writer's notebook · writing workshop

Nature Writing for All Ages and Stages

My family and I just returned from several days of camping in beautiful Groton, Vermont. We had lovely weather and we spent our days exploring the forest, swimming in the lake, singing around the campfire and toasting marshmallows. It only rained at night whilst we slept. Best of all: no internet. No cell service either. Amazing.

Whenever we travel my daughter loves to bring a notebook and some markers to keep a journal. This weekend she decided that her journal was going to be called a “nature notebook,” and she drew observations and wrote down notes about all the animals, plants, and scenery we took in.

p. 1 Wild Strawberries. Information. You will find them in your backyard and in the woods. p. 2 Wild Strawberries.
p. 1 Red foxes. They live in their burrows and they are buried in the burrows. They are foxes. p. 2 Foxes.

If you ask Lily what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll immediately say, “a scientist,” and then quickly add, “and an explorer of course.”

Lots of kids don’t see themselves as writers–but they do love the outdoors. Just having a notebook and some markers on hand is a step toward helping children develop identities as writers–and as scientists too.

Modeling your own writing in front of kids is important too. A lot of people say they model their own writing in front of kids–but do they? Adults often write when they are at work, or when the kids are asleep.  To model effectively, you must actually, physically, write while your kids know and realize that you are writing. And do it often. It’s not easy to do all the time, but having a routine or a few writing-related traditions helps a lot.

My husband and I always bring a small journal whenever we hike or backpack; it’s something we started doing years ago, and it stuck as part of the routine for us. We each jotted some notes in our journals each day at different times. My entries were comprised of lists and notes of what we should have packed (bug spray!), and I made a master supply/gear list for the next big camping trip. My husband wrote down lyrics for a song he’s been working on.

My one year old son, Jackson, enjoyed taking the caps on and off the markers, and getting his fingers on his big sister’s notebook. One day he’ll be a nature writer too.

Nature writing can encompass a whole variety of types of writing:

  • lists
  • observations
  • poems
  • songs
  • hiking/backpacking/camping/outdoors stories
  • sketches with labels and notations
  • field guides

In our family, bringing along a small notebook or a journal when we travel has become a tradition. Maybe you’ll make it part of your summer plans as well.

10 thoughts on “Nature Writing for All Ages and Stages

  1. Every member of my family has a composition notebook that we take with us on vacation. My daughter began hers last year when she was 3. She uses it to draw pictures of things we do and other things she’s thinking about. We write in captions for her and help her glue in any special items. It’s amazing to see the difference in her fine motor skills, level of detail, and use of letters and numbers in just one year. It’s also an easy activity to have on hand for plane rides.


  2. I love the notebook pages by your daughter. What a great idea to bring a notebook along for her on hikes or camping!!! Such beautiful memories you’re building in addition to living the life of a writer! Thank you for sharing!


  3. This is such a lovely idea Beth. While we didn’t camp when my children were young, we did take some hikes and many long walks and went strawberry and blueberry and apple picking most summers and falls and I wish they’d done something like this. Not only is your young writer doing writerly things early in her writing life, but there will also be a wonderful record. This makes me think of Michelle Haseltine’s comment on her blog post about all of the notebooks she has from many years ago.


  4. Of course, she wants to be a scientist; an observer of life! I love how you’ve modeled this just as a thing one does when goes hiking. Forever and always she will have this. My husband walks around with a big notepad in his pocket. My kids make fun of it, but it’s his way of holding on to what he sees and thinks in the world. Maybe some day they will do the same thing!


  5. Beth, why didn’t I think of it before? A colleague of mine bought us a blank journal for the lake house and told us to write a little something in it every time we go there (and to have our guests sign it, too!). We already have a couple pages of entries, so I have modeled that part for Maddie and Katie. But, duh! They should keep their own lake house journals filled with pictures and notes and doodles of all the amazing things we do! I love, love, love your daughter’s notebook. She IS an explorer, for sure!


  6. Excellent suggestions. My son is a reluctant writer. (In the way most people are reluctant to have a root canal done). But he loves going on nature hikes. So, maybe I can lure him to writing via the trees.


  7. Thank you for sharing! I see some potential here for our summer program with students in grades 1-6th. Perhaps a notebook and a nature walk are in order!


  8. I love your daughter’s writing! You made an important point about being a model for writing. I hadn’t thought about the fact that most of my writing is done when my children aren’t around, because it is so hard to do when they ARE around, but I didn’t think about how they don’t really get to see me being a person who writes. We are taking a family trip in July and I’m thinking I will get notebooks for all of us and let my 4 year and 2 year old “write” what they like as I show them how I am writing about things I’m noticing. I love how this post connects science and nature with writing and it’s making me think about asking my students to do more noticing in nature next year. I remember learning an idea about “adopting” a tree and then paying attention to your tree during all the changes in seasons. This post reminded me of that idea and I’m going to think on it more for next school year. Thanks!


  9. We are going camping this weekend. We go every other weekend in the summer. I am going to buy each of my children a notebook to nature journal. Thanks for the idea!


Comments are closed.