Ocean Nature Study

Ocean Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

A Quick Note

This post is meant to house all my favorite ocean-themed books and learning resources, but please know I have never gone through ALL of these at one time with my kids! We have done ocean units a few times and each time change the focus a bit—one time was more about whales, another time more about lighthouses and sailing, another time ocean explorers. I follow my kids’ interests! Hopefully this list is helpful to you and not overwhelming.

Without further ado, here are my favorite ocean-themed learning resources!

Nonfiction Books:


Sea Life

Coral Reefs

Ocean Exploration

Humans & the Sea

Sea Birds

Fiction Books:

I have the Marine Biology Unit from The Good & the Beautiful but have not done it with my kids. I know many people love this! 

Printed Resources:
Just For Fun:

Ocean Bingo (LOVE this game!)

Small Figures for Sensory Play and Learning

Peg Dolls

Schleich Ocean Animals (larger toys – the blue whale is our favorite)

DIY Wood Boat and Lighthouse

Coloring Books




Books to Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day Books - The Silvan Reverie

A Note About Earth Day

We are an “Earth Day Every Day” sort of family, but I love the idea of setting a day aside to celebrate our wonderful planet and inspire ourselves and others to care for it.

My kids witness the harm done to our precious natural world with their own personal experience and observation: we find trash in our woods all the time, they have seen signs up in protected spaces asking people to not trample a sensitive area, we observed boat motor scars on the backs of Manatees while on vacation in Florida, and we have talked about how chemicals upstream from us sometimes make our lake unsafe to swim in.

I am not interested in being so heavy-handed with my kids and to forcibly burden them. I mainly focus on giving them an out-of-doors life, care-free, for hours of unstructured time each day. The already love the Earth; I do not need to tell them they should.

“Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life.” -Charlotte Mason

I do find, though, that reading books together we can work out some of that angst we naturally witness and feel. Learning more about our home called Earth, how to care for it, and what a nature-advocate looks like are important lessons and need not be approached in a way that robs children of childhood. We just need to start with love.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall

With that in mind, here is a list of Earth Day inspired stories and reference books.

Picture Books: Fiction

Nonfiction & Reference

Below are some favorite nature nonfiction and reference books we own and peruse often. But first I want to share this previous blog post:

Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies

The post above includes favorite children’s biographies of Jane Goodall, Beatrix Potter, Rachel Carsen, David Attenborough, John James Audubon, John Muir, and many more!

I tried to keep the list above condensed as much as possible, but be sure to also check out these favorite nature-based authors:

Books for Nature Engagement

Books for Parents



Endangered Species Nature Study

Endangered Species Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie





On Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing

**UPDATE 4/11/20 — After writing this post I decided the Wild Hope book is not very kid-friendly. The stories are not very hopeful and longer than the All Creation Waits book (which I still love).

Wild Hope is a guided devotional for Lent by Gayle Boss. As a family we have been going through Gayle Boss’s All Creation Waits for three years now during Advent, and I am excited to read through Wild Hope this year for Lent. All Creation Waits is themed on animals’ adaptations to winter; Wild Hope is themed on endangered species.

So why focus on endangered species for Lent?

“The purpose of Lent has always been to startle us awake to the true state of our hearts and the world we’ve made. Which wakes an aching, wild hope that something new might be born of the ruin. The promise of Lent is that something will be born of the ruin… Lent is seeded with resurrection.” (Gayle Boss, Wild Hope)

We open our hearts and souls up to the animals who suffer, the “least of these” and feel their suffering as our own.





Bears Nature Study

Bears Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Nonfiction Books:
Fiction Books:

Great for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

Early Chapter Books





Favorite Tree Books for Children

Favorite Tree Books For Children - The Silvan Reverie

Tree Narratives for Children

A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry

A poetic ode to the beauty of the presence of trees in our everyday lives. The simplicity is perfect and a lovely depiction of childhood.

*Great for preschoolers

Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker

An allegorical depiction of a young girl standing up against deforestation. Based on Greta Thunberg’s life, this is also a testament to the power of community coming together.

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers

I love ALL of The Fan Brothers books, and this one does not disappoint. A man transforms the spirit of a town and the life of an orphan boy by designing whimsical topiaries each night in secret. Charming and sweet. The best kind of story.

Tall, Tall Tree by Anthony Fredericks

A lyrical counting book in a giant redwood ecosystem. Learn about all that lives in this unique habitat — perfect for anyone totally enthralled by these giant trees.

*Great for preschoolers

The Little Fir Tree by Christoper Corr

You can view more of my favorite Holiday evergreen trees on my Conifers Nature Study post. I’m including this one on my “regular” list because the story is a classic one — based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale. Our family loves these illustrations so much!

Seeds and Trees by Brandon Walden

A powerful story about friendship and kind words and the state of our hearts. Emotions are represented as good trees and bad trees, and the visual landscape is stunning. A beautiful story with an important and timeless message.

The Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree by Naoko Stoop

A library built into the nook of a tree in the woods with friendship at the root? Who wouldn’t want such a thing! This book has been a long-time favorite in our family. So sweet.

The Shady Tree by Demi

A Chinese fable about greed versus generosity. This book has the similar unforeseen shift in story like The Empty Pot.

Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins

Is there anything NOT to love about treehouses? This book imagines all the possibilities of treehouses in the spirit of all children. So imaginative and inviting!

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon

Such a charming story with a female protagonists who solves a windy problem by planting trees. This just so happens to be a legitimate environmentally-friendly solution!

The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward

A simple rhyming story about the life of an old oak tree and all of the life it supports. The details are quite lovely and I find this so charming and simple.

*Great for preschoolers

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

This is the true story of Kate Sessions who was instrumental in bringing trees from around to the world to a little desert town known as San Diego.

This book also appears on my Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies.

Tree by Britta Teckentrup

A peek-through book that depicts a single tree through all four seasons. Lots to enjoy on each page and the story is rhythmical and lovely.

*Great for preschoolers

Redwoods by Jason Chin

A fun depiction of the the power of books and the mystery of the redwood forests. A boy imagines himself into the redwood forests as he learns important facts. This is one of those nonfiction-books-disguised-as-fiction. Unique and fun!

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This classic. I can remember reading this so many times as a kid. The tree is so simply illustrated and yet incredible impactful in the imaginations of many.

Maple by Lori Nichols

There are other books in this series and they are a lot about the sisters Maple & Willow and their relationship. I love the idea that a child can find friendship in a tree, or really anything natural in their yard.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses by Shira Boss

The title explains the bulk of this story — a true story about Bob Redman, an arborist in New York City, and his passion for trees. Most naturalists do in fact have close ties with nature as children.

A Year Around the Great Oak by Gerda Muller

I love Gerda Muller so much! This book is a wonderful depiction of a tree through the seasons and how the children relate to it. Also the tree in this book is a 300 year old gorgeous oak tree!

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

There are several Fletcher books but I particularly love this one. I adore Fletcher’s desperation to save his tree because he doesn’t understand that the leaves falling is totally natural. Too sweet.

Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves by Annemarie Riley Guertin

A stunningly illustrated tale about kindness, told as a classic story. We learn why Cardinals do not migrate south in the winter AND why evergreens keep their leaves. Thanks to a little generosity from the trees and magic from Jack Frost.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

A hilariously absurd story from Oliver Jeffers that will have everyone giggling. Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree one day and then cycles through increasingly crazy objects to fling up in the tree to free the kite.

The Things That I Love About Trees by Chris Butterworth

I adore the illustrations in this book and the fact that it takes you through all four seasons and describes things to appreciate about trees in each season. A lovely depiction of a childhood spent in nature.


Peter and the Tree Children by Peter Wohlleben — April 2020

Under My Tree by Muriel Tallandier — April 2020

Holiday Evergreen Tree Books

Favorite Holiday Tree Books - The Silvan Reverie

See this blog post: Conifers Nature Study for a list of favorite holiday books featuring evergreen trees.

Tree Nonfiction Books For Children

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups

This book is a great crossover from a field guide to a nonfiction read. It is not meant to be a field guide but could work that way for you. Each tree gets a 2-page spread and I think it is nicely representative of North American species.

Tell Me, Tree

Gail Gibbons is the Queen of nature books! And this one does not disappoint. Tell Me, Tree is a little different in style than her other books, but she always has a great balance of text and images to keep the reader interested.

The Magic and Mystery of Trees

This is such a fun reference book to learn all about trees. I think pretty much anything you can think of is covered in this book! The illustrations are appealing to kids but I think do a great job of referencing true-to-life imagery.

Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees

If you have followed me for any time on Instagram, you will know how much I love the Crinkleroot books. This is a nonfiction learning book, but a true living book with a wonderful narrative that presents information through story and not just facts.

Trees: A Rooted History

This book is one of those appealing coffee-table type books that I often feel appeal more to adults than children. BUT, I will honestly say that my kids love this book. I think it helps that it is specific to trees and there is a whole world about trees to explore on these oversized pages. It’s beautiful and engaging.

Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them

This book is so fascinating. I personally love learning about trees around the world and going beyond the trees we see everyday.

Favorite Tree Field Guides

The Sibley Guide to Trees

This has to be my favorite field guide (of any category) that we own! I consider this a must-own for any nature-loving family. It is perfect.

Peterson First Guide to Trees

These Peterson “First Guide” series are great for children! They are compact and information is not overwhelming. Obviously this will not be as extensive, but I think it is a great first place to get into field guides.

National Audubon Society: Field Guide to Trees (Eastern Edition)

The National Audubon Society guides use real photos as opposed to illustrations, which I think many find helpful. The photos are often organized in ways that children and non-botanists think about what they are seeing: color and shape. You can peruse a real photo section of yellow fall leaves, or acorns, or berries. So helpful!

Tree Finder

This is a simple booklet in black-and-white that is great for learning botanical terms and working through a decision-tree to get to the answer.

Winter Tree Finder

Similar to above, this is so helpful for identifying winter trees.

Sibley’s Common Trees of Trails and Forest of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest

This is obviously a very specific guide to my region, but I wanted to say that I highly recommend finding a tree guide as specific as you can find to your region. This reduces the sample size in your field guide when trying to identify something you see in your area. Especially for kids, something like this is much less daunting than perusing the Sibley guide I mentioned above.

Other Booklists of Note

You may also be interested in the following booklists on my website:

Favorite Bird Books for Children
Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies

Wild Cats Nature Study

Wild Cats Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Nonfiction Books:
Fiction Books:

There are a great number of children’s books that feature tigers and lions, so I am not even going to bother listing them (though I will put in a shout-out for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, an all-time family favorite).

For other wild cats, check out these titles:


Phenology Made Easy

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

For all of 2019 I kept a Phenology Wheel, one for each month. This type of wheel requires hours of work each month and is something I personally enjoy and find meaningful. However, I understand there is a desire to do this sort of thing but not everyone feels they have the time or is comfortable committing to that much illustration work.

So, with that in mind, I thought I would share some resources to invite you do participate in a phenological study for 2020 in a way that’s inviting and meaningful, but takes less time.

What is Phenology?

Phenology is simply a recorded journal of what is happening in the natural world where you live over time. Theoretically you could have recorded data for year after year and be able to compare important seasonal shifts, like what day did you hear the first Red-winged Blackbird reappear in spring? When did the first Daffodil bloom? When did your favorite tree lose all its leaves? When was the first snow?

A phenological record can be many things: a wheel is a nice visual tool that looks pretty, but keep in mind you don’t need to have something that detailed to record your phenological year!!

Two great inspiring people who held a passion for Phenology are Edith Holden and Aldo Leopold. Both of these mostly have written records just like you would record a journal:

You don’t need to illustrate everything, is all I’m saying! In fact, you do not need to do any illustration at all to keep a Phenology Journal!

I keep a draft document on my computer and write in a few notes here and there as days pass. No illustration, just a quick note: “Spotted bobcat tracks on 1/15.” Simple. Easy. Quick. But it still has meaning and value — it’s so fun to go back over the whole year and read through and remember those experiences even if I do not have an illustration to match in my Phenology Wheel journal.

Phenology Resources Made Easy

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

First, one of my favorite resources is this:

Lynn’s Guide is so thorough and wonderful! She explains the whole process and provides many examples. She also provides a lot of ideas for what to include in your wheel! This tool is an excellent resource that is also kid-friendly. My own kids are excited about doing one like this in 2020.

Okay, so in my Phenology Wheel for every day of the year I track sunrise/sunset, daily low/high temperature, weather, and the moon phase. Below are other resources you could use as a way to mark your phenological study this year without the need to do all of that illustration yourself:

If you are using Lynn’s Phenology Wheel Guide you could easily add to your page simple data for each month (represented as one wedge of the wheel) such as:

  • Total precipitation for each month
  • Average temperature
  • Full moon name

This alleviates the time commitment to track this information every single day of the year.

Or, here’s the thing — as I said before, you do not have to have a Phenology Wheel in order to keep a Phenology Journal! You could simply use a few of the above resources to keep track of the moon and/or temperature, and then keep a written record in a notebook of what you notice in nature. No illustration required!

Favorite Nature Journal Resources

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

On this blog post I detail how I create my Phenology Wheels for each month and what resources I use to create it.

I plan to use the same notebooks with watercolor paper for my kids to do their phenology wheel, which will be just one year represented by 12 wedges.

I’m excited for another year of discovery and paying attention, being present to the created world and its natural rhythms, which root us in a real embodied life gifted to us.

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berry

Happy 2020!



Winter Solstice Nature Study & Celebration

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - The Silvan Reverie

Winter Solstice Books

A Few Other Books That Fit the Theme

Winter Solstice Learning

I also used this 24-Hour Pie Printout to have my kids count out the difference in daylight hours we experience in the Summer vs. Winter Solstice (see photo above for my son counting using math manipulatives with the sheet).

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - The Silvan Reverie

Winter Solstice Poetry

We love other seasonal-based poetry like A Year of Nature Poems, Around the Year, and Sing A Song of Seasons.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - The Silvan Reverie

Activities to Celebrate


We made simple orange pomanders using clementines and whole cloves, paired with The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow. I find that the clementines are easier for small hands, but if your kids need extra help they can always poke the orange first with a toothpick and then push in the cloves.

Pomanders today are created for beautiful decorations and for a nice aroma. In Medieval times these were made for good fortune and to ward off illness.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - The Silvan Reverie


You could do paper suns, sun catchers in the window, sun luminaries, or any number of crafts you can think of to celebrate the sun!

We chose this year to make Salt Dough Sun Ornaments to hang on our Christmas tree.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - The Silvan Reverie

Salt Dough Recipe:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Combine ingredients & knead until incorporated. Roll & cut into desired shapes. (Add a hole for string with a straw if making ornaments). Bake at low temp (200-250 degrees) for 1-2 or let air dry. I usually to a combination of air dry + oven dry. Usually we paint a day or two after we have cut the shapes.

Once they are dry you can paint them. We use watercolors! You may want to seal the finished items with Mod Podge or something similar to preserve.


We use this simple Make Your Own Beeswax Candle Kit to roll beeswax candles — maybe next year we will get in to using melted wax! This kit has lasted us a long time, by the way.

Light is lacking in winter so of course we bring it inside and relish the light we can.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - The Silvan Reverie


We have been reading through All Creation Waits during Advent the last several years and it’s always lovely to consider the natural world this time of year and the extent to which their bodies expend themselves to survive the harsh cold and barren world.

The kids are usually inspired to help our animal friends out, making sure our bird feeders are always full.

We also like to make simple Pinecone Bird Feeders. Great books to pair with this activity are The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader and Night Tree by Eve Bunting.

Simply cover a pinecone in peanut butter, dip & roll in bird seed, then hang outside where you can see and birdwatch!

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - The Silvan Reverie


We made frozen ice orbs using an idea I found in Whatever the Weather: Science Experiments and Art Activities that Explore the Wonder of Weather.

  • Fill balloons with water and place in a bowl (coated with vegetable oil so the balloons don’t freeze together).
  • Set outside in below-freezing temps (make sure the bowl isn’t in the sun), and wait until they freeze solid.
  • Peel off the balloons (use scissors or a knife to help) and enjoy your ice orbs!

After marveling for a bit, we decided to set ours outside in the sun to do an experiment on the sun — and see how long they take to melt.

This is a fun and engaging science lesson on water phases, temperature, and the power of the sun!

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - The Silvan Reverie

Enjoy a quiet family hike together — even if it’s not exactly on the Solstice. Pay close attention to sights and sounds. Nature journal your experience together.


Because we have access to fruits and vegetables and modern refrigeration, I think there is something lost in our ability to feel the frugality and sparseness winter demands. Try to imagine what living through the winter meant 150 years ago!

To honor a sense of gratitude for winter meals, try creating a simple seasonal meal like soup or roasted root vegetables and homemade bread. One of my favorite cookbooks to this end is Simply in Season.





Conifers Nature Study

Conifers Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Fiction Books:
Holiday Themed Fiction Books:
Nonfiction Books:
Conifers Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Conifers Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

A Little Note

Remember that terminology is important! Not all conifers are evergreen, and not all evergreens are conifers.



DIY Advent Wreath

DIY Advent Wreath - The Silvan Reverie


I made this Advent Wreath to pair with Slow + Sacred Advent, which is a main part of this year’s Advent celebrations for our family.


DIY Advent Wreath - The Silvan Reverie

How To

Note: most of these are kid-friendly steps! It’s was a fun project to sit and do together.

1. Drill 4 grooves into your wood slice using a 1-inch spade drill bit.

DIY Advent Wreath - The Silvan Reverie

2. Roll 4 beeswax candles & place in the grooves.

3. Create oven-bake clay circles and carve the symbols from Slow + Sacred Advent into them (seed, star, scepter, heart). When dry, paint or color in grooves.

We use these biscuit cutters all the time for clay and salt dough projects.

DIY Advent Wreath - The Silvan Reverie

4. Air-pop some popcorn (do not use butter!) and string with cranberries in a pattern using needle + thread.

5. Make some dried orange slices:

  • Preheat oven to 250 F
  • Slice oranges about 1cm think
  • Lay flat on a rack over a cookie sheet
  • Bake 2-3 hours until dry, flipping a few times.
  • You can string these for festive garlands as well.

DIY Advent Wreath - The Silvan Reverie