Go On Outdoor Expeditions With A DIY Field Notebook

Feb 12, 2016

It feels great to get outside with your family. But let’s face it—it can be tough to get the kids organized and out the door.

Here are some simple tips to make it easier and more fun to spend time outdoors with your family. Start by dressing for the weather, then head outside with your very own field notebooks (just like Scout!). 

Scout and his field notebook.

You Will Need:

  • 15 (or more) minutes of outdoor time
  • weather-appropriate clothing
  • notebook (choose a book that's durable and can withstand a little snow or rain)
  • pencil crayons, crayons, pencil and/or markers (pencils tend to write well in wet or dry conditions and don’t fade over time; coloured pencils are great for sketching and capturing the beautiful colours you’ll see outside)
  • camera (optional)
  • resealable plastic bag (optional)

Step 1: Get Ready

Sometimes, getting your child outside is easier said than done—especially if it’s cold out!

Here are some suggestions to make your nature walks fun for the whole family:

1. Pack a thermos of hot chocolate or herbal tea with honey. After walking around outside and breathing the fresh air, you'll appreciate a warm drink. Pausing for a drink also gives you an opportunity to slow down and observe the world around you.

2. Make sure you dress your children (and yourself!) appropriately for the weather. If you're not comfortable, nobody will want to stay outside.

In the winter, layers are best and good footwear and gloves are key. Make sure everything fits properly and that you’re warm from head to toe.

Kids grow quickly, so it’s easy to find quality second-hand clothes for kids

It’s a good idea to organize your outdoor clothes before the season changes—that way, you're ready to go when the weather shifts.

Kids grow quickly, so it’s easy to find quality second-hand clothes for kids; check out your local consignment stores. You could even try a “shout out” to your friends on Facebook for hand-me-downs.

3. Try to put your phone away. Give yourself a break from emails and phone calls. Use this time to connect with your family and the natural world around you. Do keep your camera handy though, it’s a good tool for recording observations for you family's field notebooks.

Option: You can pack your field notebooks or leave them at home to work on later.

You'll Also Love: Printable Winter Scavenger Hunt

Step 2: Go Outside

Okay, you made it outside! You deserve a pat on the back! Give a round of high fives and do a happy dance. Take a deep breath of fresh air and let’s go!

A girl stands on grass covered with snow.

You don’t need to go far. Nature can be found right outside your doorstep.

You can observe nature as you walk down a sidewalk, wander through an alley, visit a park or even as you stand in the backyard.

Nature can be found right outside your doorstep.

If you’re up for it and you have access to a forest, a pond, a farm, the seaside, a lake, a community vegetable garden, a riverbank or a bog, then go for it!

Step 3: Record Your Observations

Field Notebook Idea #1: Mindful Observation

Invite your children to look around and see what interesting things they can find. What sparks their curiosity?

  • Look at the way the tree branches grow and reach for the sky.
  • Look at the different colours of the leaves and plants.
  • What objects can you find on the ground?
  • Can you guess what might have fallen from a tree?
  • Look for big objects and small objects, soft objects and rough objects.

You can record your observations together in a field notebook—or take mental notes and record in your book when you get home.

Include the date, location and some basic observations about what you’ve found. Draw a picture. Use your imagination and have fun.

You can also borrow some objects for further observation and inspection back at home—a small rock, a pinecone, a leaf, some needles from a pine tree, a stick. Collect these items carefully. Place them in a resealable plastic bag and put them in your backpack or pocket.

Once you’re home, take out your treasures and lay them out on a table. Encourage your children to study the textures, colours and patterns of each object. Use a magnifying glass if you have one. Have them record their observations in their field notebooks.

Two kids draw in their naturalist notebooks.

Invite your child to draw what he or she sees. You can help by labeling the drawings with basic information like where and when the item was found. You can even label what kind of nature you observed.

Record the animals, birds and insects you saw. Make note of the weather and the kinds of trees you saw.

Ask your little one(s) questions and see what they remember from the nature walk.

You'll Also Love: Scout & The Gumboot Kids Colouring Sheets (For Kids + Adults!)

Field Notebook Idea #2: Studying the Seasons

A simple and fun exercise is to choose a tree in your neighbourhood and observe how it changes throughout the seasons.

A tree in autumn, and in winter.

Visit the tree every month or so and record your observations in your field notebook, or take a photo of the tree so you can draw it in your field notebook when you get home.

For each entry, make some basic observations with your children:

  • Is this a coniferous tree or deciduous tree?
  • Are there any animals or insects living in or around the tree?
  • Does this tree produce anything? Nuts? Pinecones? Fruit?
  • What do the leaves look like? Feel like?
  • What do the branches look like?
  • What does the bark feel like?
  • Can you see roots poking through the ground?
  • What plants live around the tree?

Each time you visit the tree, notice what has changed since your last visit and record these observations in your field notebook.

A child's drawings of a tree in different seasons.

You can find even more ideas and inspiration by watching Scout & The Gumboot Kids on Kids’ CBC. Share your adventures on Instagram and Facebook by tagging your photos  and your field notes as #gumbootkids and #kidscbc. We hope you have a lot of fun!

See you outside, Gumboot Kids!

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