I remember as a young girl going for walks with my mom and being surprised that she seemed to know the name of every bird and tree we passed. She even knew the names of the weeds in the ditch.
Sadly, few children growing up today are learning about the world around them. I’ve seen this amazing fact that the average person can recognize over 1,000 corporate logos, but fewer than ten plants and animals native to their area. This is hard for me to fathom, and yet so many children are growing up glued to technology. They have little time to explore the world around them.
We value what we know about, so doesn’t it make sense for our children to learn the names and habits of the plants and animals that are around them. If the future generation doesn’t know about the wildlife or the plant life around them, will they care if it is destroyed? I, for one, am grateful for those who have had a vision to set aside the land for our National and State Parks, and I hope there will always be people who value the beautiful world God has made for us.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to study nature is to learn more about God. Psalms 19:1 says that “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” The more we study the world God has made, the more we can learn about him. We can see God’s creativity as we observe the variety of birds or flowers He’s made, His wisdom as we study how even the tiniest animal is complexly formed, and His greatness as we study the vast universe which stretches out farther than our mind can comprehend.
We love giving our boys good books about nature that will feed their curiosity and instruct them about the world around them. Here are some great nature books that we’ve bought for our children.
The Work of Thy Fingers by Pablo Yoder
The Work of Thy Fingers is a great book to introduce your children to the wonders of God’s creation. There are beautiful photos throughout the book and fascinating stories written by the author taken from his time growing up in South America. Our third son has always been very curious and observant. This is the same boy that I found out recently once tried to see if he could generate enough static electricity to set the mosquito net on fire by rolling around madly in his bed. This was the perfect book to feed his interest in nature.
My Father’s World by Pablo Yoder
My Father’s World is written by the same author and is filled with more interesting facts and stories about God’s creation. There are twenty-five chapters, each featuring a different animal or plant. Beautiful, full-color photographs are found throughout the book. This book will inspire your child to look more closely at the world around them.
Moon Finder by Jay Ryan
Moonfinder is the story of a young boy who learns about the moon’s phases from his father as they watch the changing moon each night.
We bought this book for our youngest son a number of years ago. He went through a stage where he was in love with the moon. I think most children are fascinated by this bright, white ball that hangs magically from the sky, but our son’s interest was intensified by the fact that we slept outside for a couple months of the year, due to the intense heat where we were living. One notices things about the sky when he sleeps under it week after week. This book explains clearly and simply the phases of the moon and what causes them.
The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith
When Mimi finds out her favorite words—simple words, like apricot, blackberry, buttercup—are disappearing from the English language, she elects her granddaughter Brook as their Keeper. And did you know? The only way to save words is to know them.
This book (as well as the larger and more poetic book Lost Words) is based on the fact that in 2007, when a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published, around forty common words concerning nature had been dropped from the dictionary and replaced with words having to do with technology.
Julia Rothman is known for her beautifully illustrated nature books. This handsome box set provides hours of enlightening entertainment for those curious about farm life, the natural world, and food.
Find the Constellations by H. A. Rey
If the author and cover of this book look familiar, it is because the author also wrote the popular Curious George books (hence the bright yellow cover). Find the Constellations is a fascinating and easy to understand introduction to the constellations. This book would make a great gift for a budding astronomer.
Made in Heaven by Ray Comfort and Jeffrey Seto
We bought this book for our science-loving son who cannot read enough about inventions. Made in Heaven is a book that talks about inventions that were patterned after things found in nature How neat is that! You might have known that Velcro was invented by observing a burdock burr, but did you know that the observation of a creature called a ship worm led to safer tunneling techniques, and that scientists are studying a mosquito’s stinger to work on developing pain-free needles?
What kind of nature book do you get for a history buff? What about one that offers evidence that the dragons of ancient times were the same as the dinosaurs we know today from fossil records. Dire Dragons does just that. The book examines ancient artwork from around the world and concludes from the accurate depictions of dinosaurs made by ancient man that dinosaurs and man were alive at the same time, and what modern science calls dinosaur is another name for the dragons of old. We bought this for our oldest son who loves reading about history.
What Tree is That? by Arbor Day Foundation
I really love this book. What Tree is That? is an easy-to-use guide that helps you identify the trees you encounter.
It asks a series of questions that lead you to identify the tree in question. As you follow the questions with the correct answer it’s like working on a puzzle, and you have this satisfying feeling when you get to the end that you have indeed solved it.
There are clear illustrations throughout to help you choose the correct answers.
Fun With Nature by Mel Boring
While by no means comprehensive, Fun With Nature helps young children identify the animals in their neighborhood. It describes the animals, tracks, scat (droppings), and habitat. It also has a section on trees and fun nature activities that your child can do.
A good field guide is essential to identifying the birds in your area. We like the Peterson field guides. Make sure you buy one that is for your location. It can be a lot of fun to see how many different birds you can identify in one year’s time. My husband’s family usually had a contest at the beginning of each year to see who could see and identify the most birds that year. He said the contest usually fizzled out before the year was over, but he’s still a long way ahead of me when it comes to bird identification.
One last resource we have really enjoyed in the past is Nature Friend Magazine.
These magazines have interesting stories about nature, but the part my children liked best is the monthly art lessons. I was amazed at some of the art work they produced. Your children are welcome to submit their drawings, and some of them are featured each month. The drawings are not necessarily chosen on skill level, so everyone has a chance to have their art work featured.
The magazine also holds an annual story contest and reader’s issue where the readers can submit material for the magazine. This encourages your children to keep their eyes open during the year for a great nature story to share. One year my son was just overjoyed that his story about an antlion was picked to be included.
I’m sure there are a lot of other great resources to encourage your children to interact with nature. What are some of your favorites?