It’s an undeniable fact that children who spend more time outdoors are healthier, both physically and mentally, than their more indoor bound peers. Establishing a connection with the natural world early on is an essential, not-to-be-missed aspect of childhood, but, with the reduction of recess and free time in education and the overall increase in screen-time, children today are beginning to suffer from ‘nature-deficit disorder.’ This term, coined by Robert Louv in his 2005 book The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, is not a clinical term, but rather a way to describe the growing disconnection between children and nature.
Recent studies have documented the importance of exposing young children to nature and the outdoors, finding that the development of social, emotional and physical health depends a great deal upon the amount of time children engage in outdoor free play. It has been determined that exploring nature improves children’s
Children who spend a greater amount of time outdoors than in are more...
And those who spend more time outdoors experience
less mental and physical health issues, such as...
vitamin D deficiency
These benefits are not only exclusive to young children but to adults as well as documented in this article from Business Insider: 11 Scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside.
Studies and human observation tell us that increased classroom time, increased screen time and decreased free time are all detrimental to children’s development. Therefore, look for opportunities that allow for time spent in nature this summer.
The only thing better than getting kids outside more is reading to them! We suggest sharing the following titles with your child to further showcase the joys and wonders of the natural world:
Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peak
Over on a Mountain: Somewhere in the World
Over in a River: Flowing Out to Sea by Marianne Berkes
Each book in this extensive series follows the same rhyming rhythm and counting pattern as it introduces the different types of animals that live in various habitats, from forests to oceans to the grasslands of Africa. Read the stories about habitats that reflect the area you live in first, so children can make a connection between the book and the world around them and then branch out to explore the different types of environments found across the Earth.
North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette
"When Grandma tucks her pants into her oversized boots and grabs her walking stick, I run to catch up," a little girl tells readers as we see her head out with her grandmother to explore the forest surrounding her grandmother’s north woods home. Their jaunts take place in all seasons, offering readers a glimpse of life in the north woods at various times of the year and what wonders can be found out in the woods.
Fun With Nature: Take Along Guides by Mel Boring, Diane Burns, and Leslie Dendy
As the title says, this book is a great one to take along with you as you explore your own backyard or take a hike in the woods (although it is a bit bulky for younger children). Comprised of six different titles from the Take Along Guides series, this is a great resource for all types of information about the natural world found right outside your door. Also included are activity ideas and blank scrapbook pages at the end of each section for your child to make notes or drawings, press in leaves/bark/flowers they have found or place photos from their outings.
I Took A Walk
On Meadowview Street
On the Way to the Beach by Henry Cole
For children who enjoy seek-and-find books and playing I Spy these titles are sure to be a hit. As the main character of each book walks through various natural environments they list the different plants and animals that they see along the way. Your child will enjoy poring over the illustrations with you to find the various flora and fauna mentioned and then probably want to head out and see what they find on their own walk outdoors.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies
You and your child will marvel at all of the beauties and wonders to be found right outside your window after reading this volume of poetry. The poems themselves are simple, yet present the reader with a wealth of factual information about a variety of plants and animals and the eye-catching, mixed-media illustrations bring the seasons to dramatic life.
Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail: What Will You Find? by Editors of Storey Publishing
Want to get your child excited about getting outside? Want them to take their time exploring all of the natural wonders around them? This is the book that will get them out the door and looking carefully about. As your child explores the outdoors with this book in hand, they are encouraged to take a closer look with the magnifying glass embedded in the cover, mark off the various flora and fauna they find with the sticker badges inside and are given all sorts of facts and information. Additionally, there are activity ideas throughout the book to increase the fun and connect your child with the nature.
Rhoda’s Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffin
Budding geologists and rock collectors will love this story! Rhoda is on a “long, long hike from their up-north cabin” with her aunt and uncle and is responsible for carrying her own pack of gear, but her pack becomes too heavy for her to lift after she fills it with all of the wonderful rocks she has found. What can she do? Should she leave her precious finds behind? Your child will enjoy Rhoda’s clever solution and be inspired to get outside and start a rock collection of their own.
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
The language used to describe the natural world is slowing disappearing from children’s vocabularies as they spend less and less time connecting with the great outdoors. Macfarlane, inspired by the Oxford Junior Dictionary’s deletion of a number of nature words in 2007, offers readers a chance to bring these lost words back and help children develop an appreciation of the wonders to be found throughout the natural world through his acrostic poems. His moving words paired with Jackie Morris’s breathtaking illustrations make this book nothing short of pure magic for nature enthusiasts of all ages.
Mrs. Peanuckle’s ___ Alphabet series
For babies and toddlers Mrs. Peanuckle’s various alphabet books offer a wonderful introduction to the natural world and the ABCs. The series has six different titles (Birds, Bugs, Flowers, Fruits, Trees and Vegetables), each with bright, vivid illustrations, a smorgasbord of unique vocabulary (for example nectar, fiddleheads, and delicious) and interesting bits of information about the various things featured in each book (did you know fairy wings grow in the woods and prefer to live near waterfalls? Me neither.).
Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods
Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond by Mary Quattlebaum
Children familiar with the song Old McDonald Had a Farm will love singing these variations on the popular tune and will hopefully be inspired to take a hike through the woods and sit by a pond to see and listen for the different types of creatures to be found. In the back of each book you’ll find information on forest and pond ecosystems as well to enhance the learning.
A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer
This collection of poetry is an ode to childhood and all the fun that can be had playing outside when you use a little creativity and imagination. Follow a group of children on a summer’s day as they get back to the basics of childhood play and engage in all sorts of activities, such as mixing up mud pies, playing jacks and catching fireflies. The illustrations give life to the simple poems, making this book also enjoyable just to flip through and talk about with your child, perhaps while sitting outside on a sunny summer’s day.
Looking for more titles about the earth and trees specifically? Take a look back at our post
Let’s Celebrate Earth Day & Arbor Day
For further information on why it's important to get kids outside check out the following articles:
Happy reading and adventuring!
We are mom Sandra and daughters Amanda and Kate, all with backgrounds in literacy and education, who want to share our philosophy of taking the basics of life; books, simple toys that encourage play, imagination and creativity, and using cooking and baking to teach math and real life skills to raise happy, inquisitive children. Join us in exploring the old and the new and sifting through the myriad of research to consider what is best for our children.