Things to Read - Teaching Children about Nature and the Environment

Nature explorer

As you've probably noticed, we spend a lot of time outside, especially at nature preserves. Some days the kids love this part of their childhood, other days I hear over and over again "but walking through the woods is so BORING!" Thus, I'm constantly trying to come up with new ways to inspire in my children a love and interest for nature. Binoculars seem to work well, as do magnifying glasses (to look for bugs) and kid cameras. Plus, I try to make a huge deal whenever they spot anything vaguely interesting - "Wow, P did you just spy a cattail, you must be a great nature explorer." I use the term nature explorer a lot. When I run out of ideas, I often rely on the following book to inspire me. Jennifer Ward, the author, has some wonderful suggestions that are incredibly simple and easy to come up with on the spot (no set up required). And, to make it easier, everything is divided by season. Also, the following set of "cards" by Lynn Gordon also has some great ideas.

I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature
52 Activities in Nature (52 Series)

In addition to the above efforts, I often enroll my children in classes at local nature centers. Many of these classes have VERY low prices and are incredibly well-presented (touch a snake, make a nature themed art project, go on a nature hunt, read a story, etc.) If you live in the area, Long Branch Nature Center and Gulf Branch Nature Center have classes for only $5 each that are usually quite good. Click here for more info on current classes - http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/parksrecreation/scripts/nature/page68836.html
(Please note that Arlington's nature classes are not listed in the Arlington class catalogue, rather they're only referenced in special publications called The Snag and The Snag for Wee Ones).

And, finally, I try to keep a rotation of nature inspired children's books around the house. Here are some of our current favorites:

Near One Cattail: Turtles, Logs And Leaping Frogs (Sharing Nature with Children Book) (Sharing Nature with Children Books)

This is one of those books where they keep adding new verses to the same song and you have to keep repeating the original verses (if that makes sense). Kids seem to love this type of book.

Everybody Needs a Rock (An Aladdin Book)

I like several of the Byrd Baylor books, but this is probably my favorite. After we read it to the girls, we received many rocks as presents. MANY ROCKS.

Glow-in-the-Dark Constellations

My father-in-law bought this book for the girls, it's a little above them reading-wise (lots of words) but it is such a fun fun book. And perfect for taking outside and looking at the night sky. Plus, it tells the story of the constellations, many of which I did not know, making it a great read for adults as well.

Of course, books and conversations about nature naturally lead into questions about the environment and the world around us. Here are two additional books that address such issues.

The Lorax (Classic Seuss)

Every family needs this book (actually, every person needs this book, regardless of age). It breaks your heart, but wow, is it good. perfect even.

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World

This book is so basic, that it seems a little silly. But my children LOVE it. Both the girls memorized all 10 things and they talk about them constantly. "We're walking to school today because it's good for our world." OR "Let's make sure to turn off the tv to save our world."

What about everyone else? Any other suggestions? I'd love to hear them.


  1. Great ideas, as always! BTW, we have "Everybody Needs a Rock," too. It was a present from a friend -- cracks me up every time.

  2. More great book ideas Darcy. I'm going to get a few of these. I'm always trying to explain to Sophia and Soren (although he's still a little young) why we don't want to turn the light on and off 5000 times.

  3. Great suggestions! We love the Lorax. Another book that has gotten my girls interested in the outside world (or gardening at least) is Lois Ehlert's Planting a Rainbow. Also, the Usborne books are great for explaining nature to kids. We read On the Seashore all the time as well as The Rainy Day. Can you tell E is rainbow obsessed?

  4. You totally inspired me to take Beckett on a nature walk this weekend. I also love having some book ideas so I'm not wandering around the library on a weekly basis. The blog is fantastic!



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