Nature study materials make getting outside to learn more fun!
Gather a few nature study materials listed below for your little naturalists to use in their explorations into the natural world. When we surround children with nature and supply them with the proper tools, they can’t help but apply the scientific method. They begin to ask questions, observe, experiment, and learn–naturally!
Whether you homeschool or send your children to school, this list of nature study resources makes it fun and easy for children to study the natural world at home or in the classroom. A few useful tools can help motivate children to get outside to have fun learning.
What is Nature Study?
Nature study is the study of nature and everything that exists in the natural world through direct observation and exploration. Studying nature is a great way for kids to learn more about the world around them. Learn more about Nature Study for Kids.
The Best Nature Study Supplies for Kids
Give your little naturalist the gift of nature study supplies and materials that help them follow their natural interests–pun intended. 😉 All kidding aside, studying nature is a great way for children, from toddlers to teens, to learn about the world in which we live.
1. Nature Field Guides for Kids
As a small child, I remember pouring over field guides to study nature even before I learned to read. I can recall looking at the pictures of birds, insects, wildflowers, trees, and other beautiful nature pictures and diagrams with keen interest.
One of my first favorite nature study books as a child was Tom Brown’s Field Guide to the Forgotten Wilderness. In it, young readers can learn how to open their eyes to the surprising abundance of natural beauty outside the front door in the urban and suburban landscapes of backyards and local parks.
If you are looking for a few excellent nature study books and field guides with a little bit of everything in one book, check out Nature Anatomy and Handbook of Nature Study. Another fantastic resource for those of us in North America is the Wildlife Guide, with over 1,000 species of plants and animals to ogle by Reader’s Digest.
Many fantastic field guides are available that cater to kids (and adults) of all ages. The first nature study books listed in each category are great for preschoolers and kindergarteners, while school-aged children and teens will prefer the field guides with a bit more substance towards the bottom of each list.
We know that there is a vast array of nature study books and field guides to choose from, and we hope this list makes it easier to find the ones that best fit your children’s needs. Have a look at each and choose the one you think would be best for use at home or in the classroom.
Bird Nature Study Guides for Kids
Look at our Birding guide to see more of our favorite bird books for kids and fun ways to learn more about them.
- Birds, Nests, and Eggs
- Backyard Birds Field Guide for Young Naturalists
- Birds of North America Feild Guide
Insect Nature Study Field Guides for Kids
Rock and Mineral Nature Study Guides for Kids
Wildflower Field Guides for Kids
- Wildflowers, Blooms & Blossoms
- Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
- A Field Guide to Wildflowers: Northeastern and North-central North America
Related: Real Flower Nature Crafts
Tree Field Study Guides for Kids
- The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups
- Nature All Around: Trees
- The Sibley Guide to Trees
- National Audubon Society Trees of North America
Related: How to Plant a Tree
Animal Books and Animal Tracking Field Study Guides for Kids
- Tracks, Scats, and Signs
- Animal Tracks
- The Clue is in the Poop
- Pocket Guide to Animal Tracks
- Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature Observation
Wild Foraging Plant Identification Guides
One of our favorite nature study activities is wild foraging for edible plants. Wild foraging is an important survival skill to share with children, especially the little naturalists who like to wander the great outdoors.
In addition to the field guides listed below, we also like to play Wildcraft. This herbal adventure game can help children identify and use edible plants and natural medicine.
- Wild Foraging with Kids
- Tom Brown’s Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants
- Edible Wild Plant Identification Guide
- Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Wild Edible Plants
Wilderness Survival Guides for Children
- Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children
- Tom Brown’s Guide to Wilderness Survival
- The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs
2. Magnifying Glass for Kids
Motivate kids to get outside and explore the natural world in greater detail with a magnifying glass. A good magnifying glass is essential for taking a closer look at specimens of interest, such as rocks, flowers, and insects. Our daughter loves this magnifying glass for kids. It has a shatterproof glass lens that makes it easy to study nature up close.
3. Binoculars for Kids
Binoculars are great for observing the natural world around you and getting closer to items of interest, such as birds, at a distance.
As professional ocean lifeguards, my husband and I know an excellent pair of children’s binoculars when we see them. Our daughter loves her binos for backyard birdwatching and likes to take them with her on explorations into the great outdoors.
4. Compass for Kids
Reading and using a compass is a necessary skill for budding nature explorers. As parents, we want to know that our children will always be able to find their way home from their explorations into nature.
5. Nature Notebook or Journal
A Nature Notebook or Journal is a great place for children and adults to record and document their thoughts, feelings, ideas, observations, experiences, and relationships with the natural world. My daughter and I like to use our nature journals to write about the outdoor activities we try. We also like to use them for nature study, drawing, and creating art.
6. Measuring Tape
A measuring tape is a necessary piece of equipment for any nature explorer. I can’t tell you how many times we have pulled ours out to measure something and noted it in our nature journals.
We have discovered that a soft tape measure for sewing is the easiest for children to use outside in nature.
7. Quality Art Supplies for Nature Drawing
Nature study drawing is an excellent creative outlet for young and old alike. Nothing is more intimate than sitting down to sketch or paint something of interest in your nature journal. This is especially true for young explorers who have not yet learned to read and write because they can use their creativity to color their experiences instead! Best of all, nature journals become works of art you can cherish for many years when you include the best art supplies:
- Beeswax Stick Crayons – You have never used a crayon until you have experienced the smooth, vibrant quality of beeswax crayons. We keep these in our field bag, ready to go. Beeswax crayons are also available in block form and smaller and larger sets.
- Giant Laquer-Free Triangular Colored Pencils – These are the colored pencils we use. They have been designed in partnership with Waldorf Education and are made of non-lacquered wood with a triangular shape, making them easier for young naturalists to draw and color with.
- Assorted Water Colors Field Sketch Set with Brush – Here’s a fantastic portable set of watercolors complete with a water brush that makes it super easy to create nature art outdoors.
- The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling – This nature art instruction book by John Muir Laws is a fantastic how-to guide for becoming a better artist and a more attentive naturalist. In it, Laws provides clear, practical advice for every step of the nature study drawing process for artists at every level, from the basics to advanced techniques.
A camera is essential for capturing exciting photos of interesting discoveries and memories. I recommend giving your child an old digital camera or cell phone that you no longer use. If you don’t have one, consider this camera:
- Waterproof Digital Camera – This is a more expensive camera but waterproof, shock resistant, dirt, dust, and sand proof. It is perfect for nature explorers, young and old, and can take quite a beating.
9. Bags, baskets, and other containers to carry nature study specimens
We are big fans of using a bead organizer for collecting samples and natural specimens. They are re-useable and work great because they keep brittle materials from getting smashed.
We also carry around a few other types of collection devices of various kinds for those things that just don’t fit or otherwise won’t work. We have discovered that a pencil box in a nature study backpack and pencil cases in a nature journal also work well.
Plastic bottles from the recycle bin can also work if they have a wide enough mouth to collect and study natural materials found in nature. Look at this excellent collection of nature-inspired sensory bottles for more information.
10. Nature Field Bag or Backpack for Kids
Having a bag or backpack to put all of your nature study supplies, water, and food is essential—a few of our favorite outdoor packs for kids are on the list below.
Related: Nature Crafts for Kids and Teens
A few More Nature Study Materials to Consider
Below you will find a few other nature study materials to consider throwing in your field bag or backpack for the next time your naturalist heads out into the great outdoors on an adventure into the wilderness.
- Flashlight or a headlamp for kids
- Folding Scissors
- Chemical-free sunblock stick or sunblock lotion for kids
- Sun hat for kids
- Basic first aid kit
- Swiss army knife (for nature explores taught and trusted to handle and use knives safely)
And, of course, please don’t forget a stainless steel water bottle for kids and a snack if you plan to go further than your backyard!
Nature Study for Kids (and Their Parents and Educators)
Young explorers will need a few nature study materials to begin their explorations. Don’t leave home without them–you never know when your naturalist might run into something in nature to explore and learn.
Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE!