Back CoveR
- Use a 3-hole paper punch to make holes in the cardboard to complete the front and back cover for the journal.
Step 5 – Bind Nature Journal and Supplies Together
- Place paper in between the front and back cover. (We like to add lined binder paper and heavyweight cardstock (use a 3-hole-punch) so we can write, create art, and collect nature specimens such as flowers and leaves. But feel free to add the type and amount of paper that you would like to use in your homemade journal.)
- Grab three loose-leaf binder rings–or some ribbon, jute twine, or anything else you can use to bind or tie a homemade journal together.
- Slip the rings or twine through each of the three holes, snap or tie to secure the front and back cover, the paper, and any other materials inside the nature journal in place.
How to Make a Nature Notebook
Another easy way to make a nature study journal is with a store-bought binder or notebook–with cardstock and lined paper added for nature journal entries. If you would like to make this homemade nature notebook, follow the simple step-by-step directions below!
STep 1 – Gather Nature Notebook Supplies
Gather the notebook supplies that 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
- 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.
Step 2 – Fill Nature Notebook with Nature Journal Paper and Supplies
Next, add in the nature notebook supplies you want to put in your notebook.
- Add lined binder paper to the nature notebook to write on.
- Punch holes in a small stack of heavyweight cardstock with a three-hole-punch and place it inside the binder.
- Add pocket dividers with holes, pockets with zippers, and pouches for specimins and art supplies.
Step 3 – Create nature art for nature 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 notebook in any way they like, using any of the craft supplies listed above.
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 shown 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:
There are a few other items that we recommend to make studying nature even more fun! Have a 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 and 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 waterbrush. For more recommended art materials have a look at the best art supplies for kids and why young artists should use them.
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 of the experiences you have with nature and her bounty. Mother Earth wants nothing more than 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 also love and recommend the Laws Guide Book to Nature Drawing and Journaling. 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 with you whenever you head out on an adventure.
- Write, draw and/or paint in your notebook or journal to record experiences with nature. Don’t forget to date entries!
- Write thoughts, feelings, ideas, observations, experiences, and relationship 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 no editing, this 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 Kindergardeners
Encourage children that are 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. Offer something to focus on if they have trouble coming up with nature journal entry ideas.
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 all authentic expressions. And children and adults of all ages should be encouraged 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.
Nature Journal Page Templates & Resources:
- Bird Observation Notebooking Page from the Notebooking Fairy [She also has an animal observation page]
- What’s that bug? bird? animal? from The Crafty Classroom
- Bug Observation Freebie from Teachers Pay Teachers
- Leaf Collecting template from Kidzone
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, have a 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.
Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE.