exploring nature with kids: the kit

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For quite a few months, I gathered the tools I wanted for our nature exploring kit.  I wanted the first of many explorations to be just right--meaning being really prepared to explore--so that our future experiences would be greatly anticipated and this would be a lifleong quest for our whole family.

Nature Journal

It began with having a nature journal for everyone.  (See the nature journal tutorial here.) Having a special blank book to write in, take notes, sketch, and make your own is essential.  The older girls and I have been reading the book [amazon_link id="1580174930" target="_blank" ]Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You[/amazon_link].  It is a beautiful, instructive, inspiring book for nature journaling.   It has given me and the girls ideas of how to journal what we see, how to illustrate what we see, and document what we see.

Creating a Nature Exploring Kit

Here's what I recommend:

  • blank nature journals for each person
  • [amazon_link id="1580174930" target="_blank" ]Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You[/amazon_link] as a guide
  • colored pencils for sketching
  • sketching pencils
  • watercolor colored pencils (with water container)
  • nature reference cards for birds, plants, trees, flowers, insects, etc.
  • binoculars
  • water bottles for each explorer
  • snacks for each explorer
  • a tote (or individual bags) to hold supplies and items from nature

Nature Cards

Having explorer-size reference nature cards for my kids to use in exploring are essential.  Our nature cards are from Imagine Childhood, a wonderful resource for little explorers.  They also sell the exact set of nature cards as full size posters.  We have all six of their nature cards: birds, insects, trees, wildflowers, butterflies,and mushrooms--$2.50 a card is worth it for me.

My girls love these cards.  They run to the backyard with them to see which bird is on our deck.They use them to identify the trees they are exploring.  If you don't buy nature reference cards you could always make them yourself and laminate the cards for your exploring.

Watercolor Colored Pencils

Seeing incredible samples from the [amazon_link id="1580174930" target="_blank" ]Keeping a Nature Journal [/amazon_link]book of the authors sketches in her nature journal got me thinking about watercolor.  I love using watercolor.  My kids love watercolor.  And loose, watercolor sketches of nature would be fantastic to have in a nature journal.

Watercolor colored pencils are fabulous.  You sketch in your nature journal (preferably with nice, thick pages), then open a little water container you brought along--we use a water bottle--and then add water to your colored pencil markings.  The result is brilliant and thrilling for the artist.

These particular watercolor colored pencils are also from Imagine Childhood.  They are thick, brilliant colors and come with a brush.  Nature sketches really come alive with these.

Children will explore nature in different ways based on their age and personality.  My younger children like to touch and feel nature.  Although they have their own version of our nature journal (that tutorial is to come) so they can scribble as they please, they would rather gather and explore more tangibly.

Another one of my children likes the solitude of exploring nature.  Sitting quieting and drawing and recording (with my help) what she sees.

It is wonderful for children to bring something home from nature after that day's exploration.  Something of a reminder of what they experienced, possibly leaves or pinecones, or a twig.  We have a special table where their natural findings can be celebrated.  Plus the nature reminder always call us back into nature for more exploring.  It is a wonderful cycle.

The whole idea behind nature exploring with kids is to open their eyes to the world around them.  It could be exploring in the backyard with each new season, discovering nature at the park if you live in a city, or going out weekly to a new location to see what new animals (their tracks and tendencies) you may discover.

Being a nature explorer always reminds you how precious the earth is.  I see my children running and throwing leaves, drawing what they see and wondering why what they have discovered is what it is.  It opens the mind, clears the mind, and begins a million questions-- wonderful questions waiting to be explored and answered.

the sleepy time gal