Do you wish your kids wanted to spend more time outdoors and less time in front of their electronic devices? Here's how to start: read them a picture book that celebrates the wonder of the natural world! This list of twenty of our favorite picture books will inspire your kids to do just that! These nature picture books and poetry (of course!) encourage your children to look around, notice details, and explore the great outdoors!
Whether you are looking for books to accompany your nature study, or for beautiful illustrations and an engaging narrative to inspire curiosity, this list will have something for you. There are so many more wonderful nature books for kids, I encourage you to leave your favorite titles in the comments below. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
You Are Never Alone by Elin Kelsey. I adored this team's previous book, You Are Stardust, and this collaboration is just as spellbinding. Lyrical text invites the reader to ponder their intimate connection with the natural world. Weaving science into the narrative, the reader learns about how everything from microorganisms to tiny plankton to clouds work together to maintain life and the environment. But in a splendid touch, Kelsey doesn't forget about the emotional life of humans, and how an animal might "soothe lonely times" or how sunshine "fills you with hope." Kim's three dimensional illustrations are a feast to behold.
Sing a Song of Seasons : A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year. ed. by Fiona Waters. Want to put a little nature adoration into each and every day? How about a nature poem to star the day! You will love having this coffee table-sized poetry book sitting out all year. Gorgeous, colorful illustrations grace the pages which contain a nature poem to read aloud every day.
Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer. Nothing goes together quite like poetry and nature. In anticipation of a poetry in the park event, Daniel asks his animal friends, "What is poetry?" They all give him different answers which inspires Daniel to write his own ode to nature. Charming!
The Raft by Jim LaMarche. Nicky goes to visit his grandmother who lives by a river in the woods. At first he thinks the summer is going to be boring, but Nicky's grandmother encourages him to get outside. On the river he discovers a raft. He takes it out one afternoon and it becomes his daily activity. While floating every day, he admires the local flora and fauna. He even begins sketching what he sees. What I also love about this book is the development of the relationship between Nicky and his grandparent. Also check out his picture book, Pond.
The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes. A very little gardener brings large-sized beauty to his garden. The little gardener works hard tending nature and the reader looks at the wonders of nature from his perspective. When a full-sized girl takes over the tending, kids will enjoy comparing how they see a garden to how the little guy does. Marvelous illustrations.
Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd. Two children discover the natural world in their urban landscape. I love how this book celebrates the diversity of wildlife and plants in cities throughout the season. The two children wander away down a path from the subway entrance and find waterways, insects, birds, gorgeous flowers and trees. Best of all, when they are back in the structured environment of the city, they realize all that nature is actually right in their own backyard.
A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams. At the beach Gregory draws a lion in the sand. His dad tells him to stay near the lion and not to venture into the water. Gregory picks up a stick and begins to draw the lion's tail... a very long tail, right on down the beach. When he realizes he has gone too far his finds his way back by traveling the length of the line in the sand. I like the way the story maintains a balance between natural curiosity, wonder and exploration and the trepidation that a child feels when he realizes he may almost have gone too far for comfort. It's a lovely glimpse of an important childhood moment.
The Whole Wide World and Me by Toni Yuly is a charming story of a girl enjoying the natural world. Cut paper illustrations are simple and colorful, the text is spare but poetic. What I really love about this book as a read aloud is that you can focus on the shifting perspectives in the illustrations. You might see a close up of the girl's feet, or a wide-angle view of the landscape. The narration is in the first person, the girl stating how she sees herself as part of the world, "I am a cloud in the sky," "I am a pebble..." Gets kids thinking metaphorically!
Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayre. What first drew me to this book was the gorgeous cover featuring the official flower of my home state! When I saw the author I knew it would be a winner; I have loved past titles by Sayre. This is a wonderful book to read aloud when blooms are starting to make an appearance. The spare but dynamic text and utterly magnificent photographs remind us that some blooms come all at once and other make their appearance one by one. Delightful.
Wild Berries by Julie Flett. A boy and his grandmother collect blueberries in the word. Along the way they observe wildlife from the ants to the elk to the birds. The overall feeling is one of calm mindfulness and the illustrations' deceptive simplicity adds to that feeling. The spare text is in English, but some of the words are accompanied by their Cree equivalent. A glossary and pronunciation guide is included.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. In a barren urban landscape devoid of anything green, a boy discovers a small growth. He decides to nurture it, returning again and again to water it and watch it. As time goes on, the boy's garden begins to ramble onto other areas of the city, turning the gray cityscape into a verdant land. As the green begins to take over, the rest of the human population emerges, affirming that the natural world is essential for people to thrive.
In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming. This is a great read aloud book for preschoolers. Snappy onomatopoetic text takes the reader on a journey down in to the secret world of tall grass in a meadow-like environment. Fleming's signature torn paper collage make a bold accompaniment to the lively text.
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. A girl and her father ski through the snowy woods. As she glides along, she narrates the habits of animals that live under the snow and those that roam the woody landscape. A soothing read aloud, and the informative endnotes include further details about the animals featured in the book. Also read the companion books, Over and Under the Pond and Up and Down in the Dirt.
Tiny Perfect Things by M. H. Clark. This is an absolute visual delight. A girl and her grandparent go for a walk. Along the way, the grandparent narrates the importance of taking the time to look around and the child wonders at all the "tiny, perfect things" she sees. The illustrations offer the reader a variety of perspectives from which to observe the natural world.
You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk. Do not miss this gorgeous-gorgeous-gorgeous picture book that pays tribute to our national treasures. The lyrical text takes readers on a journey through the parks, allowing us to meet animals in their own habitat, experience people enjoying the great outdoors and reveling in the marvels that live and grow in the American National Parks. Have I sung the praises of this book enough for you? Go out and get it right away.
Run Wild by David Covell. Two children leave their electronics behind to run wild in the great outdoors. They experience all the greats: grass, sand, mud and more. Nice, large pages with exuberant line drawings full of color and life. The text conveys a sense of movement and joy, the colors ever changing. Utterly delightful.
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd. In this wordless book a child takes a flashlight outside on a dark night. Each page shows the objects in the light, which is what the child sees, but readers will still be able to view the creatures in the dark. A wonderfully whimsical and magical tale that will spark questions about how we view the natural world and what we might be missing. Delightful.
Prairie Dog Song: The Key to Saving North America’s Grasslands by Susan L Roth and Cindy Trumbore. This is an absolutely gorgeous collection of poetry. Each poem is a verse of an adaptation of the song “And the Green Grass Grew All Around.” My kids may not have enjoyed my singing as much as I did—I happen to love that tune so I was particularly delighted. Each double page spread also includes informative text about the history of the prairie and its ecological importance. Roth’s mixed media collages parallel the depth of the prairie’s life.
One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Mannis. A child’s love of the Japanese Garden is the inspiration behind this collection of haiku poetry which is also a counting book. Cleverly, the poems follow the girl’s journey through the garden as she discovers and admires its delights.
Wave. Suzy Lee has written several wonderful wordless books. I adore this one about a girl's day at the shore simply because watching a girl play in the waves will make you feel super happy and will inspire you to get to the beach as soon as possible!
More books about the wonder of the natural world:
- Books about the environment (mostly nonfiction)
- Nonfiction books about the ocean and marine life
- Nonfiction early science books