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 www.janpierce.net.



More Homeschooling


  • s-NO-w Day

    The world won't come to a halt if you spend the snow day with your kids

    Peter Shankman offers some great advice on what to do with that surprise snow day read more »
  • Words to soothe the angry child

    The right phrase can make all the difference

    Pandemic or no, children can get really mad, really fast. The folks at motherly offer some strategic phrases that can help de-escalate any number of situations, from toddler-hood to the teen years. It’s never too early to teach anger management. read more »
  • Time outs reframed as “safe space”

    Constructive ways to help your child cool down

    In decades past, “standing in the corner” was a punishment norm. It morphed into “time out,” which is changing yet again. Here are some helpful views on this evolving form of discipline. read more »
  • Tips for teaching kids mindfulness

    It’s never too early or too late to start

    The prospect of teaching mindfulness techniques to children can be daunting. Meggie Seaver at Real Simple offers tips to help make it easy. read more »
  • Tips for balancing working from home with remote learning

    A few tweaks in your routine will do wonders

    Some experts – including parents – offer some helpful “hacks” to help you achieve work/parenting balance read more »
  • Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America Day

    These books have been loved by kids and parents for decades

    Dr. Seuss has helped parents teach tolerance, respect and more with his beautiful stories. Read Across America Day is celebrated on his birthday. Here are some of our favorites from this beloved author for you to read to your kids. read more »
  • Teach your kid to meditate

    Tips for toddlers, preschoolers, elementary-age, tweens, and teens

    Care for the mind is as important as care for the body, especially for kids. Mediation is a great way to help them help themselves. read more »
  • Vision boards show the way

    You kid’s pictures will speak louder than words

    A vision board is a powerful way for both you and your child to get to know themselves and their desires. read more »
  • Indoor spots for teens to play

    Older kids need exercise too

    A list of places for teens to have fun indoors read more »
  • A child shall lead them

    Four things parents have learned from their kids during Covid

    A pleasant surprise of the pandemic has been the strength and resilience of children. These parents learned a lot. read more »