85+ Nature Words To Help Parents Answer Their Kids' Endless Questions

by Becky Bracken
Originally Published: 
Nature Words
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You don’t have to be a crystal-wielding moon mother to get that taking kids out into nature is good for them, for all sorts of reasons. However, you practically need a degree in natural history to answer every question these little humans have about what they’re seeing and experiencing out in the big, wide world. The big hitch? Your last biology class was a long time ago, and you don’t want to discourage your child’s fascination with the great outdoors. Still, questions are good — even if coming up with the right answers to them is another matter entirely. But, hey, we’ve got you. Here’s a good nature words vocabulary list to get those “what’s that?” juices flowing.

Before you head out on your next nature retreat (you’re such a great parent, BTW), look over this general list of nature words and related terms. That way, when you inevitably get the 366th question of the day, you can whip out the precise answer like the sage, wise adult you are instead of the other, less desirable option used far and wide by parents everywhere: “Beats the crap out of me, kid.”

Nature Words: Plants

  1. Grass: long, short, narrow-leaved plant with joined stems, usually grown to cover the ground.
  2. Bush: plants with many branches and woody stems that grow all clumped together.
  3. Tree: a plant with a single, woody stem supporting branches and leaves that can live for decades or longer.
  4. Flower: the reproductive part of a plant, designed to produce seeds and make more plants.
  5. Leaf: the flat part of a plant growing out of the stem containing green chlorophyll, which collects light and converts it into energy to nourish the plant.
  6. Plants: living things that can grow on land or water that use light and water in a process called “photosynthesis” to nourish and grow.
  7. Fungus: a spore-producing group of organisms that lacks chlorophyll and includes mold, rusts, mildews, smuts, mushrooms, and yeasts.
  8. Moss: flowerless plants with roots that grow in carpets.
  9. Bark: the tough exterior of a woody root or stem.
  10. Germinate: to cause to sprout or develop.

Nature Words: Animals

  1. Phylum: the major taxonomic group of animals and plants.
  2. Vertebrate: an animal with a backbone.
  3. Invertebrate: an animal without a backbone, ranging in size from microscopic organisms to giant squid.
  4. Fish: a water-bound, scaly-sinned vertebrate with gills and without limbs.
  5. Bird: a warm-blooded vertebrate with wings and beaks, most of which can fly.
  6. Mammal: warm-blooded animals, typically with fur, whose mothers give birth to live babies and feed them with milk.
  7. Reptile: a cold-blooded vertebrate with scaly skin that lays eggs on land.
  8. Amphibian: cold-blooded vertebrates with moist skin, like frogs and salamanders, that live in water and breathe with gills early in life but later use lungs.
  9. Insect: a small invertebrate with jointed limbs and a segmented body.
  10. Arachnid: a chiefly terrestrial invertebrate with a segmented body divided into two regions of which the anterior bears four legs but no antennae, including spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks.Aquatic: an animal that lives near or in water.
  11. Arboreal: an animal that lives in trees.
  12. Articulate: an animal that has joints or body parts where their bones join together.
  13. Diurnal: an animal that is active during the day.
  14. Domestic: an animal that is kept as a pet or on a farm.
  15. Poisonous: an animal that produces poison.
  16. Polymorphous: an animal that has different stages of development.
  17. Downy: incredibly soft small hairs or feathers.
  18. Draft: this is a type of animal that is used to pull heavy objects.
  19. Endangered: a plant or animal that is in danger of becoming extinct.
  20. Extinct: a plant or animal that doesn’t exist anymore.
  21. Feral: an animal that isn’t domesticated and lives in the wild.
  22. Freshwater: a body of water that does have salt in it.

Nature Words: Climate

  1. Clouds: a bunch of water or ice drops floating in the air that forms when the air is heated up under the sun.
  2. Rain: water condensed from vapor in the atmosphere that falls in drops from the clouds.
  3. Sunshine: rays of light beamed from the sun.
  4. Darkness: when the Earth turns and the sun is shining on the other side of the planet.
  5. Seasons: four times of the year, each with its own distinct weather pattern determined by the sun’s distance from that part of the Earth. (During winter, when temperatures are colder, the sun is far. During warmer months, the sun is closer.)
  6. Tropical rainforest: an area of land covered by tangled vegetation and dense forest in tropical environments.
  7. Arctic: relating to the regions around the North Pole where weather conditions are very cold.
  8. Blizzard: a storm with widespread snowfall accompanied by strong winds.
  9. Front: phenomenon at the boundary between two different air masses.
  10. Greenhouse effect: warming when solar radiation is trapped by the atmosphere.

Nature Words: Ecosystems

  1. Ecosystem: a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
  2. Beach: the land running along the edge of the water, usually made up of tiny rocks and particles broken up by the pounding of waves.
  3. Ocean: the whole body of saltwater that covers nearly three-fourths of the Earth’s surface.
  4. Desert: dry, hot area with sparse vegetation and little rainfall.
  5. Forest: area covered by trees and undergrowth.
  6. Cave: a large underground chamber, typically of natural origin.
  7. Grassland: land occupied chiefly by forage plants and especially grasses.
  8. Tundra: a level or rolling treeless plain consisting of black mucky soil with a permanently frozen subsoil and dominant vegetation of mosses, lichens, herbs, and dwarf shrubs.
  9. Taiga: a moist, subarctic forest dominated by conifers (like spruce and fir trees) that begins where the tundra ends.
  10. Chaparral: an ecological community composed of shrubby plants adapted to dry summers and moist winters.

Nature Words: Earth and Space

  1. Earth: a rocky, relatively small object floating in space (and our home planet!).
  2. Moon: a rocky, crater-filled place, about one-quarter the size of Earth, which rotates around our planet about once a month.
  3. Stars: balls of gas burning extremely brightly millions of miles away in space.
  4. Altitude: elevation above sea level or above the worth’s surface.
  5. Atmosphere: the mass of air surrounding the Earth.
  6. Dirt: smashed rocks and plants, minerals, organisms, gasses, and liquids that support life on Earth.
  7. Wave: energy passing through the water as it hits land, causing it to move in a circular motion.
  8. Asteroid: small rocky celestial bodies found between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
  9. Solar system: the sun together with the group of celestial bodies that are held by its attraction and revolve around it (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune).
  10. Constellation: a configuration of stars.

Beautiful Nature Words

  1. Achram: a very heavy pouring rain.
  2. After-drop: raindrop that falls after a cloud has passed.
  3. Alpenglow: the light of the setting or rising sun seen illuminating high mountains or the underside of clouds.
  4. Ammil: the glittering layer of ice that covers leaves, twigs, and grass blades when a freeze follows a partial thaw.
  5. Apricity: the warmth of the sun in winter.
  6. Airie: a gentle wind.
  7. Billow: Snowdrift.
  8. Brumous: of gray skies and winter days.
  9. Bucolic: describing farmland or rural settings.
  10. Cith: a shower of warm, drizzling rain.
  11. Domra: Shadow in the sky created by fog.
  12. Dribs: Rain that falls from the eaves of thatched houses.
  13. Goldfoil: a term coined by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins which describes a sky lit by lightning in “zigzag dints and creasings.”
  14. Komorebi: sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.
  15. Lush: abundant with vegetation.
  16. Mangata: the reflection of the moon on the water.
  17. Nemophilist: a haunter of woods, one who loves the forest for its beauty and solitude.
  18. Petrichor: the distinctive, earthy smell of rain in the air — sometimes detectable before any rain has fallen.
  19. Resol: the reflection of sunlight off a surface.
  20. Rewild: to return (land) to a more natural state.
  21. Rudeneja: the way nature and/or weather begins to feel like autumn.
  22. Shinrin-yoku: forest bath; a visit to the forest to take in its atmosphere.
  23. Sun-drenched: covered in sunshine.
  24. Verdant: deeply green.
  25. Woodnote: a wild or natural musical tone, as that of a forest bird.

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