Wild Ones Outdoor Learning guest blog: Nature Journaling

I have never been someone who has kept a diary. I’ve never really got to grips with writing down appointments, thoughts, memories, despite my best intentions every New Year’s Day.

This year, journaling has been trending hard, and as much as I love to-do lists and doodling, my interest in it always wains after a few days. I suspect that I am only really in it for the stationary.

Becoming a Nature Nut

However, in the last few months I have become borderline obsessed with nature journals. I realised that every time we went out for a walk, or I held a Forest School session, I would come home with pockets bulging with an assortment of items. Pinecones, acorns, leaves, flowers, sticks… all collected with love, and too beautiful to be discarded. But what was I supposed to do with them?

My camera roll was full of photos that I would never add to an album, due to my firm belief that photos have to have people in to bring them to life and make it into the annual photobook. So why did I take 15 photos of a patch of bluebells? In that moment I had obviously wanted to capture them, keep them as a memory, should they be consigned to the junk folder so soon?

From a practical point of view, creating a nature journal was the obvious answer to this dilemma.

Journaling for Mental Wellbeing

Since my Outdoor Learning journey really began in earnest with my Forest School training 2 years ago, I have found that I crave the great outdoors more and more. Like an exercise addict, if I don’t get my daily dose I become grouchy and irritable. And while for me the simple act of being in nature is enough, it give the kids a reason to get out and about, a “mission” to complete, and makes it purposeful.

On days stuck inside due to bad weather it is soothing to look back on the days we’ve had in the sun. It has been suggested that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so nature journaling is a really good way to help me look for the beauty in each season, not just those sunny vitamin-D soaked summer days; holly berries, frosted grass and frozen deer tracks have their magic too. On dark afternoons it is also a soothing reminder to look back at last summer’s entries and know that there are better days to come.

This has never been more poignant than ever in recent weeks, when lockdown has forced us to condense those lazy days into an hour of outdoor exercise. We can no longer have a relaxed picnic and explore at our leisure; our time outside has become about quality over quantity. I want to remember how precious the outdoors was to us at this time. How some days it was our salvation. Our playground when the playground gates were bolted shut, a place to run when we felt caged in, to remember that the world is still trustworthy, constant, and beautiful, even when it feels uncertain, ever-changing, and terrifying at times.

Creating Your Own Style

If you search for nature journal on Pinterest you will be blown away, and in my case more than a little intimidated, by some people’s dazzling artistic talents. While they are amazing, this can be a little off-putting for someone who, despite a love and appreciation of art, never had the creativity or skill to make it work.

What I love is to trace and copy. Nature journaling is perfect for that. And if it can’t be copied or traced or stuck in, then take a photo of it and stick that in. Make your own rules and don’t make it a chore or a competition to have the prettiest pages. This is for you to enjoy.

Making a Page

Our nature journal is a family effort, so when we get back from a walk, we pool our resources and put all of our natural treasures in one pile. Then we start to sort. That big pine come is gorgeous, but Pritt Stick isn’t going to cut it with that one. So shall we take a photo of it, or draw it, or paint it? The photo I took gets printed for the kids to stick in. Flowers and leaves get glued in, and placing the journal between two heavy books for a few days afterwards presses them and preserves them.

Our nature journal is very much a collaboration and I’m not precious about the way it is laid out or decorated. With lots of natural elements on a page it is always going to look gorgeous.

However, there’s no shame in being a bit more precious about it, so if you want the kids to have their own journals to be let loose on, there are some brilliant free printable ones online, or cheap scrapbooks work well. That means that you can have your own journal too, and your gorgeous Paperchase notebook doesn’t have to be ruined by sticky, painty little hands!

I’m definitely a nature journaling novice, and who knows, eventually my efforts and enthusiasm could fall by the wayside like so many diaries and journals past. But for now, it brings me joy, so I will keep doing it, and encourage you to try it too.

Sarah Silvestri 
Wild Ones Outdoor Learning

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Little Acorns offer a wide range of outdoor learning resources including flower presses, make a pizza for the birds kit, nature hunt play packs, natural weaving frames and magnifiers. Check out the outdoor learning section for details.