There are so many different ways to include mark making and writing in the outdoors, but one activity that the children in my nursery particularly enjoyed was to create and continually add to their very own nature journals.
These journals can be as simple or complicated as you want them to be, we used large ‘nature coloured’ sugar paper and bound it with a long stick at the spine, we then decorated our journals by painting using sticks, leaves, flowers etc.
Don’t forget to encourage the children to write their names on their journal! They should be able to take ownership of their own special book and feel proud and excited by it.
If you wanted to be extra creative, you could make your own recycled paper (maybe including some pressed flowers) and use it to create beautiful book covers.
Be sure to add plenty of pages inside and if possible, use thick, sturdy paper that will not rip if it gets a little damp or beaten while the children are out and about.
Another nice touch that you could include into your nature journals is to add small plastic pouches or pockets so that the children can store and keep small pebbles, shells and other exciting materials. They can then bring them back to the nursery and continue to explore their discoveries in other areas.
Once your nature journals are ready, collect some pencils, glue, sticky tape and scissors and take the children outdoors! It really doesn’t matter where you go, the woods, the beach, the garden or a walk around the block, but as you’re playing and exploring, encourage the children to collect small natural items that they find interesting, or draw a picture of them, or write the words!
When mark making outdoors, ensure to provide your children with a range of materials such as chunky pencils, felt pens, chalk, crayons or paints. If you provide a variety of resources, you are likely to find a method that appeals to most children, rather than putting anyone off (for example, one of my children would never choose to write or mark make unless felt pens were on offer – then there was no stopping them!)
My children were fascinated by all of the different types of leaves that they came across while exploring the outdoors. They glued them into their nature journals, drew around them, took rubbings of them and matched and sorted them into groups of colour. This was fantastic for early maths skills as well as science, expressive arts and of course, language and literacy as they learned new vocabulary and attempted to write them.
The more that you take your nature journals out with you, the more confident the children will become in adding into them. A nice way to promote this learning is for the adults/ teachers to have their own nature journals as well. Remember, if you are excited and engaged in an activity, the children will follow your lead!
Later, the children’s journals can be used as an aid for reflecting on their learning. They are able to look back through their book and speak about previous trips and findings, encouraging their language skills further.
Don’t forget to allow your children to show off their work to their parents, or maybe even take them home for the weekend and add some treasures from their own back garden – this learning certainly does not stay within the nursery!
This is a re-blog post originally posted in 2015 by Michelle and published with kind permission. UKEd Editorial staff updated the post in 2020 in accordance with website and policy changes. The original post can be found here.