Nature Study Supplies slayed on wooden floor

Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need in Your Bag Now

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Nature Journaling Supplies: what you need in your bag now. Easily be prepared on your next outing with these tips and items.

Do you feel overwhelmed with starting a new course of study with nature journaling? Many people did not grow up doing nature study, and it can almost seem too simple. “You mean, we just take a notebook and pencil outside, and draw what we see?” YES!

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If You are Unsure about Nature Study

But what if, “I don’t know what we are supposed to be looking at.” Or the frustration of, “What do we actually need to pack for a day out?” Because I know for me, being prepared ahead of time is half the battle. And anything that makes things easier with 4 kids in tow, I’m here for it.

Now a little disclaimer: We have been nature journaling to varying degrees of dedication throughout these five years. For some years, just being out in nature is about the best we can do. (When a baby or toddler in the lap doesn’t lend itself to water coloring.) Other years, I have been diligent about journaling and then that leads my children to dive into it more as well, by my example. No matter where you find yourself in your homeschooling journey, I want you to know that you can do this!

I remember a time when I could hardly talk my 5-year-old daughter (at the time) to be outside for more than 10 minutes. She would either be too hot, too cold, or there were too many bugs. Now, we spend hours a day outside. Not necessarily doing nature study, but Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education has given us a rich life. So if this is very new to you and your family, start slow. Don’t judge yourself by what you see on Instagram or Pinterest. Respect your children and yourself. Like I said, start slow, but be consistent. Little bits add up.

Out of School and Into Nature book the story of Anna Comstock

If you have young children, I’d say from ages 9 down to 5, they may enjoy this book. It is beautifully illustrated and shares the story of Anna Comstock’s life. It may help give your child (and perhaps you too!) an excitement for nature study.

What Nature Journaling Supplies We Have in Our Bag

Nature Journals:

These are the green ones in the photo above. (Including the opened one.) These are a bit guided in and give fonts. It does have lines on the pages like a notebook and the paper isn’t meant for water coloring. I found it good for beginner observers that may do well with a bit of structure and tend to use crayons/ colored pencils. The size is good for little hands as it isn’t too large. I use this for my 6-9-year-olds.

For our very little ones, we just use a decomposition notebook or any spiral notebook.

There are some other options my friends have enjoyed for the same age range. (Updated in July 2021 to say I got this one for my 5 year old son this year.)

When your child is ready to focus on watercolor or perhaps if your child doesn’t like notebook lines, move them into a moleskin watercolor pad. They come in different shapes and sizes. I like this brand and the pocket size is great for packing up to go out into nature. These can handle watercolors very well.

The blue nature journal in the top photo is a Guided Journal that we use as a “Book of Firsts”. Which you basically write down the first of things in the calendar of each year to compare. For example, you use it to mark when you notice the first Robin every year and over the years you can learn when to expect to see them. 

Updated July 2021: I was planning on getting my oldest two daughters Moleskine journals this year, but as I was shopping, something new caught my eye. John Muir Laws created a sketchbook that was released this spring! So I got two of these for my oldest girls to try out.

The cover is nice and thick, the paper is a good weight. It says that it is good for light washes, pencils, and pens. It also has a closure strap to keep the pages from opening inside of a backpack. The back of the book has some tips and suggestions for nature drawing/ field activities as well. I’m excited to see how these work out for us this year.

Nature Journaling Supplies

Coloring Utensils

writing and coloring implements for nature study

Starting from the top of this photo:

We carry repurposed glass jars for things we want to observe a little closer. It also doubles for when you need containers to hold water.

Regular pencils and erasers then followed by a white gel pen to add white highlights with watercolors.

Colored Pencils: I’ve had this tin since I was a teenager. I find the tin very useful to keep them together and not breaking when tossed around in the backpack.

Watercolor pencils: which is that pile in the middle. You draw what you want to and then add a bit of water to make them turn into watercolors!

Watercolor brush pens: These things are awesome because the water goes right inside the tubes. It does take a little work to get used to them but they are a great addition to our pack.

Sketching pencils: I like to carry a variety of choices when it comes to graphite strength. As well as an eraser stick (that’s what the red stick on top is.)

Nature Journaling Supplies: Sketching Items

Pencil Sharpener: Important to remember when carrying all these pencils. Did you know that if you use PrismaColor colored pencils, their core is actually softer than normal pencils? They have a specific pencil sharpener for their products.

Black Felt tip pens: I like to use these to outline some sketches or to write our observations in our nature journals. I carry a variety of sizes but my favorite one that I am usually reaching for is 03. I find that it’s not too thin and not too thick.

And last but not least if you missed it up top, is a white gel pen to add white highlights when needed. I find watercolors to be frustrating sometimes. If you are like me, that negative space vanishes quickly. Since there isn’t a way to bring it back, this is a handy little thing to have to add it back in. (picture below above the open colored pencil case.)

white gel pen overhead shot above colored pencils

I will say, this big set of Prismacolor colored pencils does get a lot of use at home. But I don’t take these out in the field because of the cost and the size. But if you get a smaller pack, they may be just right for you. 

prismacolor colored pencils on sidewalk
water color options laid out on sidewalk

Water Color Supplies for Nature Journaling

I do not carry all of these for each outing, but I want to show you options that we like.

The top left corner is not watercolors. Lol, those are our beeswax color sticks which technically should have been in the last section, but they are in this photo. I bring these for the littles when they aren’t yet ready to work with watercolors. Being that they are beeswax, the melting point is higher than the brands the big box stores carry. I have yet to find one of these melted at the bottom of a bag.

Top Right is a pan of with bright fun colors. Not usually colors that would be found in nature, but a cheaper option.

The larger set of Winsor and Newton watercolors is my set and the smaller one is one that my big girls will get this coming year. I will also probably get them their own nature bag instead of carrying this all myself.

On the side is liquid watercolors that I have used to replace colors as needed. If you really would like to see how a pro arranges their watercolor palette, check out John Muir Laws share about it here.

One last item for watercolors that is nice to have is these Ready Cut Watercolor pages. We use these if the paper in our journals doesn’t lend itself to water coloring and we want to paste something in on top. Or perhaps you have someone who is frustrated with how their picture turned out, these are nice for a second try. Then tape or paste them on top of the page that needed a second chance. ūüėČ

watercolor pages above supplies on sidewalk
Nature study resources

Nature Journaling Resources

John Muir Laws has many amazing resources for teaching and learning how to do nature study, including this free Nature Journaling Curriculum!

Raising Little Shoots has great resources as well and I can’t believe I didn’t photograph Exploring Nature With Children! She created that and if you would like something to give you guide you step by step, season by season, this is it.

The cost is low but the expense can come from printing it. Get a couple of quotes from local print shops, if you can. Otherwise printing through The Homeschool Printing Company is very economical, although it can take a long time for your order to be sent to you.

The Phenology Wheel activity was a fun one to put together with the kids. It makes a beautiful pictorial image of what you are charting. We used it for a weather study.

nature field guides

Nature Field Guides

Although I do love the “Seek” app to identify things while we are out exploring, there is something to learning how to operate a field guide.

Find some great guides that are local to your area like this Birds of Tennessee field guide for us in Tennessee.

The whole series of Golden Field Guides are gems. I actually grew up with an earlier edition of this book that is still at my parent’s house. 

nature books

Nature Books to Encourage the Love of Nature in the Home

I wasn’t going to gather every single book that I have around my home that I use to encourage a love of nature in my family. But there are a few that I felt would be amiss if they weren’t included in this post.

The Julia Rothman books. They aren’t a book that we often use to study specific topics but both my oldest daughters have sat and read through them in their entirety, coming away with increased knowledge.

The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock. Does that name sound familiar from earlier in this post? This is one of the pieces of work Ms. Comstock wrote and is a wealth of information.

For some people, it is too much information, which is why I am excited that the Living Book Press has redone them breaking them up into topics. They have also updated the pictures. But the original is more cost-effective if you can work with it.

A Few Last Items I Recommend for Your Nature Journaling Supplies

A pocket knife comes in handy for many purposes. Of course, take caution as to where you store it in the bag and use your discretion for your family situation.

Binoculars are a great item to put on children’s birthday or Christmas wish lists.

Compass: fun for kids to start using early on to get a good sense of direction. The one pictured is a military version from when I was in Civil Air Patrol as a teenager. A basic one will do for hikes and maps.

Whistle: I use this when kids start wandering too far off or during our nature group when there are lots of voices all at once. If you are going on a hike, sometimes it is nice to give one to each child in case they get lost.

Tape Measure: very useful when you are wondering how somethings compare to others or how deep a stream may be.

Magnifying Glass or Lupe: to see those little details that we may otherwise miss out on. The magnifying glass in the first picture on top is just a basic one from Dollar Tree. They don’t always carry them, so I will leave an option from Amazon below as well.

I usually carry a personalized first aid kit where ever we go out. This includes the typical first aid type items as well as essential oils, tick care and a bite and sting kit.

Free Printable!

If you need some help feeling prepared, print these off and use them as a check list.

I made these last fall when starting our own nature study group, and needed to make sure we had everything. (You can start one too! I wrote about it here).

I double-sided mine and laminated it till we got in our rhythm of remembering everything. Hopefully, they make things a little smoother for you and your crew when trying to get out the door.

Warm weather nature day free printable
Cool weather nature day free printable

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