Appreciating the Natural World with Young Children

About this resource
Reviewed: 2017

IEL Resource(s)

Online Resource(s)

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Education Division
The Department of Natural Resources web site contains information about educational materials for use in the classroom, teacher workshops, and more. Illinois Department of Natural Resources SMARTBoards™ Lessons  includes lessons linked to the Illinois Early Learning Standards. Lessons include A to Z from a Tree and A Year with Wildlife. Wings, Stings, and Leggy Things: Insects of Illinois is a booklet, which can be downloaded in PDF form, that includes a diagram of an insect and insect life cycles.

Let’s Talk about Insects
This Web site includes a guide to activities such as making models, charting insects, and more. (Also available in Spanish)

My First Garden
This site is designed for use with older children but may be adapted for use in preschool. (Also available in Spanish)

Let’s Go Outside! Books for Young Children about the Natural World
This list is intended for use by teachers and others interested in finding books for children and young teens about the natural world. The age range is given after each title so teachers can choose age-appropriate materials for preschoolers.

Meet a Tree
This article on Education World suggests ways to help children explore trees. Make Your Own Leaf Book is another activity guide that discusses how children can make books to help them remember their leaf observations.

Have You Ever Met a Tree?
This site developed by the University of Michigan includes suggestions related to observing and documenting observations of a tree. This article on Family TLC suggests ways that parents can watch and discuss birds with their children.

Nature Explore
The Nature Explore website provides classroom design services, workshops and conferences, natural products for classrooms, and family resources. This site is also encourages networking and research.

Articles for Families on Nature and the Outdoors
The National Association for the Education of Young Children website provides many articles for families about how to engage in nature activities with children. More articles on the NAEYC website also include Play in a Puddle on a Rainy Day and Engaging Toddlers in Nature Play.

25 Nature Play Ideas for Early Childhood Centers
This brochure by Green Hearts Inc. provides a rationale for why children should spend more time outdoors and why nature play is the best type of play. It also provides 25 ideas for incorporating nature play in early childhood classrooms.

A Parent’s Guide to Nature Play
This article on the Natural Start Alliance website addresses why outdoor play is important and ideas for how parents can encourage outdoor play among their children. The website also provides resources, research, and articles related to the importance of nature play for children.

Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature
Many children spend the majority of their day in childcare. This infosheet created by the Natural Start Natural Learning Initiative discusses the advantages and tips to connect children to the outdoors while they are at childcare.

Science, Language and Literacy, and Math
These five-minute videos put together by the Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center explain how educators can teach concepts (science, language & literacy, and math) using nature. The videos explore using nature indoors and outdoors.

Additional Resource(s)

Discovering Nature with Young Children
Ingrid Chalufour and Karen Worth
Redleaf Press, 2003

Be a Bee and Other Approaches to Introducing Young Children to Entomology
James A. Danoff-Burg
Young Children, 2002

Preschoolers Play with Bamboo
Condie Ward
Teaching Young Children, 2016

Becoming a Nature Explore Classroom
Martha Bass-Nichols and Kevin Carnes
Teaching Young Children, 2013

Preschool Play Plans: Mud- Luscious Play
Blakely Bundy, ​Diane E. Levin, and members of TRUCE
Teaching Young Children, 2018

Our Proud Heritage: Outdoor Play Is Essential to Whole Child Development
Joe Frost and John A. Sutterby
Young Children, 2017

Children in the Garden: A Place to Encounter Natural and Social Diversity
John Nimmo and Beth Hallett
Young Children, 2008

Spotlight on Young Children and Nature
Amy Shillady
National Association for the Education of Young Children. 2011

Experiencing Nature With Young Children: Awakening Delight, Curiosity, and a Sense of Stewardship
Alice Sterling Honig
National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2015

A Little Bit of Dirt
Asia Citro
The Innovation Press, 2016

Out the Door, Let’s Explore!
Rhoda Redleaf
Redleaf Press, 2009

The Great Outdoors: Advocating for Natural Spaces for Young Children
Mary S. Rivkin and Deborah Schein
National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2014

I Love Dirt: 52 Activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature
Jennifer Ward
Roost Books, 2008

Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators
David Sobel
Stenhouse Publishers, 2008

15 Minutes Outside: 365 ways to get out of the house and connect with your kids
Rebecca P. Cohen
Sourcebooks, 2011

Exploring Water with Young Children
Ingrid Chalufour and Karen Worth
Redleaf Press, 2005

Children’s Books

Little Cloud
Eric Carle
Philomel Books, 1998

Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 2009

My Garden
Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 2010

Are You a Ladybug?
Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
Kingfisher, 2003

The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Educators
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, 2014

Little Tree
Loren Long
Philomel Books, 2015

There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom on the Lake
Loren Long
Philomel Books, 2018

From the Garden: A Counting Book About Growing Food
Michael Dahl
Picture Window Books, 2004

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature
Nicola Davies
Candlewick, 2012

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book 
Britta Teckentrup
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2016

A Walk in the Forest
Maria Dek
Princeton Architectural Press, 2017