Books About the Outdoors to Help Kids Celebrate Great Outdoors Month

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

Summer is a time when many people naturally want to be outside more and do more outdoorsy things, but June is also Great Outdoors Month! I get it, though: not everyone is outdoorsy. It’s hot, there are bugs (not to mention bears, depending on where you are), and it can feel intimidating to be outside and doing outdoorsy things, especially if you don’t look like the “typical” rugged outdoors person or if it doesn’t come naturally.

That’s one reason I put together some books to help you get in the mood to celebrate the outdoors, encourage a love of the outdoors with your kids, and how to get started if you’re overwhelmed. The important thing to remember is that it’s not a competition to see who can be the best outdoorsy family. Even just a walk around the block with your kids, or a trip to the park or the local farmer’s market can help spark a love for nature. Once you start noticing the little things, and make space for small outdoor excursions, it does get a little easier, I promise! (Don’t forget to take plenty of water and to use sunscreen!).

cover of The National Parks Journal

The National Parks Journal: Plan & Record Your Trips to the US National Parks by Stefanie Payne

If you’re planning on hitting up any of the National Parks over the summer, this journal can help you plan it out, get all of the things you need done ahead of time completed, and record your experiences. There’s also helpful information about how the park system is organized, packing suggestion pages, and lots of tips to help make your trip especially great. If you’re going to a national park, bring this along! (It’s also a great guided journal for kids!)

cover of Outdoor Kids in an Inside World by Steven Rinella

Outdoor Kids in an Inside World: Getting Your Family Out of the House and Radically Engaged with Nature by Steven Rinella

Kids are spending more time indoors than ever before, with some significant consequences for their emotional and physical development. Rinella takes this on and shows parents that there’s still a way to start engaging your kids with nature and the outdoors, even if you live in an urban area. Fishing locally, growing a veggie garden, and other activities are all discussed in this accessible and interesting book. If you’re looking for a way to connect to nature but not sure how and are a little overwhelmed, this is one to pick up.

No Such Thing As Bad Weather cover

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk

In Sweden, where McGurk is from, nature-centric parenting and child-rearing are the norm. Kids go outside in all kinds of weather, babies nap in the cold, and environmental education is part of school curriculum. When she moved to the U.S., she (obviously) saw this was not the case, and it was a bit of a shock. She decided to take her daughters to Sweden for six months to see if the difference in philosophies would make a difference, and the result is a compelling look at how the lack of nature and outdoors can impact children and families.

Fatima's great outdoors cover

Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq and Stevie Lewis

Tariq, the founder of @BrownPeopleCamping, has written a fun story about an immigrant family going camping in the Midwest for the first time. Fatima Khazi is super excited for her family’s camping trip — after a hard week in school, she’s looking forward to this. She has lots of adventures and she hates the thought of leaving the woods and going back to everyday life — until her sister reminds her of the memories she’s made.

cover of Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

Chin’s books are always a pleasure to read and explore, and this one’s no different. This picture book follows a father and daughter as they hike through the Grand Canyon. Different die cut pages provide lots of visual treats; the illustrations are lushly colored, informative, and detailed; and there’s a map and lots of back matter to explore. Whether you’re taking a trip to the Grand Canyon or just want to go there one day, this is a picture book that readers of all ages will love.

cover of Outdoor School Rock, Fossil, Shell Hunting

Outdoor School: Rock, Fossil, and Shell Hunting: The Definitive Interactive Nature Guide by Jennifer Swanson, John D. Dawson

The books in the Outdoor School series are beautifully done and jam-packed with info, including this one. In this book, there are sections in which to journal about explorations, rock and mineral identification guides, information about finding fossils, and tips on how to display your findings — and a lot more. If you have a kid who loves rocks and shells, this is one to get. Even if you don’t plan on a dig anytime soon, it’s easy to use for lessons and learning, too.

cover of A Stick is an Excellent Thing

A Stick Is An Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer and LeUyen Pham

This is a charming poetry collection with colorful illustrations that’s perfect for reading during the summer. The poems capture the fun of childhood and playing outside, with blowing bubbles, city sounds, running outside, playing in puddles, catching fireflies, and much more. These are great reminders of all the little things you can do outside near your house that are fun and playful, and the poetry varies in form and is an easy way to introduce kids to the genre.

cover of Dear yeti

Dear Yeti by James Kwan

Even though it’s summer, this winter adventure picture book is a fun read to cool off with. Two young hikers decide to look for Yeti, and as they get deeper and deeper into the woods, they leave letters for him, trying to get him to come out. When they realize they’re lost and there’s an impending snowstorm, Yeti might just save the day.

If you’re looking for even more books about the outdoors and nature, check out this post full of YA books about the Earth, and this post on children’s picture books about nature.