The Study of Nature (for Kids) Part I

“You must walk sometimes perfectly free, not prying or inquisitive, not bent on seeing things. Throw away a whole day for a single expansion, a single inspiration of air. …You must walk so gently as to hear the finest sounds, the faculties being in repose. …Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” —Henry David Thoreau

An often overlooked part of outdoor life, is the study of nature. To some people, observing nature comes naturally, needs no encouragement or set intention. They regularly get down on hands and knees to look closer at a seedling just emerging from the soil, or spend a few moments looking up at the crown of the trees and admiring their height.

But, to others, we only see the big picture. It’s a cloudy day. There are trees in the forest. Follow the trail. Step over the rock.

We need a gentle reminder, an invitation to look closer. Most children are naturally curious about the outdoor world. They will taste test the rock, sniff the deer droppings, and ask about the birds they hear in the woods. If given a moment, they will lie on the forest floor and watch a beetle scurrying about.

If encouraged and allowed the time they will sit in the middle of the driveway watching ants go about their business of marching to and fro, perhaps even speculating about the reasons that the ants are always on the move.

Asking questions.


Learning to love.

This study of the natural world that surrounds us is an integral part of nurturing a life-long love of the Earth. As a result of that love, comes a fierce desire to protect the wild places, the streams, and the infinite numbers of creatures that call this blue green planet home. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and it may feel like we don’t have time to add another thing to our agenda. But, I ask you to look for those moments where you can pause, take a breath, and look closer.

Check back next week for The Study of Nature (for Children) Part II….and don’t miss Part III on Nature Journaling either!

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  • Valerie is a homeschooling mama of two dirt lovin’ kids, ages 6 & 9. She loves spending time with her family outdoors & is a self-proclaimed bibliophile. Valerie and her family can be found mountain biking, canyoneering & scooping sand in Utah; skiing and building snow forts in Colorado; hiking & hugging cactus in Arizona; and hunting for singletrack, tadpoles & breweries in Oregon.

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