Spending time in nature benefits everyone, especially kids.
The freedom of unstructured outdoor play fills children with confidence and a sense of adventure. The wonders of the natural world feeds their curiosity and encourages their physical and intellectual development. Research has shown that access to the outdoors as children is associated with pro-environmental attitudes as adults.
Despite the benefits of nature to their health and well-being, children are increasingly shuttered indoors, leading sedentary, screen-focused lives devoid of the magic of the garden or forest park.
In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv warns that our children are increasingly suffering from “nature-deficit disorder,” which he argues is manifest in worrying statistics about childhood obesity, low emotional well-being, and an increase in ADHD diagnoses. Learning experientially about nature is good for kids, and it is good for the world as well: in order to solve our most pressing environmental problems, we must foster connections between the biosphere and the next generation of its inhabitants.
Excited to share your love of forests with kids? Check out this list of educational resources to help you get started.
Remember, not all outdoor play should be structured and supervised. Sometimes it is better to just bring them to a park and let them discover the world for themselves!
Check out this massive list of outdoor educational activities for kids by Outdoor Families Magazine.
Or this list of nature learning activities by Rhythms of Play (check out the rest of the website as well!).
The Most Beautiful Roof in the World by Kathryn Lasky
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
Once there was a Tree by Natalia Romanova
Here is the Tropical Rain Forest by Madeleine Dunphy
The Shaman’s Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry and Mark Plotkin.
Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them by Bernadette Pourquié and Cécile Gambini
Crinkleroot’s Guide to Walking in Wild Places by Jim Arnosky
Bats, Bugs, and Biodiversity: Adventures in the Amazonian Rain Forest by Susan Goodman
Your local library is an amazing resource for books about nature. Stop by and ask your librarian to help you find some! Or give them a call to learn about their online services.
Our Planet documentary series (Netflix). Available on Netflix and youtube. In particular, check out the “Jungles” and “Forests” episodes.
Planet Earth II documentary series (BBC). There are episodes on islands, mountains, and jungles, as well as other ecosystems. The original Planet Earth series, also by the BBC, has episodes on forests as well.
Life documentary series (BBC). This series has episodes on the various life forms on our planet and their struggles to survive.
Nature on PBS. Weekly television series on nature topics. Wednesdays at 8/7 central on PBS.
Make Me Genius youtube channel. A range of science videos for kids.
SciShow Kids youtube channel.
National Geographic Kids youtube channel.
Hot Mess youtube channel. An educational show about climate change from PBS.
BBC Earth youtube channel.
National Geographic youtube channel.
Nature on PBS youtube channel.
Brave Wilderness youtube channel. A celebration of the weird and wonderful natural world.
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature by Scott Sampson. A guide to raising children to love nature.
Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children by Angela Hanscom. The benefits of outdoor play on children’s health.
A Magical Homeschool: Nature Studies: 52 Wonderful Ways to Use Nature Studies in Every Season to Teach Science, Math, Art and More by Alicia Bayer. Not just for homeschoolers!
Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature
Ideas for Getting Your Kids into Nature
Benefits of nature, more ideas for getting kids outside, and resources to learn more
Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body, and Spirit Through Outdoor Play: a report by the National Wildlife Federation.
Created by Evan Wright on July 26, 2020