Kids are fascinated by nature. They love exploring every little detail and are fascinated by things we take for granted. I’m always surprised by the interesting things that my daughter notices, especially things closer to the ground. From the shape of frost crystals in the winter, to little ant paths in the summer, children love making observations and new discoveries of the world around them.
It doesn’t take much to support their interest and nurture their love for nature. Going outside for a nature walk on a regular basis is enough.
But I have found that providing some guidance and giving nature walks a theme or an objective is more productive. Having a theme gives kids something to focus on and keeps their attention engaged for longer. It could be something as simple as going on a seasonal scavenger hunt. Or you can get fancy and get a nature journal going.
Nature guides and journals for kids
You can make a nature journal yourself – just a blank notebook would do. But having a proper nature journal is more engaging and more fun.
There are so many wonderful nature guides out there. Below I have listed a few that have caught my attention. It’s worth mentioning why I’ve chosen these over others. One rule that I have about nature books for kids is that they should not be too text-heavy. Kids love doing stuff and they love pictures. But they don’t love blocks of text.
Some of the guides out there are too parent-reliant with too much text. That is no way to get kids excited about going exploring. Others have activities that are too time consuming and too complicated even for the parents. I’ve noticed that my daughter loses interest when activities are too long, and just wants to go on to the next thing. So for me – easy does it.
When it comes to journals, I decided to publish my own. I wanted a journal full of nature activities that engage all the senses while out on nature walks: what do you hear, what do you see, how does nature change over the seasons. I wanted a journal that is light on text and theory and focused more on self-guided adventure and exploration. So I went ahead and designed a nature journal with my daughter in mind. I designed the journal for kids who love nature, who love going out on the weekend and doing scavenger hunts, who notice interesting details, and who love to draw what they see. And filled it with activities that would engage the senses and make kids better at observing nature and understanding it.
A nature guide for parents
The other discovery I made while going on nature walks with my daughter, is that I don’t know nearly enough about nature as I thought I do (and I have an MSc in Botany!). So for parents who find themselves in my situation, where my kid asks seemingly simple nature questions that I don’t know the answers to, I recommend getting a book to brush up on nature skills and knowledge. This one about reading nature’s signs is great.
The three essential tools for exploring nature
And as you and your kids get more skillful at observing nature, you start wanting to be able to see more – see more details, see further away, see into the night’s sky. My three favorite tools for that are a magnifying glass, binoculars and a telescope. You’ll notice that I didn’t add a microscope. We have a microscope, but we rarely use it. Kid-friendly microscopes, in my opinion, don’t have enough light or resolution to allow kids to see that which they are interested in seeing. A good magnifying glass is just as good.
So here is a list of my favorite and essential books and tools to get your kid going with nature exploration and observation:
Kid essentials for exploring nature:
- A kid-friendly telescope – this one has several advantages, the main one being that it’s very affordable. It’s also easy to use and helps kids see interesting things in the sky, like details of the moon and the planets. No need for a more complicated telescope to start with.
- Kid-friendly binoculars – these are great for seeing interesting things in the trees and fields and mountains. Ideal for bird watching or discovering what hides behind a bush. And they come in 7 colors.
- Scavenger hunt cards – these are designed with younger kids in mind, but I find that our whole family loves them. They help you see mature in a new way by asking you to find something with as certain attribute or characteristic. Made for hours of nature fun.
- Big magnifying glass – kids are fascinated by details. They love to study things up-close. And kids love big tools. This one ticks all the boxes.
- The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs – a great book for parents of kids who love nature. It helps you and your kids learn so much about nature. Fascinating facts and skills.
- On the Nature Trail – simple and full of picture, this nature guide covers all the major categories of things that you would see on a nature walk. Very kid-friendly.
- Nature Anatomy – another great nature guide book. This one is more detailed and more like a textbook, but still very user-friendly and useful to have. This one is for older children who are serious natural science enthusiasts.
- My Nature Journal – this is my contribution to the list. It’s a self-guided nature journal that focuses on engaging the senses and helping children observe and appreciate nature around them. It’s full of fun activities and makes a great nature walk companion.
My Nature Journal and My Nature Log Book are available on Amazon.