Pretty (and Free!) Nature Prints for Your Homeschool

This year, I’ve been keeping an eye out for nature prints to use in our school/playroom. Nature prints make lovely decorations, but they’re also helpful when trying to identify a species or build background information before reading. The problem I keep running into, though, is that to find a broad range of prints, I’d have to invest a lot of money into multiple sets. That just isn’t going to happen right now. So I decided to hit the Internet and look for free printable nature images. I’ve rounded up some pretty images that I think you’ll love to display in your school or play space. I’ve heard really good things about the new brother thermal printers if you don’t have a printer currently, they’re affordable, fast, and you can easily fit them on any surface. Getting a printer could open up a world of possibilities when it comes to your child’s learning, as everything seems to be digital these days, as well as giving you the option to print off some of these lovely images.

These nature prints are licensed for your personal use, but check the copyright information before other usage.

This is a roundup of pretty and free nature images to be used in your homeschool, playroom, or living space.

Botanical Prints

Plates from Kohler (Botanicus.org)

This site features scanned in pages from classic botanical books. Here, I’ve linked to just one particularly pretty book. You can find directions about how to download the prints at Honey and Fitz.

Free Botanical Prints from Poppytalk

These prints aren’t labeled or vintage, but they are beautiful! I think I’ll skip them in the school room, and put them right in our living room.

Leaf from the Graphics Fairy.

This is a single, heart-shaped leaf that’s full of whimsy. I love how it’s so appealing to little ones, but lovely enough for everyone to enjoy!

Daisy from the New York Public Library Digital Collection

This print reminds me of how Charlotte Mason described the daisy in Home Education:

But the mother seizes the happy moment. She makes Margaret see that the daisy is a bright yellow eye with white eyelashes round it; that all the day long it lies there in the grass and looks up at the great sun, never blinking as Margaret would do, but keeping its eye wide open. And that is why it is called daisy, ‘day’s eye,’ because its eye is always looking at the sun which makes the day.” Page 140.

Amaryllis from The New York Public Library Digital Collection

This one has pretty spring colors.

George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. Chrysanthemum maximum (Ox-eye daisy) (King Edward VII). Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-21ab-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Birds and Nests

This spring, we’ll spend lots of time observing birds. Having these beautiful prints on the wall will be so inspiring! Some of these prints don’t have the birds labeled. Miss H would have so much digging into bird guides and figuring out which bird is which.

Bird Nests and Eggs from the Graphic Fairy

The Graphic Fairy called this the “best nest and egg print ever” and I definitely agree!

Natural History Bird Lithograph

This print is more colorful than many vintage prints. It has a really cheerful feel!

Peacock Print

Our local zoo has peacocks wandering around, so Miss H loves to spot them and observe them. She would love to have this gorgeous picture hanging on our wall!

Assorted Birds from the New York Public Library Digital Collection

We printed this one on high-quality paper, and I love everything about it- the illustrations, the colors (and ours even printed out to look matted.)

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1833 – 1841). Various Birds. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-3f83-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

 

Insects

Antique Butterflies and Moths from the Graphics Fairy

This is such a pretty print, and it’s in the style of the biology prints that are everywhere these days.

 

A Variety of Nature Prints

Teachers Pay Teachers Free Download from I Believe in Montessori

These prints are some of my favorites. You can download prints of flowers, butterflies, a cow, a mushroom, and more.

Montessori in Nature

Not all of these prints are inspired by nature, but there is a lovely insect, plant, and two beautiful bird prints available.

Fall Nature Prints

Who doesn’t love autumn? Nature prints make a beautiful fall decoration.

 

Which one of these prints is your favorite? Are you going to use any of these in your play or learning space?

 

*Main Image Cited* George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. Chrysanthemum maximum (Ox-eye daisy) (King Edward VII). Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-21ab-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Making the Most Out of Outdoor Play During the Early Years

Last summer, we went on a nature walk at a nearby garden.  The flowers were blooming, the robins were skipping around, and the beautiful sound of flowing water was heard around every corner. Suddenly we had been there for an hour and a half, and it was time to get home so Baby E could take a rest and we could eat lunch.  These are the moments that send a whisper through my heart that says, “This is a beautiful childhood.”  Spending time outside, so lost in nature that time surprisingly slips away is what Charlotte Mason had in mind for little ones when she recommended 4-6 hours of outdoor play while the weather is nice.

*Updated July 2018

Outdoor Play Is the Best Possible Thing

And long hours they should be; not two, but four, five, six hours they should have on every tolerable fine day, from April to October. ‘Impossible!’ says an overwrought mother who sees her way to no more for her children than a daily hour or so on the pavements of the neighboring London squares. Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children, and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them. A journey of twenty minutes by rail or omnibus, and a luncheon basket, will make a day in the country possible to most town-dwellers; and if one day, why not many, even every suitable day?” Charlotte Mason, Home Education, pages 43-44

In the winter, she recommended two or three hours outside each day: an hour outdoors in the morning, coming in to warm up and eat lunch, and then heading back out in the afternoon. Modern research supports this. Lack of outdoor time is linked to many childhood problems, like Sensory Processing Disorder, obesity, and even ADHD.

Related: The Complete Charlotte Mason Preschool Guide

Playing Outside In All Weather?

Charlotte Mason often wrote with the highest ideal in mind. She said that we as mothers can make miracles happen if we know that miracles are expected of us.  While I think that it is possible to be outside for 4-6 hours each day, especially in nice weather, I think we also need to give ourselves some grace.

In Ambleside, England, where Charlotte Mason lived, the temperatures throughout the year range from a low of 30 degrees Fahrenheit to a high of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. This is much more temperate than my Colorado home, which ranges from about 0 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Charlotte Mason did not coin the phrase “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” I can’t imagine that she’d advocate taking very small children out in weather that could potentially be dangerous for them!

I think we can free ourselves from the guilt of not getting our children outside when it’s miserably hot or intolerably cold.

Related: Easy Clean-Up for Messy Outdoor Play

Follow this simple rule:

Never be within doors when you can rightly be out. ” Charlotte Mason, Home Education, page 42

This frees me from the guilt of not getting outside when it’s cold, or the baby needs to sleep, or we have errands to run. I have to find a maintainable balance. If I know that being outside is the absolute best for my children, I’ll try to be out there every chance I get; but I also have duties  in order to keep everyone fed and healthy.

Charlotte Mason, Home Education

What should this outdoor time look like?

What Does Outdoor Play Look Like in the Early Years

The mother is not the entertainer

They’re outside!  They don’t need to be told stories, played with, or entertained in other ways. There is so much for them to do and observe!

In the first place, it is not her business to entertain the little people: there should be no story-books, no telling of tales, as little talk as possible, and that to some purpose.” Home Education, page 45

It might take some time for your children to learn how to entertain themselves with nature and their own made-up games. You might want to ease into it, instead of immediately expecting hours of child-led play outside.

Related: The Indoorsy Mom’s Guide to Getting Outside

Sightseeing

Ask the child to go observe a tree, flower, or other interesting feature. Have them come back to report what they have seen.  This helps increase their vocabulary, ability to remember, and ability to recount without exaggeration (which is necessary for the habit of truthfulness). Don’t tolerate a lazy description!

…she sends them off on an exploring expedition–Who can see the most, and tell the most, about yonder hillock or brook, hedge, or copse. This is an exercise that delights children…” Home Education, page 45

Mental Picture painting

Ask your children to describe to you a landscape that they have seen.  This is a tiring task, but it can be enjoyable when presented as a game. I think that this could be extended by actually painting a picture of a flower or another thing seen in nature. This would be fun and meaningful for a young child.

The children will delight in this game on ‘picture-painting’ all the more if the mother introduce it by describing some great picture-gallery she has seen– pictures of mountains, of moors, of stormy seas, of ploughed field, of little children at play, of an old woman knitting,– and goes on to say, that though she does not paint her pictures on canvas and have them put in frames, she carries about with her just such a picture-gallery; for whenever she see anything lovely or interest, she looks at it until she has the picture in her ‘minds eye’; and then she carries it away with her, her own for ever, a picture ‘on view’ just when she wants it.” Home Education, pages 49-50

Object Lessons

Object lessons encourage a child to use their five senses while viewing things in nature, or objects around the house. I wrote more about these lessons here. 

 An Hour or Two of Vigorous Play

We love playing at the park, riding bikes, or playing tag outside. Charlotte Mason recommended 1-2 hours of vigorous exercise each day for children.

Related: Schemas of Play in the Great Outdoors

Do Not Send Them, Take Them

In the first place, do not send them; if it is anyway possible, take them; for, although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air.”

I love that Charlotte Mason said this, because sometimes I think people want to create the 1980’s childhood where children played outside by themselves for hours without a grownup around. This ideal doesn’t fit in well with life today. However, there is a difference between supervising and hovering!

These hours that we spend outside are sure to make up some of my children’s most treasured memories of childhood. What a gift that we’re giving them!


What should those long hours outside look like during the #charlottemason #earlyyears ?

Nature Tools for Little Explorers (From Amazon)

As much as I love decluttering and striving for less stuff in my home, I’m realizing that offering kids items to explore with outside adds value to their nature play. Our backyard is strewed with toys and nature tools. Often, when I decide that our home no longer has room for a certain toy or item, it becomes a backyard toy. My children can tinker in their mud kitchen for hours, piling mud into bowls that formerly sat on our kitchen shelves, or peering through magnifying glasses. I wanted to share some of our favorite outdoor gadgets with you. They are from Amazon because let’s face it, they are by far the most convenient e-commerce site out there. They also have wonderful customer support in case you have any issues which I really appreciate. You can find more information here on why this is integral. Luckily, we had no issues to report with these items though! Some of them are toys, and some of them are tools to help your little ones dig in and really observe the beautiful world around them.

I’ve used affiliate links in this post to share some great products with you. Please my policies page for more information. This post was updated November 2018.

Stocking the Mud Kitchen

Full disclosure here: we don’t actually have a mud kitchen, per se. We have an old bench pulled over an old slab of concrete that is surrounded by dirt, or, in wetter weather, mud. This non-fancy set-up calls for some non-fancy tools. Here’s what we have:

Green Toys Tea Set

This was a favorite indoor tea set for years, and now it’s a favorite outdoor tea set. Many mud tea parties have been held with these cute little cups!

Aluminum Foil Muffin Tins

These muffin tins can be used again and again when mud is the main ingredient.

Large Soup Pot

Thanks to Tinkergarten, we’ve learned just how much fun can be had with a big old soup pot! In the warm months, we have lots of fun with water play in a big soup pot. In the colder months, it’s perfect to make imaginary, warming soups. I’ve included the link just for reference, because you can most likely find something similar at your local thrift store.

Tools For Observing Nature Treasures

Metal Buckets

As adults, a metal bucket probably is not that exciting. But nothing could be more fun for kids! If you get a high-quality bucket, the opportunities are endless. My little ones love filling their buckets with acorns, leaves, and mud, allowing them to practice observation and classification. My baby’s favorite thing to do is “stir” the imaginary contents of his bucket with a stick. This keeps him happy for at least 20 minutes! They can also be used as stepping stones, musical instruments, and goals for tossing games.

Magnifying Glass

I personally believe that just the act of having a magnifying glass in hand makes little ones attend more closely. We have this Learning Resources magnifying glass, and it’s great because there’s a little stand that allows children to prop it up and look at something without their hand bouncing around.

Duct Tape

You’re going to think I’m weird for this one, but duct tape is actually a great way for little ones to explore outside! Again, thanks to Tinkergarten, we’ve turned tape inside out and secured it around our wrists, making nature treasure bracelets. We’ve also wrapped it around trees so we could stick interesting parts and pieces of nature to it.

Bug Viewing Jar

A jar like this, or with a magnifying lid built into it, allows little ones to observe insects without them crawling away. This is a great way to teach them to appreciate insects without fearing them.

Microscope

We bought this for H’s birthday one year, and sometimes she gets it out of the drawer on her own so she can get to work observing things. The magnification isn’t very strong, but it’s enough to let young children get in the habit of correctly using a microscope. Maybe in the future they can move on to more powerful microscopes and get to grips with more professional hardware if they end up taking an interest in science.

Tools for Studying Birds

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

We have some audacious squirrels living in our backyard! The antagonistic little guys sit on our fence, wag their tails, and taunt our 100-pound dog in any way that they can. I thought a bird feeder would be unrealistic for us because I knew the sneaky little things would get into it. This one is perfect though, because the squirrels literally cannot get the bird seed from it. Their weight pulls the springs down, and closes off access to the food. We have this bird feeder in front of our kitchen window, and I love watching the birds have a little snack while I’m washing the dishes. It’s a great way to attract birds so that we can observe them!

Monocular

On a bird watching expedition last year, a wise mom told me that using a monocular with young children instead of a binocular is a wise move. My children struggled to adjust both lenses of their binoculars into one view. A monocular requires none of that adjustment. While companies that make kids’ nature tools haven’t picked up on this yet, their are some relatively inexpensive monoculars available on Amazon.

Fancy Binoculars

“Fancy binoculars” aren’t the official name of this nature tool, but earlier this year, my family got me a good pair of these for bird watching. When we’re out exploring, I often find the view for my kids, and let them look through. Like I mentioned above, this works sometimes, and sometimes it just frustrates everyone involved.

The Backyard Birdsong Guides

I used these books as a teacher, and they were my absolute favorite! Learning the songs of birds makes identifying them so much easier, and Charlotte Mason said that knowing their songs is the key to knowledge of birds. There are two versions of this book: one for the eastern and central regions of the US, and one for the western and central regions. My area, the Rocky Mountains, are covered in both books.

Garden Tools

Flower Press

Pressing flowers is so delightful! It teaches patience, and allows children to transform something fleeting into a keepsake. Of course, you can press flowers in a book, but children love the process they use with flower presses!

Fairy Garden

Miss H got this fairy garden last year for her birthday. It looked lovely all summer (although I killed the seeds and replanted pansies in it!) This doesn’t necessarily qualify as a nature tool, but we will use the pot again and again!

Gardener Tool Set

Garden tools like these inspire children to get digging and working alongside you. These gloves are kind of flimsy (speaking from experience here!) but the tools and little bag are great for little ones!

Work Gloves

We wanted E (Three) to have a good pair of gloves to work in the yard with Dad. We liked this because they look just like Daddy’s gloves. They say they are for ages four to six, and I believe it, because these are currently much too big for E.

Nature Reference Books

Nature Anatomy

I love books that are appropriate for all ages. This book is beautiful, but toddlers and grownups alike can appreciate it. We also have two others in this series, Food Anatomy and Farm Anatomy.

Handbook of Nature Study

Many Charlotte Mason curricula use this book for nature study. The descriptions are thorough and beautiful, and it includes so many different things that you could observe outside. It even includes ice, which is a great thing to study in the winter. One downside: the pictures are very grainy, because they’re very old!

Fun With Nature: Take Along Guide

Take Along guides are great for little ones. We like this one specifically because it combines many of the guides into one book.

Other Tools

Compass

Charlotte Mason said that children should learn their cardinal directions and how to read a compass in the elementary years. We haven’t started working on this yet, but it’s probably something I should brush up on before trying to teach it! There’s also an iPhone Compass app, but I think it takes away some of the skill required for compass reading.

And of course, all of this wonderful exploring can be recorded in nature journals! You can see my post about starting a nature journal here.

What’s your favorite tool for exploring nature?

Little ones love to have things to help them explore when they're outside! Here are some great nature-study finds from Amazon!

Visit iHomeschool Network for more Amazon finds!

Tell me about your favorite nature study resources!

%d bloggers like this: