Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

After being more or less at home for 11 days in a row with sick children (we got out a few times to get library books and buy more tissues!) it was wonderful to go to the local nature center and do some hiking on Saturday.  I’ve been inspired by The Usual Mayhem to do plenty of exploring outdoors with the boys, even in the winter when the the parks are less pretty.  We’ve had a cold (for Texas) January so far, but Saturday was the perfect day with a high in the upper 60’s.

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

I decided to pack some drawing supplies and do a little sketching outdoors with the boys.  Aidan and Gresham both love to draw, and Aidan has been lamenting the fact that his drawing is not very realistic.  I told him that most artists do not draw from their heads, but rather use some sort of subject to look at.  Before we left for the nature center, we got out our bird field guide, and I showed Aidan how to pay attention to the size of the bird’s head compared to its body and how to think about what shapes the wings are, etc.

Gresham loved the Great Horned Owl at the nature center, and wanted to draw that first!

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

It was so inspiring to draw the owl when he was sitting right in front of us!  The boys only lasted 10 or 15 minutes drawing the owl, but they were so serious about observing him and trying to draw him just right.

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

Then they were ready to head down the hiking trails!

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

We hiked down to the river and stopped to throw some rocks in, of course!  Aidan had fun reading the map and figuring out which trail we should take.  When our legs were starting to get tired, we found a place to sit and sketch the forest.  (Notice Owen with his boots off!  He and Gresham insisted on wearing cowboy boots because in their minds they were the closest thing to hiking boots.  Never again!  Next time it will be tennis shoes!)

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

This was the first thing that Gresham drew in the forest.  I asked him to look at the trees and see if they really looked like a stick with a ball on top!  He looked around a little more carefully…

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

… And flipped his paper over and made another attempt at drawing the forest.  So much better!  The plants at the bottom are prickly pear cactus.

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

Here are Gresham’s drawings of the Great Horned Owl and the Barred Owl.  For both of these, I enlarged his original drawings on our copier when we got home, and then he colored in the copies.  We have discovered that making copies of drawings and then coloring them works well for the younger boys because the lines are more black and they don’t lose the details as easily.

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

This was Aidan’s second (or maybe third?) attempt at drawing the Great Horned Owl.  I wish I had taken pictures of the first two tries because he improved so much!  We will definitely have to do more drawing with a subject to look at.

Exploring nature with kids by observing and sketching

Even if it’s cold where you live, try getting outdoors and observing nature!  Or, bring some nature home to explore.  Collect rocks and pine cones, etc. and look at your findings at home with a magnifying glass.  We did this with different types of seeds in the fall, and the boys enjoyed using tweezers to explore their seeds.

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  1. Eddie - The Usual Mayhem Jan 23, 2013

    Those owl pictures are terrific! I also love that picture of the three of them sitting and sketching.

    Thanks for the mention, too - what a wonderful compliment!

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    1. bjk Jan 23, 2013

      Sounds like a GREAT outing. Yes, Saturday was a wonderful "outside" day!

      My mom is an artist, and I have heard her give advice to various grandkids as they began to show an interest/aptitude in drawing and art.
      She tells them to do this practice exercise: put your model object (or picture you are copying) upside down, and then draw it. This helps you learn to draw what you ACTUALLY see.

      She also knows some great books for teaching drawing. Not sure what age(s) they are designed for.

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