Play Outside - Notice Nature

Noticing Nature – May

May brings so many things to notice in nature. Flowers, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds – well, everything! It is hard for me to nail down a topic for this month, because there are just too many choices!

One thing I’ve noticed while writing this series is how often things outside are always changing. It’s really awesome to notice the arrival and departure of living things just outside my door. Last month, I felt like tent caterpillars were taking over my world! I mean, they were EVERYWHERE! I joked with the kids about how these caterpillars know nothing of all this social distancing we’ve been encouraged to do. Now here it is late May, and they are all gone. I wonder if we will have a gigantic moth population very soon.

Caterpillars aren’t the only things that come and go. I’ve found what can potentially be a creative outlet to start this summer, and that’s journaling. There are so many ways to create and keep a journal! I became interested and inspired to learn more about nature journaling recently when the kids and I were studying NC history, and the journals of Daniel Boone and John Lawson. Their meticulous records are amazing! Where The Crawdads Sing is a fiction book that also inspired as well as entertained me, and it’s a great summer read! In my own quest to find out more about what lives around me, I decided to give it a go and I hope to inspire my kids to do the same.

How to begin a Nature Journal

Just start! I started last week with a Giant Mayfly. Although very common in my area, I wasn’t familiar with what had been hanging out on my back door all day. I used the Seek app to identify it, then a quick Google search. I found that I may be the only person to see this one particular insect, as it only lives for about a day as an adult! That certainly deserved a page in my nature journal! I drew an imperfect sketch of the insect, took a few notes, and dressed it up with some color. The rest of the week it rained, and boy did the tree frogs come out! That may just be my next entry. See how random journaling can be? There’s always something to notice outside – bugs, flowers, clouds, a mushroom, or grass.

Speaking of grass, I can remember riding bicycles as a little girl with my dad. Sometimes he would take a hatchet with him. He would cut the running St. Augustine grass from the sidewalks and plant it in our yard when we returned. A few years later, we vacationed in St. Augustine, FL, and the first thing I did was look down at the grass. Yep, St. Augustine grass, just like dad would transplant! That may not even be legal in our crazy world now, but it is a fun memory of dad neatening up the town sidewalks and planting the runners in our lawn. Journaling can certainly include fun stories!

Nature journaling can be as simple or fancy as you are, or a combination of both! You can include a simple sketch, photograph, add words or even a poem or a Bible verse if you’re inspired to do so! One doesn’t have to be creative or artsy to keep a journal. Pinterest is a gold mine for ideas, and if you’re ever needing fresh ideas this lovely printable of 40 ideas is fantastic!

Tools & Supplies

Of course to get started, all you need is paper and pencil. I love to use colored pencils with my journal, and I also have a couple of book recommendations to include on this short list of things you may need to get started.

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  • Journal/Notebook – I love personalized things, and my teenage daughter designs and personalizes these awesome journals! The size is just right, and it lays nice and flat. The pages are not bright white, so you’re not blinded. Usborne Books & More also has this nicely illustrated journal. I started with this one, and I really like the simplicity and design of it. The size is a tad large, but it’s still also another great choice.
  • Prismacolor Colored Pencils – these high-quality pencils are terrific. I can really see and feel the difference when I switched from cheaper pencils. These come recommend to use by the artist in the art courses I’ve been reviewing this year. Quality tools produce quality results!
  • Sharpie Pens – I recently purchased these, and I love them! They do not bleed through paper, and are perfect to use in my journal for writing, as well as outlining my drawings.
  • Watercolor Pencils – Have you ever used watercolor pencils? They’re really neat, especially if you want to sketch and color on site. I am a beginner, but am starting to learn to layer and blend with them. I know these will be fun to use when journaling.
  • Rug – a small rug is nice to sit on while journaling, plus it keeps your bottom dry and clean! I grabbed a $5 rug at Dollar General.
  • Sketching Stuff Activity Book – for beginners of all ages, I purchased this just a few weeks ago. I love the conversational style of the book, and so far, the activities and techniques look very doable. I hope to use this to sharpen skills, and to use with the kids.
  • The Curious Nature Guide – I’ve had this for a few months, and it is one of those books you just love to flip through. When you do, you notice something you didn’t see at last flip. For general inspiration about the natural world around you – this book is ah-mazing!

Do you journal? This gentle approach along with fresh, new supplies are a fun way to get kids interested in the great outdoors. Summer time is a great time to start!

4 thoughts on “Noticing Nature – May”

  1. I will have to try the Seek app. I’m always looking for apps to help ID things we find. I need to start a nature journal with my son. He’d love it.

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