Noticing Nature Nature Prompts – February 2016

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - February 2016

This month’s prompts are all about the trees.  Download and print them to get started today.

Notice what’s going on in a tree as wind blows through it, whether it’s a gale or a gentle breeze.  What do you hear?  How does the canopy behave differently from the trunk?

Notice the signs of animal use.  Has an animal used the tree for shelter?  Food?  Who do you think was there?  Why that tree?

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - February 2016

Notice the unique characteristics of some trees.  Does it remind you of anything?  Do you see any shapes?  You may even see a face or eyes staring back at you!

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - February 2016

Enjoy taking a closer look at individual trees and have a wonder-filled week!

P.S. Don’t forget to keep in mind the nature word of the month while you are looking at trees.


Nature Word of the Month – February 2016

Nature Word of the Month - February 2016: Hibernaculum

Hello and welcome to February’s Nature Word of the Month!  We took a little break for December and January but today we are getting right back at expanding our nature vocabulary with our new word: hibernaculum.

Why do we learn new nature words?  It all started when my curiosity was peaked by a friend’s post about her ‘crepuscular‘ cat.  I set off to learn other nature-related words and it seemed a perfect fit for my children’s nature and home-schooling activities.

Hibernaculum is from the latin for “tent for winter quarters” and is most often used in reference to a place that an animal uses for refuge during the winter.  Bears, bats, insects, and reptiles, for instance, use hibernacula.  It can also refer to the protective bud of certain plants that helps it survive winter dormancy.

You can download a copy of this month’s nature word to paste in your child’s nature journal.  It’s such a great word to incorporate into studies about which animals go dormant for the winter (either in hibernation or torpor) and what type of shelters they use.

Have a wonder-filled day!



Create A Nature Story: An Activity for Children

Create a Nature Story

Some of my favorites kinds of stories to read with my children are folktales, myths, and legends – especially ones that explain the natural world.  They attempt to give meaning to the unknown or mysterious.  They can connect cultures across the world.  They highlight our spiritual connection to nature.

So years ago when my children were engrossed in a solar system study, I asked them to pick one phenomenon they had learned about and create their own story to explain how that came to be.  At the time they were 3, 6 and 8 years old.  They really had fun applying some of their new knowledge in such a creative open-ended way and and I enjoyed seeing their perception of the world brought to life.  How the results made me smile!

My three year old’s story was about an asteroid that hit Earth and caused an earthquake.  Someone was sent to space to put a stop to it and then they “stayed home with their birds and cats and made bracelets all the day”.  Can you tell what was important in her life at the time?  Oh my cuteness!

I recently revisited this activity with my children as a way to encourage them to write (my youngest daughter is an early speller and my son is a reluctant writer).  Since they love animals of all sorts, that was the jumping off point.  My son chose to create a story about why sharks have so many teeth and my daughter’s explains how blue jays got their blue color.  They are basic but 100% kid made.  I’m sure we’ll continue to revisit and expand on this activity.

If this is something you would like to try with your child, I would suggest starting with some books.  Here are some that we have read and enjoyed:

There are so many wonderful tales but these will get you off to a good start.  If you have some favorites, please do share!

Once we had read several stories, the kids used these comic strips to help organize and sequence their story.  They already knew that they wanted to make a stop motion movie so they just had to decide what type of material/object they were to use.  Once they had created their characters, they grabbed the camera and were totally immersed in making their movies.

We used iMovie this time around but we also like the app Stop Motion StudioTinkerLab has a nice tutorial for children and beginners.

I wonder what kind of tale your child will come up with?  Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll bring a smile to your face.

Have fun!


P.S. You read about a brief story that my daughter made up about dandelions wearing “hats” over at Playful Learning.



Nature Prompts – January 2016

Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families - January 2016

Hello and happy New Year!  I hope that your holiday time was packed with love and laughter and that you are starting off  2016 with optimism for all the possibilities that lay ahead.

Up until recently it has been a fairly mild winter here in Maine, which I must admit I was enjoying.  However, it has made it all the more difficult to adjust to the cold that has arrived.  It’s very tempting to stay in snuggled up near the fire.  Is it a tough transition for you too?

I hope that the nature prompts for this month will give you a little extra motivation to get out with your kids and explore the world of winter.

Nature Prompts - January 2016 Would you like some resources to supplement these nature investigations?  Here are a few:

Animal Tracks
Stories in the Snow: Animal Tracking for Kids

Deciphering Winter Animal Tracks

Guide to Frost

If you come across any other resources, please do share.  Enjoy your winter wonderland explorations!



A Winter Family Full Moon Walk

A Winter Family Full Moon Walk

Hello!  I hope you have been well and are enjoying the season.

If you read through our December nature prompts then you know that my kids are excited to go on a full moon walk on Christmas night.  Are you planning on going too?  It doesn’t have to be a long walk or a walk in the woods (although that would really be an extra special experience).  You can have lots of fun walking around right in your neighborhood.

Whether this month has been extra busy for you or you have been enjoying a relaxed pace, a family night walk is lots of fun and is a perfect way to celebrate the season.  And this month’s full moon is an extra special one.  A full moon hasn’t occurred on Christmas since 1977 and won’t again until 2034.

The December full moon is referred to in the Northern hemisphere as the “cold moon” or “long night moon”.  No explanation needed there.  You can find a list of all the full moon names for both hemispheres at EarthSky if you’re interested.

If you do go on a moon-lit walk , whether it’s on pavement or on a trail, make sure you are prepared (and we’re talking walk, not hike):

  • Dress in layers.  If it’s winter make sure you have your inner and mid layers on.  Wear a waterproof/resistant coat.  Have your hat, mittens, and scarf or other face cover on.  Don’t forget your warm socks and boots (with good traction if you’ve had snow).
  • Bring a flashlight or headlamp.  You may not need it but it’s good to have for safety reasons.  Red flashlights are great for night walks because you can illuminate the trail but your eyes will remain adjusted to the darkness.
  • Know where the trail goes before heading out.
  • Wear some reflective gear and consider wearing a bell to be even more noticeable.
  • Be aware of traffic and always walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Wearing your blaze orange on the trails and in the woods during hunting season can’t hurt.

Storybooks for your full moon walk

And here’s a list of books to enjoy reading together before your adventure:

I do hope you make it out for a night walk this month.  I’d love to know if you do.

This will be the last post of 2015 but you can still follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where I share resources and snippets of our nature finds.  To start off the new year we’ll be sharing a fun nature story project and how identify conifers.  We can hardly wait…

Wishing you a holiday season full of love and laughter and a very happy New Year!


Nature by the Numbers – Nature Journal Prompts: December 2015

Nature by the Numbers - Nature Journal Prompts for Children and Their Families: December 2015

My children love being outdoors and even on days when they feel like they would rather stay inside, all it takes is a gentle nudge out the door and then I usually have a hard time getting them to come back in.

They also have enjoyed nature journaling since they were wee ones.  After I had spent time marveling with them over something that had caught their attention, I made the simple suggestions that we might draw it so that we can always remember it.  That was all it took.  After that they wanted to bring their journals whenever we went on a nature outing or visited the botanical gardens.  Although they still enjoy it, it does not happen as often as it use to and some months only with some gentle suggesting on my part.

I never want nature journaling to feel like a chore to them.  It should be something that they are motivated to do on their own and for their own reasons.  But we all need some encouragement from time to time.  Even for things that bring us joy or help us relax or that fill us up in the best ways.  Right?

December Nature Prompts

That what our monthly nature journal prompts are meant to be – gentle suggestions to get us out the door and noticing the nature that surrounds us everyday.  No pressure.  No right or wrong.  No deadlines.  And for this month, no numbers.  December can be a hectic month and making the time to appreciate nature’s gifts, large or small, can be refreshing in so many ways.  I hope these suggestions will help…

Nature Prompts - December 2015

I wish you all a holiday season full of love and laughter and a child-like sense of wonder!

Monique & family

Which Leaf? A Learning With Nature Activity

Which Leaf?  A Learning with Nature Activity

Hi!  I recently did this activity with my children and thought I would share it with you…

When my children and I are out walking during the fall, it’s a compulsion for them to bring home a collection of leaves (okay, so I might bring home a few myself).  We preserve some and admire the variety of colors for a while.

While the colorful maple leaves have all gone by and have been raked up around our neighborhood, there are still plenty of oak leaves hanging around.  They have all browned at this point but my children still admire them and, yes, collected a handful to bring home.  They were fascinated with just how many different types of oak we have around here.

I had spread the collection out so that we could identify them and as I was thinking about returning them to nature another learning opportunity occurred to me.  I have one reluctant writer and an emergent writer/speller but I knew I could motivate them to write by focusing on nature and by trying to stump each other.

I started by reading Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins, a great introduction to the variety of leaves to be found.  It is written for preschool-age children but I love the descriptive language it includes.  There are phrases like “so thin and fine…they look like smoke” and “leaves shaped like paddles”.  It’s a great primer for this activity.

With all the oak leaves spread out I asked my children to secretly choose one leaf (but leave it in its place), look closely at it’s texture, shape, distinguishing marks, etc., and write all the descriptive words and/or phrases they could think of about their leaf.  Each child then read his/her descriptions one by one and the others tried to pick out which leaf it is (during the second round of playing we decided to remove any leaves that could be eliminated after each description).  Since all of the leaves were brown, color would not be a giveaway.

We made a quick video for you…

They enjoyed the activity so much they did it over and over, each time getting better at coming up with creative clues.  It’s a fun way to practice looking closely and describing what you see.

Thanks for stopping by!


P.S. It may help to have a printable of parts of a leaf available for your child to refer to.