I’ve done some depressing posts lately about the child sex trade, so I thought I’d lighten it up a little with a post about connecting to nature. I’ve never been particularly into birds, but my daughter loves them. My husband put up a hummingbird feeder on our back porch and we have seen lots of hummingbirds buzzing around. We also put out some songbird feed and we’ve seen some beautiful, colorful birds. There’s one in particular that is bright yellow; a finch maybe? I’d like to find out for sure, so I bought this handy guide on Amazon.
I love, love, love these Golden Guides because they’re small enough to carry around on a hike but chock full of information. The pictures are colorful and accurate and my kids love taking turns looking through them.
Something I’m hoping to get into with my four year old is nature journaling. If you google it, you’ll find lots of blog posts about nature journaling with kids. It’s big in the Charlotte Mason homeschooling community and you can also read about it on the Sierra Club website. John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, was big into nature journaling.
My daughter turns five in August and she’ll be getting a sketchbook and a set of colored pencils to start her nature journal. The idea is for kids to learn how to observe their natural environment, to sit quietly and take in the details. It can also help develop artistic skill, but that’s really a side benefit. The point isn’t that a child draws a perfect artist’s rendering; the point is that they took the time not just to look but to see. It’s one more way to develop that sense of awe and wonder about the natural world and turns kids into thinking, compassionate adults.
Nature journaling isn’t just about drawing. Descriptions or lists of wildlife and plant species can be done, as well as poetry or stories inspired by nature. My daughter is really creative so I’m excited to see what she comes up with. My imaginative kid will probably make up stories and add imaginary elements like trolls and fairies. If you have a scientifically minded child, you may get something more resembling a field guide. Either way, the kid gets to be expressive.
Back to the birdwatching, this website has a cool project that kids can participate in every February. It’s called The Great Backyard Bird Hunt and it’s a collaboration between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. All you do is record the birds you spot in your yard and around your neighborhood and enter your list online. You can upload pictures as well. This helps bird enthusiasts keep track of how many birds are being spotted in the winter and whether certain species are declining. The website has an online bird guide to help you identify the birds you see as well as games for kids to play. The one where you learn to identify different bird calls is super cool!
The official Bird Hunt doesn’t take place until February, but you can start a list for fun in your nature journal. These are just a few ideas to get your family outdoors and connected with the earth. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried nature journaling with your kids. Did they get into it?