Below you’ll find 17 great nature book recommendations for you and your kids. These books are great for homeschooling moms, wildschooling families, or any amateur naturalist – young or old!
If you can’t be outdoors with your kids — whether it’s due to work, timing, mosquitoes, blisterng heat, or blizzards — the next best thing is curling up with a good book about the outdoors.
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Nature Books to inspire curiosity and learning
The Beginning Naturalist: Weekly Encounters with the Natural World, by Gale Lawrence
This book became a fast favourite when we started reading it. There is a chapter for each week of the year (you can find your week and start there), and Lawrence shares her knowledge of and experience with the plants and animals that you might encounter during that season.
The author, Gale Lawrence is writing from her experiences in New England, USA, but The Beginning Naturalist should be useful to anyone in northeast North America. Her writing style is straightforward and her love for and familiarity with the natural world around her shines through.
The chapters are about three pages each and are a good balance of factual information and personal stories. Reading a book like this with your kids helps prime them to notice what’s happening this season and what’s changing outside.
Kate Messner Picture Books
Kate Messner books — Over and Under the Snow, Over and Under the Pond, and Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt are story books that help give children insight into parts of the natural world that aren’t easy to see.
I find books like these enrich our walks and time spent outdoors when my kids recognize things from the book.
These books take that a step further and help them imagine what might be happening under their feet or beyond their view. I especially appreciate “Over and Under the Snow” for helping to show kids that there is plenty going on outside in the winter.
Dianna Hutts Aston Picture Books
Dianna Hutts Aston books — A Rock is Lively, A Nest is Noisy, etc. These beautifully-illustrated books are another good resource for arming you and your kids with stuff to look for when you get outside.
Each book has plenty of detail in the illustrations; kids will enjoy poring over these many times as they will likely not notice everything on each page the first time.
Everybody Needs a Rock, by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall
This is not a field guide or science book; rather, it is a guide to finding your own, special rock. The focus is on a personal connection with nature.
Girls Who Looked Under Rocks, by Jeannine Atkins
A look at the childhoods and careers of six naturalists, this book is a great way to encourage kids to see themselves as scientists, explore the world around them, and make observations and connections.
The Amateur Naturalist: A Practical Guide to the Natural World, by Gerald Durrell
Detailed and thorough with plenty of pictures and illustrations, this guide has a little of everything, with sections covering several different environments and explanations of techniques and tools of the trade.
Nature Books to Take Outside
Play the Forest School Way: Woodland Games, Crafts and Skills for Adventurous Kids
This book is a great choice for anyone wanting to do more outside than just take a hike or dig in the sand, but aren’t sure where to start. The activities are straightforward and the preparation for most of them is simple.
There are art ideas, survival skills to practice, group games, and activities to help with exploring the outdoors.
How to Play in the Woods: Activities, Survival Skills, and Games for All Ages, by Robin Blankenship
This book is loaded with outdoor play ideas and skills to learn. The author has noted the difficulty level of each activity, which is helpful as there is a range from easy to fairly complicated.
Talking to Fireflies, Shrinking the Moon: Nature Activities for All Ages, by Edward Duensing
This book has a bit more of a conversational tone. It’s almost as though you are out at a pond or on a hike with the author and you happen to spot a bird’s nest or some water striders and so he chats with you about it and tells you what he knows and shares some tricks.
Tracks, Scats, and Signs, by Leslie Dendy
Most animals make themselves scarce when people approach, so spotting them can be rare. Knowing what signs to watch for can be very rewarding when you start finding clues about animals who live around you but are rarely seen. If you get snow, winter is an especially rich time for tracks.
This field guide includes animals of forest, field, and pond. Each entry is short with engaging illustrations, making it a good book to leave out for your child to peruse.
The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms, by Clare Walker Leslie
This book is a useful resource for anyone who wants to keep a nature journal with their kids and wants it all laid out for them or wants a bit of direction with nature journaling.
Adult books about nature
Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You is also by Clare Walker Leslie
This book and is a better choice if you are interested in keeping your own nature journal or helping your children to keep a nature journal in a sketch book, instead of in a work book format. The book is full of examples from her own journals and she gives plenty of tips and techniques for drawing, being mindful, and recording details.
The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws
This Guide is a solid resource for an adult wishing to keep their own nature journal. More than just a “how to draw” book, it includes advice about preparing yourself and practicing to be a careful observer.
Noah’s Children: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood, by Sara Stein
If you want to be inspired to take your children outside, this book is a must-read.
Stein shares her insight and experiences with raising her own kids with plenty of outdoor time in a way that both impresses on you the importance of nature in the lives of children and helps you feel like it is doable.
Contributing Outdoor Mom & Freelance Writer
Shannon is a nature enthusiast and home-educating mom of 7 living in Prince Edward Island, Canada. She has too many books on her to-read list, will always come and check out that cool bug you found, and never turns down a hike. You can find her on Instagram @shaninthewoods