As the summer sun’s golden rays beckon us outdoors, it’s the perfect time to embark on a literary journey that seamlessly blends the joy of reading with the thrill of outdoor exploration! Whether you’re planning a family hike, a camping escapade, or a simple stroll through the local park, the right nature book can transform your outdoor activities into unforgettable experiences of wonder and discovery. Today, Utah mom of three, Emily Liebel of @inclusivelibrary, is here sharing 25+ nature books that are the perfect companions to enhance your children’s understanding, ignite their imagination, and instill a lifelong love for the great outdoors. So pack your (book)bags and prepare to embark on a literary expedition that will inspire your young nature enthusiasts to embrace the beauty, mystery, and boundless potential of the world that lies just beyond their doorstep.

Grid of 10 nature books for adventures outdoors

Nature books that inspire adventure

Now that you know many wonderful ways to use your public library for outdoor adventuring, let’s highlight some of the best nature books for going on outdoor adventures. In this post, we’ll delve into a handpicked selection of the best 25+ nature books for kids that are tailor-made to ignite the spirit of adventure and foster a deep appreciation for the great outdoors.

These literary companions aren’t just meant to be read – they’re designed to inspire adventure and provide valuable insights, fascinating facts, and imaginative tales that will make every step feel like a page turned in real life. These books can be used to prepare for an adventure or to take along with you to your outdoor activities to enhance nature appreciation and play.

Whether our kids are preparing to try a new outdoor activity, or they are getting excited for an adventure tradition, books can bring joy and fun to the experience. Books can give kids a chance to view an experience from the outside looking in. They can help a child explore how they might feel or act in the situation. Through the lens of the characters, our kids can imagine themselves solving problems, exploring, or jumping in water in similar situations.

Where to find the recommended books

Of course, I love public libraries and will always support them by checking out books. However, if you’d like to purchase any of these recommendations, this post contains affiliate links, so your purchase helps RWMC earn a tiny commission (with no extra cost to you), which our small business really appreciates! Or finally, if you would like to support independent and local bookstores by buying these books, we recommend Bookshop!

Best nature books for spring & summer outdoor adventures

In this post, I have gathered some of the best books that highlight outdoor adventures to be done in the spring and summer. We are enjoying the warm weather and all the unique experiences we can have as a family during this time of year.

I love these books because they are beautifully made and capture exactly what we want our kids to see and experience on our outdoor adventures. There are so many different climates, situations, locations, etc., that nature books can highlight. I have compiled a wide variety of those.

I have also chosen these books because they cover a wide variety of attitudes, emotions, and approaches to nature adventures. There are board books for babies, early chapter and non-fiction books for older kids, and picture books for all. There is problem-solving, appreciation and celebration, sensory processing, and fun.

And finally, there is inclusion. If we want kids with many different identities to enjoy the outdoors, they must be able to see someone like them enjoying it as well. This opens a world of possibilities and thrills they might not have connected with otherwise. 

Child reading outside in the grass, seen from above

How to use these nature books

Before an adventure (preparing for an adventure)

Use these books leading up to your adventure to prepare and enhance! Start reading the selected books with your kids in the weeks leading up to your planned outdoor adventure. Make it a family activity by setting aside dedicated reading time. Encourage discussions about the topics covered in the books, and let your kids ask questions and share their thoughts. This shared exploration will build excitement and anticipation for the upcoming outdoor adventure.

When we take kids to an outdoor adventure they have never experienced before, we want to prepare them to know what to expect. Just as you might pretend-play going to the doctor with your kids, you can read books to help kids imagine the experience. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall can help calm your child’s nerves before swimming. And This Beach is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill can help give you and your child some calming tips when sensory overload threatens to derail an adventure. With tools and examples found in these nature books, our kids can feel confident in themselves as they head out to a new adventure. 

During an adventure

Bring the books onto your adventure so your kids can read them on the long drive, while taking a break for lunch, or relaxing outdoors. Give your kids one of these books when they have some downtime on an adventure, and simply observe how they might use the world around them to build off of the story.

During the actual outdoor adventure, encourage your kids to reference the books they’ve read whenever they come across a plant, animal, or landmark they recognize. Discuss the real-world connections between what they’ve learned from the books and what they’re experiencing firsthand. Engage in conversations about the environment, ecosystems, and conservation based on the themes explored in the books.

Incorporate activities and challenges inspired by the books into your outdoor adventure plans. For example, if you’ve read about tracking animals in the wild, make it a game to identify animal tracks during the hike. If a story mentioned building a shelter, try constructing a simple one together during your camping trip. These interactive experiences will make the adventure feel like a real-life extension of the books and encourage hands-on learning.

After the adventure

After the adventure, set aside time to reflect on the experience together. Have your kids write or draw in their journals, documenting the things they discovered, the challenges they overcame, and the moments of awe and wonder they experienced. This reflection process reinforces the lessons learned from the books and helps cement their newfound appreciation for nature.

Nature books for kids of all ages

There are many picture books, some board books, and some early chapter books. Whether your kids are pre-readers, new readers, or venturing into books all on their own, there is something for everyone on this list. Besides, the research shows that reading out loud with kids of ALL ages is beneficial to their retention.

Toddlers and preschoolers

For the youngest adventurers, I’ve included some beautifully illustrated picture books that showcase the diversity of nature. When reading these books with your little ones, point out animals, plants, and landscapes in the pictures, sparking their curiosity and vocabulary. You can also engage with the book through tactile experiences like touching leaves or feeling textures. Let them mimic animal sounds or movements mentioned in the book, encouraging playful learning.

Elementary school age 

For elementary school kids, I’ve included some books that dive deeper into specific nature-related topics like rocks, weather, or animal behavior. If they want to go beyond the book, have them research the ecosystem of the adventure site, making them feel like junior naturalists. Feel free to also utilize beginner-friendly field guides that focus on local wildlife, trees, and insects. Teach them how to use the guide to identify species, and encourage them to make their own nature journal.

This is also a great age to start reading adventure novels set in the great outdoors. These stories can inspire imagination and creativity, while also teaching valuable lessons about teamwork, problem-solving, and environmental awareness.

Two kids finding books in a Little Free Library at a park

25 of the best nature books for outdoor adventures

Four nature books about national parks

Books about national parks

  1. All Aboard! National Parks by Kevin and Haily Meyers
  2. The Sequoia Lives On by Joanna Cooke
  3. Oliver: The Second Largest Living Thing on Earth by Josh Crute
  4. National Parks of the U.S.A. by Kate Siber

There are many National Parks to explore, and these books can provide you and your kids with information about the history and the uniqueness of each one. If you are taking a road trip or flying to a National Park this summer, bring these books along to get ready. The Sequoia Lives On and Oliver both showcase the mystery and awe of trees. All Aboard! Nationals Parks is a board book and contains basic information on National Parks and National Parks of the U.S.A. is a lovely and more in-depth look at each park. 

Three nature books about camping

Books about camping

  1. Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq
  2. The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann
  3. C is for Camping by Greg Paprocki

All three of these books can help you are your kids prepare for a camping trip. Camping requires a lot of arrangements, and these books will give your kids the chance to gather and pack their own gear and supplies, as well as prime them for the things they can help with and do once you are at the site. They also highlight the many fun things they might do on the camping trip- like hiking and making s’mores.   

Three nature books about hiking

Books about hiking

  1. Cece Loves Science and Adventure by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R Johannes
  2. Hike by Pete Oswald
  3. The Hike by Alison Farrell

We hike weekly with our friends, and each of my kids finds something different to enjoy on these adventures. We can be on a trail for hours and only travel one mile because of the many climbing, stick-collecting, and building stops we make. Other times, we can summit a hike and feel so accomplished as we take in the beauty. These books showcase the wonderful experience of heading outdoors and starting and stopping along a path in order to see the interesting things around you. 

Six nature books about swimming. Three about pools and three about the beach.

Books about visiting the beach and swimming

  1. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
  2. The Whale in My Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan
  3. Our Pool by Lucy Ruth Cummins
  4. Bluey: The Beach
  5. This Beach is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill
  6. Day at the Beach by Tom Booth

Swimming and heading to the beach are great group and family outings, and each of these books celebrates the joy and confidence that kids can find through water play. Our Pool encapsulates an exciting summer day spent at the pool with games and snacks, and all-around fun. All the other books present problem-solving scenarios for kids to learn from, prepare, and even laugh through with imagination. Every book here would be an entertaining addition to your pool or beach trip.   

Seven nature books about bugs, animals, and collecting things.

Books about collecting and observing bugs, animals, natural objects

  1. Look What I Found in the Woods by Moira Butterfield
  2. Hank’s Big Day by Evan Kuhlman
  3. Howl Like a Wolf by Kathleen Yale
  4. Billy Loves Birds by Jess French
  5. What’s in Your Pocket by Heather L. Montgomery
  6. The Bug Collector by Alex G. Griffiths
  7. Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro

Do your kids love to come home with pockets full of rocks or watch bugs in the yard? Do they know a lot about different animals or want to keep journals of all the things they learn? Any of these books would thrill your kids! 

Each of these books help kids know how to safely, ethically, and interestingly connect to the living world around them. Look What I Found is a series, and I love that there are non-fiction and seek-and-find pages mixed into the story. Zoey and Sassafras is an early chapter book series that mixes scientific facts and processes with mythical creatures living around Zoey’s house. Howl Like a Wolf even encourages kids to act like animals through games as they learn about animal behaviors.   

Books about exploring different environments (series)

  1. Over and Under the Canyon by Kate Messner
  2. Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner
  3. Over and Under the Rainforest by Kate Messner
  4. Over and Under the Waves by Kate Messner
  5. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

This series highlights multiple environments, from your own backyard garden to the rainforest. The books draw specific attention to sights and sounds above the water or below the dirt of a canyon. Find the book that best fits the environment you will be visiting to help kids familiarize themselves with the unique things they might see on your adventure. 

Nature books enhance adventures

Just as important as gathering all the gear for an adventure is enhancing our kids’ imagination *on* the adventure. If we read books about swimming at a pool or the beach, our kids can imagine themselves there as well. They will have a well-rounded picture of what they could or want to experience. When we read with our kids, we are encouraging their imagination, inspiring creativity, eliminating some apprehension, and helping them prepare for getting outside and exploring. 

I have seen firsthand how reading has prepared my kids for our outdoor activities and adventures. I’ve watched them reenact or extend the story from a book we’ve read while they are outdoors, which is just amazing to see! After reading The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann, we went on a nature trail with friends. My toddler and her friends built pretend fires and “warmed” themselves. And the older siblings dragged logs together to build forts or bed platforms. The information from the story I had read them combined with their own imaginative play led to hours of entertainment and cross-age playtime. They engaged in cooperative and imaginative play that wonderfully included everyone. This led to a more immersive outdoor experience because they were using the nature around them to make the game possible.  

How will you use these nature books?

About the author

Emily and her family have moved across the US multiple times, and the best things about each state have been the outdoor adventures and the public libraries! Now living in Utah, Emily has continued her love for both. She explores both mountain and city outdoor spaces weekly with her three kids and friends and attends library story times, as well as leads a local story time. Emily has a passion for children’s literature. She uses books to educate, promote inclusion, understanding, and justice, and inspire adventure and creativity. Emily loves how reading and being outdoors overlap in so many exciting ways!

You can find Emily online in the following locations:
Instagram: @inclusivelibrary
RWMC Posts: Emily Liebel