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Books for Inspiring Nature-Based Learning

April 11th, 2023 | 3 min. read

By Jaimee Council

Children are spending more and more time with tablets, televisions, and overly structured routines—perhaps even more time recently due to the pandemic. However, recent research has drawn the link between children’s brain development and time spent in the natural environment. In fact, spending time in nature has proven to benefit children in many ways—physically, cognitively, social-emotionally, and spiritually. But how can we practically implement nature into our early childhood curriculum and pedagogy? In this list, you will find resources that guide you in doing just that, from start to finish, through hands-on activities in the outdoors to open-ended learning experiences with nature.


Inpired by Nature

Designing Play Places for the Littlest Learners

What can jellyfish, a bunch of grapes, or dandelions possibly teach us about designing early childhood classrooms? As it turns out, quite a lot! Inspired by Nature: Designing Play Places for the Littlest Learners explores how nature offers valuable and important lessons about transforming classroom spaces into places where infants and toddlers can thrive.

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Evaluating Natureness

Measuring the Quality of Nature-Based Classrooms in Pre-K Through 3rd Grade

Evaluating Natureness is designed with early education practitioners, researchers, and policy makers in mind. The NAture-Based Education Rating Scales (NABERS) for Pre-K and K–3 let professionals easily collect standardized information to measure the quality of education settings.

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Partnering with Nature in Early Childhood

A Guide to Outdoor Experiences

Join the growing nature-based learning movement! Written for educators by educators, Partnering with Nature turns theoretical ideas about the benefits of nature in childhood into achievable results. 

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Preschool Beyond Walls

Blending Early Childhood Education and Nature-Based Learning

Preschool Beyond Walls shows practical and strategic ways educators can create rich, explorative, and interdisciplinary learning through extensive outdoor experiences. Learn how to develop a nature-centered curriculum and infuse nature into all aspects of your program by emphasizing inquiry-based learning and hands-on discovery.

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Naturally Inclusive

Engaging Children of All Abilities Outdoors

Naturally Inclusive is an essential guide for creating inclusive nature-based play spaces and programs that connect every child to nature. It reminds us that nature is both an exemplar of diversity and a catalyst for inclusion. The chapters of this books explore topics such as nature for holistic development, nature as a healer, horticultural and animal-assisted therapies, and the importance of risk-taking. 

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Seasons of Play

Natural Environments of Wonder

This book will encourage child-care professionals and early childhood educators by demonstrating that outdoor play and learning ARE possible in all seasons of the year! In Seasons of Play, Rusty Keeler takes readers on a photographic journey through real child care centers who are rejecting cookie-cutter care environments and embracing natural play spaces with limitless opportunities for the child’s imagination.

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Learning Is in Bloom

Cultivating Outdoor Explorations

In Learning Is in Bloom, teachers and caregivers will find 40 hands-on activities effective in engaging young children in investigating nature, both indoors and outdoors, on the school grounds, and on excursions around the neighborhood. This book will demonstrate how to foster children’s holistic development by supportating child-directed explorations in science, math, art, and literacy within a nature-rich setting.

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Let’s Take It Outside!

Teacher-Created Activities for Outdoor Learning

With more than 100 teacher-created, classroom-tested outdoor activities, Let’s Take It Outside! engages children’s minds and bodies as they explore the limitless bounds of the outdoors while also building key skills in areas like math, literacy and language, science, art, and music.

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Little Walks, Big Adventures

50+ Ideas for Exploring with Toddlers

This book champion’s the idea that, to infants and toddlers where everything is new, everything is also a learning moment. Little Walks, Big Adventures, parents and caregivers will find 50+ great ideas for taking toddlers on adventurous local explorations that promote and enhance learning in the areas of vocabulary, language skills, cognitive skills, motor skills, and more! 

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Science Adventures

Nature Activities for Young Children

With more than 125 activities, Science Adventures opens up a world of exploration through nature activities in urban, suburban, or rural settings. Each chapter focuses on one of the kindergarten science standards set by the National Academy of Sciences, and makes it developmentally appropriate and fun for preschool children!

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Natural Playscapes

Creating Outdoor Play Environments for the Soul

This book is about a new movement in children's outdoor play areas, natural playscapes—where the entire space and is filled with art, hills, pathways, trees, herbs, open areas, sand, water, music, and more—where children find places to run, climb, dig, pretend, and hide, with opportunities to bellow or be silent. This magnificent 316-page resource contains close to 500 color photographs and illustrations.

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Kids’ Garden

40 Fun Indoor and Outdoor Games

Amid vibrant colors and engaging illustrations, Whitney Cohen helps children embark on dozens of fun gardening activities. Divided into five categories - exploring the garden, planting and growing, fun with plants, discovering creatures and creating garden art - each of the 40 double-sided laminated cards provide an activity, directions, materials needed and the recommended time required.

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The Budding Gardener

Curious kids will discover their green thumbs with the fun-filled gardening activities in The Budding Gardener! With great ways for parents and their budding gardeners to create memories together, this book shows parents and kids how to plant a seed and watch it grow, create a garden marker, make a spider web out of sweet pea seeds and bamboo, and beautify the garden with a stone path or rock tower. 

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Camp Out!

The Ultimate Kids' Guide from the Backyard to the Backwoods

This ultimate guide to all things camping includes basic camping skills, outdoor crafts and activities, naturalist experiments and projects, outdoor cooking and camping fun and games. Children ages 7 and older will experience the fun of camping—even if they never leave the grounds of your summer program. 

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Author(s)Jody Martin, Sandra Duncan, Erin Buhr, Brittany Roberts, Mary B. Rein, Kathy Charner, Ruth Wilson, Rusty Keeler, Rachel A. Larimore

Jaimee Council

A graduate of Appalachian State University with B.S. in Communication - Electronic Media and Broadcasting, Jaimee Council served a content strategy team lead for Gryphon House and Kaplan Early Learning Company from 2021-2022. Her talents include writing, photography, video production, audio production, blog management, website content management, social media management, some design, and data analytics for websites, social media, and customer relationship databases.