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Outdoor books for kids - Cooking, Making, and Nature

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Jan 2013; updated Apr 2023.

Here's a collection of books for kids, from campfire cooking to den making to discovering nature.

So if you are a parent, you can find plenty of books to help get the kids outside.

But what about books that kids can read?

As any parent will know, if your child gets interested in a book, they are more likely to want to do it themselves.  So we set about finding a list of good books written for kids themselves.

Cooking in a Can

Cooking in a Can book

Kids love campfires...but don't worry, this book won't get them burning everything in sight!

It includes outdoor activities, games, and stories - but of course, all centred around the campfire - and it's full of drawings that should grab your child's attention.

(You can find campsites that allow campfires here).

This book contains recipes that kids can do, generally by cooking in a used tin can, but it also covers cooking in a paper bag, in leaves, and even making toast on hot rocks.  It even gets into cooking with a Dutch Oven.

We've tried cooking in a can with variable results, but it's always been fun for the kids.  The fact that it is a bit of an 'experiment' adds to the fun.  Just be sure they remember that the cans will get very hot.

I have found some hot gloves really useful for campfire cooking.

You can get some children's oven gloves that do a similar thing, though it's probably best that mum or dad get the hot cans out of the fire.

The book starts by getting kids prepared (such as making a cooking apron and campfire cook's notebook), setting up camp, and collecting the right firewood for the campfire (this is all useful stuff that will help on a family camp).

Cooking on a Stick

Cooking on a stick book

Cooking on a Stick is a sister book to Cooking in a Can.  This is good fun, and you can also use this experience to teach your children the correct and safe way to use a penknife when preparing cooking sticks (see this article on children's penknives - you can get some specially designed for children that can be a little bit safer).

As with Cooking on a Stick, this book starts with gathering the materials for a fire, and once again, it is aimed at kids - though with some adult help (and possibly adult reading - i.e. more of a 'family' book).

Amazon sometimes does some multi-buy deals, but we recommend the more recent Cooking in a Can book if you want to choose just one of these books.

The Stick Book

Cooking with a Stick Book

Following 'Cooking with a Stick', 'The Stick Book' book provides many ideas about making things with a stick.

Rather than illustrations, this book contains photos to help engage your kids, even if you must help them follow the instructions.

The Stick Book

It includes the basics, such as making and cooking over a fire, or building a den, but also gets into things that kids love, such as bows and arrows, swords, catapults, wizards wand, and creating animals from sticks and other things you find lying around.


When at a campsite, do not cut down the plants and trees. If you do, you are causing damage to someone's property. Instead, look for twigs that have fallen naturally from the trees, or take the wood with you.

Make sure your children know that they shouldn't be chopping off plants or snapping twigs and branches off trees.

Make it Wild!

Make Wild Book

Similar to the book above (it's by the same authors), is Make it Wild!  Going beyond sticks, this book goes further by using more materials.

As with the previous book, there is a lot of photography to give your kids some ideas, but we feel this book is aimed more at older children (teenagers) or for adults to help with coming up with activities.

Go Wild

Go Wild Book

Go Wild is another book similar to above, but a bit more towards the survival and bushcraft side of things.

There are lots of photos and tips, and it covers things like foraging to making fires.

Go Wild

Warning: These books are great for kids also to look through and get inspired as they show photos of other children doing the activities. However, Go Wild does include skinning a rabbit, so if your child has a pet rabbit, this book could put them off.

Nature in a Nutshell

Nature in a Nutshell book

Still within the activities and building theme, Nature in a Nutshell has lots of things to help build your child's awareness and appreciation of nature.

The book's contents are not brightly coloured as the cover suggests, but black and white illustrations are inside.

This book would probably be good for kids 10-12 years old.

The Nature Detectives Handbook

Nature Detectives Book

The Nature Detectives Handbook has been created with the Woodland Trust (with a foreword by Ray Mears).

Rather than building activities, this book aims at helping kids identify wildlife.

A few books are in the series: British Wildlife Detectives' Handbook and Tree Detective Handbook.

The Wild Weather Book

Wild Weather Book

The Wild Weather Book is by the same people that made The Stick Book above.

This is another photo book with many tips to keep people occupied in the rain, wind, or snow.

The Wild Weather Book

I Love My World

I love my world book

The 'I Love My World' book is full of great ideas to do with your kids outside, which also teaches them about nature and the environment.

You could fit a few of the books above into this one book - it's packed with ideas.

However, unlike the glossy photos and print in something like The Stick Book, the* I Love My World* book's print and photos are very poor, and nothing like the front cover (as I've tried to show in the photo above). 

This is a real shame as the content of this book is fantastic, but it's let down by poor presentation, which can make it a little harder to digest compared to many of the other outdoor kid's books.

I Love My World

Don't expect your kids to want to flick through this book, but if you can get over the cheap printing, there are many good ideas here.

Hopefully, you'll find a useful list to help engage the kids on your next family camp or trip into the great outdoors.