Children and the Outdoors: A Summer Reading List

If you’re a parent, you know how different summer can be from the rest of the year—the kids are home, the days are hot and everyone needs to find things to do! Luckily, we have a few reads you can bring along for those trips to the beach or nights on the porch. They’re full of ways to connect your children to the outdoors, and ways you can connect, too.


First on our list? The Nature Principle, by Richard Louv.


The Nature Principle, Richard Louv

This book is for the busy adult or parent in all of us. Louv writes: “What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology? How can each of us help create that life-enhancing world, not only in a hypothetical future, but right now, for our families and for ourselves?” His book serves as a great reminder that we all need to unplug, especially when the weather is nice. Oprah’s Book Club called it “a refreshing hike for the mind and soul through 320 pages.”


If Louv’s book catches your attention, The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places, by naturalists Gary Pail Nabhan and Stephen Trimble, further explores children’s exposure to the outdoors through technology. In a series of essays, the two authors explore how children now experience the outdoors through media more often than exploring it first hand. For example, a child may learn to recognize a frog or a deer by seeing it on television, rather than discovering the animals in their own backyard. A thought-provoking read for those interested in the merits of breathing fresh air and getting a little dirt under your fingernails.


The Geography of Childhood, Joseph Cornell

Next up: Sharing Nature with Children, by Joseph Cornell. This is a bona fide playtime manual, providing tips and tricks for outdoor fun and games.


Sharing Nature, Joseph Cornell


In this book, Joseph Cornell draws on his experience as a nature educator to provide ideas and inspiration. These work exceptionally well if you live near the woods…like us Mainers. But there’s always nature to explore, no matter where you call home.


Fourth on our list is: I Love Dirt: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature, by Jennifer Ward.



Here’s a tidbit on the book from Portland Review:


“Small enough to fit into a backpack, this slim volume is packed with fifty-two, open-ended ideas organized by season to help parents explore nature with their children. Activities include building a bird nest, watching butterflies and starting a butterfly garden in flowerpots, and finding a thinking place in nature. Furthermore, each activity includes a sidebar to help the parent explain some aspect of science or nature related to the activity.”


We’re sold.


And last, but certainly not least, is the book Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality, by Eva M. Selhub.


Your Brain on Nature, Selhub and Logan


The book is like a longer version of this New York Times article that discusses “the idea that visiting green spaces like parks or tree-filled plazas lessens stress and improves concentration.” A good read for anyone looking to foster a deeper connection to nature, this book will inspire you to shut off the computer and go for a walk in the park.


We hope these reads help you get outside this summer, and help you get the kids outside too.


How do you get outside during this hot season? Do you do any special outdoors activities as a family?  Share with us in the comment section below!


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