Simple ways your child can be a naturalist

Guest Post by MarkDanenhauer


This Fall Your Kids Can Become Junior Naturalists

During summer it felt like my kids and I had lots of time to go explore the mountains, creeks, and forests in the area.  Yet, as always happens, summer flew by and now it is back to school.  The days are busy with school, homework, sports, and activities.   Despite this there is still an easy way to keep your kids and yourself tuned into and curious about the natural world.  

kid fall
This young boy found a beautiful leaf in the fall.

By spending thirty minutes a week your kids can become junior naturalists.  That is all the time that it will take for your kids to begin becoming experts on the wildlife around the neighborhood.  Here is all they need to do:


Get a journal or notebook – You need to have a dedicated nature journal that you will use to record your observations.  This does not have to be anything special or fancy.  Basically, you just need something that you can write or draw in and that has lots of pages so that it will last awhile.  


Use your observation skills – The most important skill to being a good naturalist or scientist is to be good at observing things.  This means looking closely and paying attention to what you see.  Don’t just glance in the back yard and see ‘some trees’.  Rather look closer at those trees to see how they look different or similar to each other.  What do their leaves look like?  What color is the bark of the tree?  Do you see any seeds or flowers?  Do you see any animals on or around the trees?


kid spot
Pick a nice spot from which you can observe your back or front yard.


Pick one or some spots around your house to observe from – Being a naturalist or scientist does not mean that you have to travel to the mountains in order to observe nature.  Look outside your window at your front and back yard.  Find a nice spot that you can observe your front or back yard from and where you can write in your journal.


– What should you write down? – The first thing you should write down is the date and time of day you are making your observations.  Then you can write down whatever you see outside at the time.   For example, you may see a small black bird sitting on the tree.  You could write what it looks like, what it is doing, or even draw a picture of it.  Maybe you see some hawks soaring high up in the sky.  Or possibly you don’t see any animals and you could just write down what the day is like and what the trees or bushes look like.


ladybug cluster
You may see a cluster of lady bugs outside your house!

When to do it – It can be done anytime that the kids are motivated and ready.  This could be in the morning, afternoon, evening, or on weekends.  This is a great activity for kids to do anytime, including when they have school during the day.  


How often should it be done? – They only need to spend a few minutes on it each day, every other day, or even once a week.  The important thing is to make a habit of observing the natural world around the house and recording their observations.  


Mark Danenhauer spent about ten years working in the environmental field.  Now, while being a stay at home dad he loves sharing the natural world with his two children.  He writes a blog, and a soon to be published book, Jake’s Nature Guide: Rocky Mountains.  You can learn more at Jake’s Nature Blog or on Facebook at Jake’s Nature Guide.


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