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.

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p. 1 Wild Strawberries. Information. You will find them in your backyard and in the woods. p. 2 Wild Strawberries.

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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.