With short days and gloomy weather, it’s hard to get motivated to go outside in winter.
When nature isn’t cooperating, the next best thing (at least in my opinion) are books about nature.
I teach nature education to primary school students and have found that books do wonders to motivate kids (and myself) do get outside in winter. They also make great primers for introducing fun nature activities. These books are some of my favourites.
By Megan Wagner Lloyd
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Finding Wild is an excellent book for getting kids excited about exploring any environment and tuning into all of their senses.
We get to see a sampling of all sorts of wild, including in urban environments.
My favourite is to go out for a bug hunt after reading this. If the weather is really terrible, you could even turn this into an adventure of finding wild in the house. I guarantee you’ll find a spider somewhere if you look hard enough, even in the cleanest house.
Winter Is Coming
By Tony Johnston
Illustrated by Jim LeMarche
Winter is Coming starts off in the autumn with the main character quietly watching and journaling from her platform in a tree.
It moves through the seasons, observing the plants, animals, and weather patterns as the land eases into winter.
Beautiful language and illustrations will draw you and your kids right into her world. If you want to do nature journalling or sit spots with your kids, this is a great way to introduce it.
It’s also a great reminder to keep an eye on the changing environment next time you are playing outside.
By Jan Yolen
Illustrated by John Shoennherr
Owl Moon is absolutely beautiful.
A young girl goes on a much anticipated “owling” walk with her father. They walk through the dark woods searching for owls.
The girl describes the eerie stillness of a cold winter’s night, as well as the wonder and excitement of exploring a new place and searching for something exciting.
Naturally, this is a great book to read before a nighttime wilderness exploration.
If You Find a Rock
By Peggy Christian
Photographs by Barabara Hirsch Lember
With the living things in the environment laying low, winter is the perfect time to look at rocks.
If You Find a Rock explores all the different types of rocks, but you won’t find quartzite or granite. Instead, you’ll learn about the likes of resting rocks, memory rocks, and walking rocks. This can be followed up by going outside and hunting down some of the rocks found in the book, and naming ones that don’t fit into the books categories.
Everybody Needs a Rock
By Byrd Baylor
Illustrated by Peter Parnall
Everybody Needs a Rock covers the ten rules of finding the perfect rock. Advice like “you should choose a rock when everything is quiet”.
Once you read it, of course, you’ll need to go outside so everyone can find their own special rocks. While it may seem a tad similar to If You Find A Rock, I love this one because there is so much focus on finding just one special rock.
This is a great book to read around Christmas as a reminder to your kids (and you) that comfort can be found in something as simple as a special rock.
Over and Under the Snow
By Kate Messner
Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Over and Under the Snow jumps between the forest, as we see it, and the hidden world under the snow.
It describes how animals use the snow to stay warm and hidden and the various ways that animals, both over and under the snow, survive winter, and how their worlds are still crucially linked.
This can be a great book to read before exploring the woods on a winter’s day, but can also be a great excuse to build a snow fort or, in the absence of snow, a fort with whatever materials are available.
Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints
By Millicent E. Selsam
Illustrated by: Marlene Hill Donelly
Big Tracks, Little Tracks gives kids a chance to use clues such as tracks, scat, and leftover food to figure out what aminal was visiting the area and what it was doing.
I like this one because it doesn’t just focus on tracks, but also animals behaviour. It teaches kids to look hard for clues about what might be happening outside when they aren’t around.
With plenty of snow and mud around, winter is a great time to practice tracking skills. Even tracking a cat or a dog around the garden can be great fun.
The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder
By Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson
The Story of Snow is an excellent non-fiction book for a snowy day.
The focus is on how snow is formed, and why no two snowflakes are exactly alike. It also gives advice on the best way to catch and observe snowflakes.
Save this one for a snowy day and spend some time investigating snowflakes. You can also conduct other snow experiments such as comparing how long it takes snow to melt in different conditions (different locations inside and outside, with salt or other ingredients mixed in, compressed vs. fluffy).
The Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story of John James Audobon
By Jacqueline Davies
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
The Boy Who Drew Birds tells the story of the young John James Audobon, who went on to become one of history’s greatest ornithologists.
As a boy in the early 1800s, he spent hours observing and drawing birds. Though his observation, he comes up with a way to solve the question of where birds go in winter.
This is another great book to get kids excited about nature observation and nature journaling. It also encourages them to ask questions and launch an investigation to find the answers. While many of the birds have departed for warmer places, there is still plenty of fun to be had observing the birds that stick around.
Stock up on local field guides.
While made-for-children guides are useful, I’ve noticed that kids gravitate to the adult field guides. They have plenty of pictures, and kids love that they are able to use an “adult book”.
It’s a great way for them to develop reference and research skills. Stick to ones that have pictures and descriptions on the same page, rather than a section of small writing references a section of coloured photos. Use them to create treasure hunts of a specific tree or plant.
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