Homeschooling     Hot Topics     Home and Family     Healthy Kids     After School     Family Fun     Health Guide    

Three books to encourage healthy outdoor play

Great ideas to help kids get outside

Great ideas to help kids get outside

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
by Kate Messner is a beauty of a book. With lovely, poetic text plus detailed and colorful illustrations, Messner opens the door to understanding the complexity of life in the garden.

Nana and her granddaughter explore what the eye can see on top of the soil and also learn what is hidden beneath the dirt. The ecosystem with its dirt, leaves, and sprouts also holds earthworms digging, snakes hunting and skunks burrowing.

You’ll enjoy following this Grandma/Granddaughter journey through the gardening year with all of its planning, planting and harvesting. The book includes a glossary of creatures living in and around and under the garden.

This book is meant for children aged 5-8

READ MORE De-stress your kids: The benefits of nature play

Play the Forest School Way by Peter Houghton and June Worroll is a gem meant for parents and their children aged 8-12, but the ideas can be adapted for younger children as well. Nature Play is a growing phenomenon across the country as adults see the crying need of our children to spend more time out of doors.

The book is filled with games to play in the woods and other nature play spaces, woodland crafts, and tons of skill-building projects for children growing in knowledge and appreciation for the out of doors.

You’ll find ideas for teaching children to build fires safely, whittle a bow and arrows, creating a shelter and foraging for food. There are also nature craft ideas and suggestions for outdoor games.

Children playing in the out of doors in authentic natural settings grow in observation skills and develop resourcefulness, connection to their world and persistence as they pursue projects done by their own hands.

In addition playing out of doors reduces stress levels, and encourages children to engage in active play so necessary in this time when children tend to spend many hours in sedentary activities. 

READ MORE: Getting kids to bond with nature

Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children with the Natural World by Nancy Striniste is a guidebook for parents who want to bring natural settings into their own backyard. Even a deck or patio can be transformed into a more natural setting with simple additions of natural objects.

Children love to play with objects found in nature: rocks, sticks, water, sand, twigs, leaves and the like. They organize, sort, create and otherwise engage in sensory projects when left to interact with natural objects.

Such nature play enhances creativity, learning and… it’s fun. Nature play inspires imagination and increases observation skills. It’s also a great de-stressor.

In this time in which most play has been removed from the school setting, children will greatly benefit from unstructured play times in natural settings. This book will encourage you to give your kids the gift of time spent in “wild” places.

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and a writer. She is the author of “Homegrown Readers” and “Homegrown Family Fun”. Find Jan at

More Homeschooling

  • Indoor spots for teens to play

    Older kids need to have some play time too

    Teens need places to go that aren't lame and won't bore them to tears. We have the best in the Valley listed just for you. read more »
  • Everything you need to know about student loans

    Traditional ways of paying for college aren't working

    More American families are borrowing for college. At the same time, merit aid and the use of personal income and savings i falling. read more »
  • 3 ways people of all ages can make the most of International Youth Day

    Celebrate youth activists and combat ageism

    August 12 is International Youth Day, a United Nations effort to celebrate youth activists, combat ageism and help bridge gaps between generations working toward the same change. read more »
  • 4 ways to get involved this global volunteer month

    It's a good time to get in on the action

    Global Volunteer Month, celebrated throughout April, is a time to recognize people who actively support their communities through volunteerism and active civic engagement. It’s also a time to get in on the action. However, if you’re like many people, you may not know where to begin. read more »
  • Minimize the risk of child identity theft

    NYS Division of Consumer Protection offers advice

    Child Identity Theft is a growing problem. According to recent data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft for those under 19 years old grew 60% in three years. read more »
  • 5 reasons why your child should (and can) learn how to play chess

    A revolutionary new game that helps kids learn this game of strategy

    Chess is one of the oldest and most popular games in history, with early forms of the game dating back to the 6th century CE. The game has certainly seen a revival since the pandemic began, as people around the globe have dusted off their chess boards and even binged one of the most-watched series ever inspired by the masterful game for much-needed entertainment. read more »
  • Visit cool sculpture parks in the Hudson Valley

    These sculptures are generally huge and sure to please

    Visit fun and educational sculpture gardens in the Hudson Valley. Sculpture Parks and their gardens are a unique way for families to appreciate and enjoy art. The open spaces are wonderful for kids of all ages. Most locations offer space to roam and enable us to enjoy these unique pieces at our own pace. read more »
  • 5 ways to get kids excited about STEM learning

    The country needs more good scientists

    The events of the past couple of years have shown how important scientists are to making the world a better and safer place. read more »
  • Keep kids learning during summer

    3 fun, easy ways

    With school out, summertime brings long, carefree days of play and fun. With a little thought and a few supplies, summer is a perfect opportunity to revitalize their innate love of learning that may be a bit squashed after a year of academic pressures, tests and schedules. read more »
  • 6 tips to mitigate mental health risks for youth

    The surgeon general highlight the urgent need to address Youth Mental Health Crisis

    Today’s kids are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety at home, school and in their communities. The COVID-19 pandemic, which affected kids in all those places, only exacerbated the problem. read more »