5 Tips For Winter Nature Study

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Lichen: a simple slow-growing plant which typically forms a low crust-like, leaf-like, or branching growth on rocks, walls, and trees

An observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing – Charlotte Mason

Winter can be the most challenging time to get outside. In my early days of using the Charlotte Mason method we would revert to living nature study books in the warmth of my home more than heading out and observing it for ourselves. This was mainly due to my limited understanding of what was going on in nature in winter and my lazy, sluggish winter mode of not wanting to wrap babies up in a billion layers so they didn’t freeze whilst we hugged bare trees!!

Now, with slightly older children, warmer coats and a growing enthusiasm for the great outdoors I think winter nature study is becoming a favourite of mine.

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So, if you’re struggling to pull on your boots and head outside here are a few tips to get you mama’s motivated!

5 Tips For Winter Nature Study

  1. Check the weather and try plan ahead of time; if you can see a clear day coming cancel usual  ‘lessons’ and spend a good few hours roaming the countryside (with a flask of hot chocolate!).
  2. Wear the right clothes; there’s nothing more frustrating than your 5-year-old crying 10 minutes into the walk “I’m cold, I can’t feel my toes”. I highly recommend layers, hats & gloves and definitely a couple of pairs of wool socks.
  3. Do your research before you go so you know what to look for; beauty isn’t so obvious in winter but it’s definitely there. It’s a good idea to give your children a ‘heads up’ of what you’re looking out for as well as their own general observations.
  4. Take photos so you can sketch later – it’s hard to draw when your hands are cold! I print out pictures of our snaps the next day for the children to re-live and sketch in their journals.
  5. Visit places where you might visit in the spring/summer so your children can observe and appreciate the seasonal differences. I tend to go to 2 or 3 places over and over again so we can closely observe the change in seasons, learn the familiar trees and flowers and also the children get to learn the routes!

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5 Things To Look For In Winter

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  1. Moss, fungus and lichen – so beautiful, colourful and textured; often hidden so dig deep in the woods.
  2. Nibbled nuts and pinecones; signs of birds and squirrels enjoying their winter diet. Observe which trees you found them under.
  3. Space; when there are no leaves on the trees, woods and forests always seem much bigger; you can see the sky and through the trees for miles ahead.
  4. Tree shapes. Again, when the trees are bare you can clearly see their shape and structure – simple outline pencil sketches of these are a great way to journal this winter observation.
  5. Sound. Stand still and quiet in the middle of the woods or countryside area and count how many different sounds you can hear. It’s quite a discipline for little children but worth the try!

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Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating, there is really no such things as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather – John Ruskin

6 thoughts on “5 Tips For Winter Nature Study

  1. We just went out the other day here at our little 5 acres, Leah, and I forced myself to do it. I, too, have a hard time bundling up. We had a fantastic time! We found 3 different animal tracks (turkey, possum? (or raccoon), and deer) and some fungi…water drops on branches that had frozen. There was a heavy fog too that was charming. I’m so glad we did it. I’m going to force myself to do it at least ONCE a week in winter. It can be brutally cold here in Wisconsin, so your reminder of checking things out ahead of time is smart. Here is another quote I just found recently…

    “Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” Thoreau

    …and then come in and sketch with your hot chocolate!

    I must say, I loved how you said, “flask of hot chocolate”…swoon… 😀 😉 Are you sick of me gushing over your English accent and turns of phrases yet? 😛

    Happy Thursday! Amy

  2. PS – I’m having a hard time linking to your new blog address? Like on my blog…I wanted to have a link to yours, but it keeps sending me to the wordpress one? 🙂 No rush or pressure, just wanted you to know!

  3. When you decide on your 3 or 4 places to really get to know do they all have a destination at the other end where you stop and spend time? or can it be a route you walk (a big loop) but that doesn’t have stopping place? Am I making sense? We moved to a little village a year ago and we are surrounded by private fields, farmers fields with sheep and cows and high hedged lanes – so whilst we can see amazing views (we are in a valley so hills everywhere!) and see things through gates- we cant really stop for a while to spend an afternoon or what not, as we are standing on single track lanes used by locals and farmers. We love our walks learning our new area – but there are no benches or open to public fields that we have found yet. I get the impression CM meant for excursions out to a place where everyone could relax for a bit and explore- maybe with lunch (and the important flask of tea!!!!) We are on the edgeof Dartmoor so as long as we have my car I can travel to Dartmoor as one place however we may not be keeping it much longer. There are no parks here. Once we get to know the locals we may be able to get permission to use a field or wood…..sorry to ramble – i think best on paper or talking to someone!……so back to question – how do you choose your 3 places?

    Jo in Devon xx

    1. Hey Jo – really anywhere outside is brilliant! If you can breathe the air, hear birds, see some kind of trees, flowers etc then you’ve got yourself a nature walk! I basically picked our walks either on convenience (somewhere to walk when I don’t have the car) and somewhere we all enjoyed (one of them even has a cafe and natural play area…after we’ve walked!). You’re in a beautiful part of the world for nature study – enjoy! x x

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