Books · Nature Study · Uncategorized

Favorite Children’s Books About Evolution

Evolution Books for 3-5 Year Olds

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Lisa Westberg Peters, Illustrated by Lauren Stringer
  • Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Jonathan Tweet, Illustrated by Karen Lewis
  • Published by: Feiwel & Friends

Evolution Books for 5-8 Year Olds

The Story of Life: A First Book About Evolution

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Catherine Barr and Steve Williams, Illustrated by Amy Husband
  • Published by: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Sabina Radeva
  • Published by: Crown Books for Young Readers

Who Will It Be? How Evolution Connects Us All

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Paola Vitale, Illustrated by Rossana Bossù
  • Published by: Blue Dot Kids Press

Charles Darwin (Little People, Big Dreams)

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Illustrated by Mark Hoffman
  • Published by: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure

Evolution Books for 7-11 Year Olds

When We Became Humans: Our Incredible Evolutionary Journey

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Michael Bright, Illustrated by Hannah Bailey
  • Published by: words & pictures

When Darwin Sailed the Sea

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By David Long, Illustrated by Sam Kalda
  • Published by: Wide Eyed Editions

When Plants Took Over the Planet

  • Upcoming publication: August 17, 2021
  • By Chris Thorogood, Illustrated by Amy Grimes
  • Published by: QEB Publishing

Life Through Time: The 700-Million-Year Story of Life on Earth

Evolution Books for 9-12 Year Olds

Amazing Evolution: The Journey of Life

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Anna Claybourne, Illustrated by Wesley Robins
  • Published by: Ivy Kids

When the Whales Walked: And Other Incredible Evolutionary Journeys

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Dougal Dixon, Illustrated by Hannah Bailey
  • Published by: words & pictures

The Story of Life: Evolution

  • By Katie Scott
  • Published by: Templar Publishing

Continental Drift

Honorable Mentions

The following books deal with life on Earth as a whole but are not specifically about evolution. These are all fantastic reads.

Older Than the Stars (ages 3-5)

You Are Stardust (ages 5-8)

Life Story (ages 7-11)

Video Flip-Through

Watch the following video on my YouTube channel for an inside look at the titles mentioned above. Thanks for viewing!

For More of my Favorite Nature-Based Books

Please see my most current lists on Amazon and be sure to follow me on Goodreads for children’s book reviews!

This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Books · Uncategorized

New and Notable Nature-Based Picture Books For Spring

The Spring Equinox has arrived which means it’s time for flowers and rain and birds and gardening and insects and so much more! While I love many things about winter, there is so much joy and wonder to be had in nature in spring.

And, to help usher in spring, I thought I would share a few of my favorite new and upcoming picture books for children ages 3-7. I tend to share a lot of nature nonfiction on here, but there are so many wonderful picture books that celebrate nature and engage children in this age group in a world of beauty and wonder.

Hopefully these books will be enjoyed by many families while outdoor picnicking this spring!

Busy Spring: Nature Wakes Up by Shawn Taylor and Alex Morss

Quarto Kids – March 16, 2021 – Ages 3-6

From gardening to pond dipping and nesting birds to insect life, spring brings so many wonders and promise of newness. All of this is captured beautifully through a narrative and then several pages of nonfiction detail in Busy Spring: Nature Wakes Up. Children will love peeking in to the life of a family as they explore the outdoors in springtime, taking in all of the changes. Illustrations are charming and befitting the season, while the narrative moves and holds your attention.

Several pages at the end of this book serve for further detail to learn about what exactly spring is and what plants and animals are doing during this time. This is a nice opportunity to explore the topic for the older children, but the book still nicely combines the science with a lovely preceding narrative.

Have You Ever Seen A Flower? by Shawn Harris

Chronicle Books – May 4, 2021 – Ages 3-5

Have You Ever Seen A Flower? is a lovely celebration of both nature and childhood as well as the life-giving connection between the two! I think children would love to literally dive in to this book. The illustrations are captivating and MOVE with the story, literally zooming in as the narrative takes you closer and closer. The story asks: have you ever seen a flower? have you ever BEEN a flower? It’s brilliant in it’s simplicity and meaning. Imagination is such a wonderful way to connect with children, especially in nature-based settings. It’s a good reminder to adults, even, to slow down and pay attention.

My Nana’s Garden by Dawn Casey

Templar Books (Candlewick Press) – March 23, 2021 – Ages 3-7

My Nana’s Garden is a touching story of togetherness, love, and the natural cycles of life. The depiction of Nana’s garden through the seasons and over years mirrors the life-death-rebirth cycle in the lives of those tending the garden. We follow a little girl as she explores her Nana’s garden in all its splendor, then through the change in season we see her deal with the grief of the loss of her Nana. We further pass through the years as the little girl grows into a woman and has a child of her own, the two of them tending the same garden together as we saw in the beginning.

Illustrations are bold and inviting–I love all the detail as it captures the beauty and wonder of gardening well. Fittingly, winter is the time when Nana passes away and her granddaughter feels the weight of this loss. “The world is hushed. Nothing grows.” Nana’s death is represented with an empty chair, which shows the sensitivity towards this target age group while not shying away from raw and real emotions.

I love the multi-generational celebration, diverse representation, and powerful connection between women represented in this story.

Grasshopper by Tatiana Ukhova

Greystone Kids – May 4, 2021 – Ages 4-7

Grasshopper is a stunning and captivating wordless picture book with lots of pages to explore and dive in to a garden with a little girl, wondering at the impact she has on even the smallest of creatures.

I think the idea here is to consider both the point of view of the girl AND the little creatures. There can be a harsh reality and even savagery to both the way nature operates as well as the human impact on our environment, and this book touches on those very real themes in a age-appropriate way. I appreciate very much the concept and implementation of those themes in a wordless picture book. The impact is there and doesn’t need any text.

I think this book does a great job simultaneously drawing young children in to the wonder and awe that nature provides as we observe it, while also reminding us that we can have a negative impact. There is a way to approach nature with both connection and care as well as respect for what it is without our involvement.

Hello, Rain! by Kyo Maclear

Chronicle Books – April 13, 2021 – Ages 3-5

Hello, Rain! is beautiful and playful celebration of rain! I confess I’m biased because there isn’t a Kyo Maclear book I don’t like, but this one truly is a gem. The illustrations are fun and I love the color palette–the depictions of raindrops as oversized fits the overall tone of the book. I love that the narrative is just a girl and her dog, nothing overdone and hits all the right notes. The way the text is creatively spread across pages is brilliant. A fun read, perfect for spring, and one children will want to live out and revisit.

As Strong as the River by Sarah Noble

Flying Eye Books – March 2, 2021 – Ages 3-7

Who doesn’t absolutely love picture books with bears?! As Strong as the River is a gentle and touching story with beautiful illustrations I can see many young children wanting to revisit over and over at bedtime. It is a story of love and connection between baby bear and mama bear as well as the wonder and excitement of learning new things and growing up. But not too soon, of course. The title, As Strong as the River, hints at the closing message of the story: both mama and baby are big, strong, and beautiful … just like the river. And maybe we are too. The illustrations here have a lovely color palette and neatly depict natural landscapes and details while corresponding nicely with the tone of the book.

*Please note: I was given review copies of these books from the respective publishers. Opinions are my own.

This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

FOR MORE BOOK REVIEWS: See my Goodreads page.
FOR CURATED BOOK LISTS: See my Amazon page.
Books · Uncategorized

Quarto STEAM Club Highlight

The Need for STEAM Books

First — just a quick reminder: STEM represents science, technology, engineering and math. STEAM represents STEM plus the arts – language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, etc.

STEAM-based books for children have become more and more popular lately. Many supply great at-home learning for homeschool curriculum enhancement or just fun project-based books for any school-aged children to spend time exploring on their own or with family members. Children have a wide range of interests when it comes to STEAM topics, and I fully appreciate the value of a physical book to dive in to versus trying to explore the wide world of the internet to find project ideas or lesson plans. Books can go a long way and provide insight, imagination, and skills-based learning.

So, What Is Quarto STEAM Club?

Quarto STEAM Club is a bi-monthly e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date with the new and notable STEAM books for kids. It’s just one email every 2 months to help make shopping for STEAM books easier. In addition to the STEAM-panel’s specific book selections, you will receive:

  • A discount coupon for 40% off the Quarto STEAM Club book picks on
  • A recommended STEAM-based toy
  • Free STEAM-based downloads
  • STEAM-based videos
  • Access to a STEAM Club private Facebook group

I appreciate that joining doesn’t mean you are going to be inundated with email. It’s really simple and fun to see what new books are out there that might interest your children or the whole family. And a 40% discount cannot be beat!

Recent Picks: Five Books and a STEAM-Based Toy

Below are the recent Quarto STEAM Club books & toy selection so you can see more detail:

I absolutely love the concept and delivery of Copycat Science! The comic-strip is a playful and unique way to visualize STEM concepts and meet 50 of the world’s greatest scientists. The book is divided up by topical categories (e.g. biology, electricity & magnetism, light, etc.), and while the book highlights 50 different scientists from varying time periods the focus isn’t to get overly bogged down with historical facts. The page simply highlights the dates a given scientist lived and then throughout the comic strips might define important terms. This book is intended to be fun. All of the associated scientists and topic of interest are paired with activities for children to do, which are nicely illustrated and paired with easy-to-follow-instructions. The idea is to pair a simple experiment with a given scientist and topic so hands-on and visual learners will thrive with this.

The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids is a fun concept! I am a huge fan of kitchen science projects for kids. The idea is that materials used will be things you already have an doesn’t require a huge investment of energy. Chemistry can feel daunting for homeschoolers or families who favor STEAM learning at home, but this book makes it accessible. I love that this book combines projects with real-world scientists and their discoveries, and a diverse range of scientists are included. Kids will first learn about Agnes Pockels, for example, and then do a lab on surface tension. Real photos are included to demonstrate the labs and instructions are clear throughout!

Animal Exploration Lab for Kids contains over 50 project ideas for children (and families) to learn about amazing animals in playful and engaging ways. Each project is highly detailed and includes plenty of real photographs so the instructions are clear. A variety of science concepts are explored — how we study animals, animal adaptations, animal behaviors, animal senses, animal movements, animal families, living alongside animals, and supporting local animals. Kids will enjoy learning about a range of animals through thoughtful labs, including several which are meant for kids to not just learn *about* animals but learn how to respect and care for those around them. It’s a beautiful concept of a book and well implemented.

Adventures in Engineering for Kids is highly detailed, fun, and an engaging STEAM book for children. This book has an incredible concept and will provide excellent learning material for kids interesting in engineering or STEAM as a whole. I love that this book takes kids through an imaginative adventure that is all inter-connected; the projects are connected, inclusive, and challenging in all the right ways. Kids will love the empowered feeling of problem-solving through a fictional journey of epic proportions! So fun.

The Encyclopedia of Insects is an excellent kid-friendly topical encyclopedia. This book is a must-own for bug-loving kiddos and families. The illustrations for each entry are realistic in style and the information presented is concise and helpful. Insects included throughout the book exist worldwide, so it is nice to have a focus not just on where a child might live. That said, what this book might NOT work well for is if you are trying to research insects in your localized area. There may be a few represented but it would be impossible to include so many. The insect world is fascinating and this book does it justice!

The Smart Labs Storm Watcher Weather Lab toy was the Quarto STEAM Club’s recent selection for a STEAM based interactive learning toy. The toy and science projects are all self-contained. In the box is everything you need to conduct a range of weather-based experiments. The booklet included explains all the concepts in detail with clear diagrams. This type of learning toy makes for a great gift for kids who love interactive learning.

My kids pretty much beg for science every day of our homeschool so I feel it’s genuinely lovely to have quality books around with one-off projects to dive in to that won’t cause disruption to our regularly scheduled school plans.

Past STEAM Club Selections

You can view more selections on the Quarto STEAM Club Amazon page. Enjoy!!

Note: I was given copies of all the Quarto STEAM books mentioned in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions are my own.

This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Books · Nature Study · Uncategorized

Dinosaur & Fossils Study Resources

Favorite Dinosaur Books - The Silvan Reverie


*Note that the first of these from DK is for ages 5-8 and the second is ages 9-12

Dinosaur & Fossil Resources - The Silvan Reverie

For Fun

Flash Cards

Fossils Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Fossil Study

Dinosaur Fossils - The Silvan Reverie


Space Mini Unit



We spent about 1 1/2 weeks learning about space, with a special focus this time on space exploration. Two years ago we mainly focused on the planets, which was fun to repeat with my 3 year old. But, my 5 year old had a much greater interest in rockets and rovers and such, so I grabbed a lot more books this time for him.



*The two favorites of my 3 year old. Most other books were more for my 5 year old.

**These were just okay. Interesting for one read, but overall not as engaging.

Reference Books:

Note that we did not sit and read every page of any of these books, but flipped through and read what interested the kids at the time. My son also enjoys flipping through books like this with lots of pictures on his own even though he cannot read yet.

*We used this book for the information about the planets. We did not really cover too much about constellations and stars this round.

Projects & Activities



Shown here are the books The Planets and Space!

My free Solar System Cards are also pictured here.

We used a clay recipe from Nature’s Art Box, but I’m sure store-bought clay or salt dough would work great! We used biscuit cutters to make different sizes, then once they dried we used watercolor paint to design them. Both kids loved this activity, and then they. had their own solar system to play with.



For a space sensory bin we used black beans, black and white glass gems, balled up aluminum foil (for meteors). Then we put our clay planets and toys in the bin. The kids play with this and tell stories but also use scoops and fine motor tools to play around.



Shown here are the books What We See in the StarsSpace!Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover, and Life on Mars.

We made homemade bright red play dough (here’s the recipe I use), built the Curiosity out of LEGOs, and just did a lot of reading and pretend play.



Shown here are the books Moonshot and Exploring Space.

Obviously my son was particularly interested in rockets — what kid isn’t? So, we used our books and watched videos comparing different rockets over the course of space exploration history. We used these Space Shuttle Nomenclature Cards and books to learn about the parts of the space shuttle.

I have about 20 different space shuttle drawings all over my house right now! And we built different rockets out of LEGO Duplos as well.

The R is for Rocket printout is from the Playful Learning Space Unit (Member’s Lounge access only).



Not surprisingly the kids wanted to make more of a craft-based space shuttle (not just illustrate their own on paper), so we looked up ideas together and liked this one with the fire hanging down from the rocket. We taped the rockets to their ceiling fan and had fun watching them take off!



Shown here are the books MoonshotExploring Space, What We See in the Stars, and Space Exploration.

The Printable Space Exploration History Cards are free. We also found the book A Brief Illustrated History of Space Exploration at our library which helped put the timeline of space exploration in context.

With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing coming up this year, it was fun to have my son so interested in learning more about this mission. He particularly loved learning about the astronauts and the mechanics of The Columbia and The Eagle. Again we watched some videos — the footage of the Saturn V rocket launch is pretty astounding and worth checking out!



Shown here are the books Moonshot and The 50 States.

The black and white state cards are from Target.

The NASA facilities location map I got from here.

My son likes maps so I thought it would add some context to his understanding of the U.S.A. to pinpoint where the Kennedy Space Center, Jet Propulsion Lab, Johnson Space Center, and Langley Research Center are.



This Solar System Scavenger Hunt is free – I created it awhile ago. This past week we used it by hiding the printed planets around the house, then the kids had to find them, name them, and check off the list until we found them all. This is really fun and engaging, and works well for young children. It was a fun way for my 3 year old to learn the planets a bit more.



Shown here are the books Mae Among the StarsCounting on KatherineHidden Figures, Herstory, and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.

Our point of inspiration to even begin a space-themed unit was Mae Jemison and Katherine Johnson. I had checked these books out for Black History Month, but my son in particular was so enthralled I thought it warranted further exploration.

Katherine Johnson has even inspired him to go deeper with his math lessons! He asks to do math every day now!


We learned about what it’s like to be an astronaut: A Day on the International Space Station, and Astronauts were two books that helped.

We listened to some music included on the Voyager Golden Record.

We also talked a lot about gravity and played games to demonstrate.

We watched several videos from NASA: rocket launches, the design of the Mars Curiosity rover, a tour of the International Space Station. Lots to enjoy online!

Additional Resources

Feel free to take a peek at our Space Unit from two years ago! We repeated some of these things this year too, like a meteor count and scavenger hunt.


Links to All Printables


Space Play: My Picks


Books · Uncategorized

Books to Inspire Outdoor Play & Learning


“Nature offers us a sanctuary, a place where, we can find peace and wonder…. For children it is the greatest playground of all, with all its diverse structures, smells, textures, its creatures of all shapes and sizes, its abundant plants, some edible, others toxic. Nature offers a myriad of opportunities for risk taking, for a wealth of learning and amazement, and for freedom, separate from the adult world.”
(from Play the Forest School Way by Peter Houghton & Jane Worroll)


I’d like to share a few details about the books that I have lately been drawing inspiration from—books that inspire us as parents to get our children outdoors, and books that provide some wonderful ideas on HOW to actually do that, especially if it does not come naturally or easy.


For clarity, I have organized my stack of nature books into three categories:

  1. Books on why nature engagement matters, which are books to enjoy reading cover to cover
  2. Books with action-steps and specific ideas for creating outdoor play environments  in your own backyard, engaging with the natural world, and cultivating independence in nature
  3. Books for nature study, which means providing a closer look at the natural world, things you may observe and want to explore further as you get out in nature

So, with that, here we go…


Last Child in the Woods

Much has already been said about this book. If you haven’t already read it, I’m sure you have heard of it. This would be my number one pick for a nature-inspired book to read cover to cover. Most other books in this same category will reference Richard Louv at some point. It is just a great place to start if you have never before really considered nature engagement as a daily, practical thing for your family.

How to Raise A Wild Child

This book draws from many of the same themes developed in Last Child in the Woods, and Sampson admits to it. I do think this had a little added focus on experiential discovery, and the role of the parent in guiding our children to fall in love with nature. I will say the latter part of this book gets a little repetitive, so some friendly skimming may be involved.

Balanced and Barefoot

Angela Hanscom comes to the conversation with an occupational therapy perspective — in the book she discusses the effects of restricted movement and lack of outdoor playtime  on overall sensory and motor development in children. This book reveals the therapeutic importance of uninterrupted independent outdoor play. I was stunned, enlightened, and inspired reading this. This book would be an essential read for anyone in the occupational therapy field or parents of children with various disabilities and/or chronic illness.

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather

News flash: Sweden does the “kids in nature” thing way better than anyone else. This can be a bit depressing, in a way. What this book has going for it is it’s readability–it is lively, insightful, and engaging. This is from a mom figuring it out. There are “tips” at the end of each chapter that summarize how the Swedes do it and also a few interspersed practical tips (like what kind of clothing to buy) that do allow for this book to have a something to walk away with. That way you are not just sitting there thinking “I don’t live in Sweden, so what the heck can I do about it?”

Honorable Mention:

  • The Nature Fix  — This is a great read for analyzing the science behind the human’s connection to the natural world, but it is not focused on children–though, the final chapter does bring in this topic a little bit (and of course references Richard Louv). This book is neither diagnostic nor prescriptive and should not be compared to Last Child in the Woods–it is not trying to do the same thing. It is more an interesting take on modern day science as it relates to human health and nature.


First I want to share on online article that has great inspiration and a nice checklist for creating an outdoor play space for children:

Wilson discusses the value of loose parts in outdoors playgrounds and the difference between a manufactured play space versus a natural one. At the end of the article is a “Checklist for Evaluating an Outdoor Play Setting for Young Children” which I found to be really helpful when I started drawing up my plan for our own yard play space. This gave me some great new ideas!

Play the Forest School Way

This book has a wide range of ideas for nature play. Many of these activities you may have already seen on Pinterest, BUT the attention to detail provided here is so wonderful and helpful. It can be especially useful for those of you that have nature exploration groups or do more of a classroom style learning outdoors. That said, the ideas at the beginning for games and crafts are absolutely doable for my 4 and almost-3 year old, and I plan to do several with them this spring. An essential book for a nature-engaged family.

A Year of Forest School

This book is a new companion book to Play the Forest School Way with lots of similar but new ideas! This book is grouped by seasons, which I really appreciate.

The Nature Connection

This book has a myriad of hands-on activities and observational exercises aimed at children 8 to 13. It certainly is for the whole family though! With a 4 and almost-3 year old I’m obviously not going to have them go through this workbook and do all the activities and write down their observations. However, I draw so many great ideas for WHAT and HOW to observe nature. Clare Walker Leslie is basically my hero. She really brings the nature thing down to an everyday level that is so inspiring.

The Backyard Play Revolution

This book has specific practical ways to transform your own backyard into a natural play kid-friendly area, with lists of ideas for loose parts and how to build up your supply. The author even provides suggestions for alternative materials–for example, when sticks from a forest are not easily accessible, what can you use instead? The book contains ideas for what to do with a rope or old tire and how to hunt for items at garage sales that can be used in your backyard for open-ended play. So fun!

Nature’s Art Box

Nature art ideas! So many great ideas with loads of photos so you aren’t left with any questions as you read the instructions. The age range here is wide, but many of the projects would need adult supervision for littles. I will say a couple of the projects seemed like something I would never do, but overall I really enjoy the ideas here.

Vitamin N

A follow up to Last Child in the Woods. So, honestly this book can be super overwhelming! There are so many ideas: 500, actually. So, my strategy here is to just kind of read through it a bit at a time if I am in the mood and pick ONE thing that sticks out to me as something I can do. I appreciate that this book focuses not solely on the individual family but tries to find ways in which we can come together as communities and improve the state of “nature-deficit disorder.”


  • The Stick Book – Many ideas here are pretty intuitive to me here but this is a nice thing to flip through if you are in a bit of a rut for play ideas. Lots of photos to show you the ideas–I showed this to my 4 year old and he wanted to create everything in here!
  • I Love Dirt – This book is not just about dirt play! It is about getting outside, quieting down, paying attention to the natural world, and asking questions. The book provides prompts for families to get outside and to explore in such a gentle and meaningful way. I appreciate that this book is less about “doing something” in nature and more about using all our senses to really be present while we are outdoors.
  • Last Child in the Woods is mentioned above for a book to understand the “why?” behind nature engagement: but, at the back of the book is also a massive list of ideas for connecting more with nature. Lots of practical tips that cost nothing and will inspire more and more nature engagement. Don’t be overwhelmed by massive lists like this: pick one thing at a time that sticks out to you and do that.


Nature Anatomy

This book is just a true gem, more field-guide style of a book than on a how-to book. But this can be a great place to start with questions about the natural world & things you see on nature explorations. Right now this is more of a book for me than my kids. I pre-plan what pages we look at together based on what topic is particularly interesting to them at the moment.

How to Be a Wildflower

I dare you to flip through one page of this book and not fall totally in love with Katie Daisy’s artwork. It’s beautiful and inspiring. Not a book to read cover to cover and not really something my children will care about at the moment. This also only have a few pages of “tips” for nature engagement—it’s mostly just a beautiful thing to behold. A coffee-table style book for nature-loving mamas.

Hello, Nature

This book is Nature Anatomy meets adult coloring book. I do not see this having any direct meaningful connection for my kids (4 and almost 3), but I personally am enjoying it. It inspires nature study, some pages are informative and some are more open-ended prompts. Most pages provide invitations to doodle and draw: something an older nature-loving child would adore! Not just for adults.

Later in April there are activity cards similar to this style being released that look fun!

Nature’s Day: Out and About

This pairs with the book Nature’s Day but comes with specific prompts for activities and things to look out for by season. There are several activities for each of the four seasons. Overall this is quite simple, and for that aspect I appreciate it! This book, just like Hello, Nature invites you to write in it.

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature

This is a book to inspire young kids to discover the world around them in all the seasons. It’s not a picture book to sit and read with your kids all the way through because it’s too long, but you could pick out a season at a time to enjoy and study further. It feels more like Nature Anatomy meets a poetry book, actually.

The Natural World

This book is a large & awesome reference-style book with a wide range of topics (covering the whole world) and beautiful illustrations. This is not something my kids just flip through to explore often since it is quite extensive, but if we are looking at a specific topic in nature I can usually flip through and find something relevant to what we are learning and read that specific page.


  • Nature All Year Long (This book is a wonderful 12-month guide to “What’s going on in the natural world right now?” I LOVE this book! Again — not a great book for my kids to enjoy, but I personally like pulling it off the shelf when I start to plan out seasonal activities or learning themes.)
  • The Curious Nature Guide (Another one from Clare Walker Leslie which pairs nicely with nature journaling. I appreciate that the focus on the natural world involves being present. Clare Walker Leslie helps inspire me to engage all my senses.)
  • The Handbook of Nature Study (This is a supremely helpful reference for me as we continue to learn about the natural world as a family. I do think you can find all of this information on the internet: but personally I prefer having a physical book to peruse)


Be sure to check out my picture book lists for inspiring a love of the natural world in your read aloud time with your kids.

Books · Uncategorized

Selecting Preschool Books

*Updated January 26, 2019


The Logistics

I wanted to give a run down of how I go about selecting books for each of our Letter Units and provide all the book lists I regularly reference.

We are following The Peaceful Preschool, so of course I always use their book list to start with. They usually have 2-3 books for each Letter Unit.

Typically, two weeks before we start a new Letter Unit I begin reserving a number of additional books from the library that go beyond The Peaceful Preschool. These books are themed around a Letter of the Week. It may be just that the book I reserve is appropriate for that corresponding letter of the alphabet and I want a new fun book for us to read, or that I have a specific themed topic in mind that my kids might be interested in (e.g. C is for Camping).

I do not always directly connect letter unit books to activities: most are just for reading.

I initially reserve a LOT of books from the library but also immediately return a LOT!! It’s hard to really know if a book someone else recommends will be one I like or that I think will be age-appropriate for my kids until I actually have it in my hands. It’s also very rare that I will purchase a book without having seen it first from the library and read it with my kids to be sure they enjoy it.

Generally speaking, I tend to gravitate towards nature-inspired stories as well as living books. BUT, of course we do also go for a few look-and-find type books and other simple tv-character stories that might not be on anyone’s award-winning list. I have no problem with these books, but I do limit the amount of these types of books we have in the house to maybe 2-3 at a time.

So, with that in mind, here’s my list of go-to resources when I look for books.

The Peaceful Preschool


The Peaceful Preschool Book List (free download on their website)

The books from this curriculum are almost all books that have stood the test of time. They’re classics for a reason. We just finished Letter R right now and there have only been one or two books from this curriculum so far that my kids did not really enjoy.

Honey For A Child’s Heart

Honey For A Child’s Heart is a book about books! It has an annotated list of books by age and topic that is absolutely incredible. I cannot say enough about how great this book is. I went through this once and pulled out book titles that might fit in with a specific letter-of-the-week theme, but also revisit it often to look for seasonal-related books.

Living Books


Simply Charlotte Mason has an awesome list of Favorite Read Alouds for Ages 3-5 — many of these books crossover with The Peaceful Preschool curriculum, which is part of why I adore that curriculum so much.

What is a “living book”? — This idea was originated by Charlotte Mason. It basically means the story has a true narrative that is engaging and alive. There’s nothing “dry” about it. And it’s not dumbed-down or gimmicky. The best way for me to tell if a picture book is a living book is whether or not we can find a way to retell the story in a fun and engaging way, either through pretending to be the characters ourselves or building small worlds with toys or figurines. The story opens up imaginative possibilities rather than limits us.

A-Z Unit Book Lists


I often reference the following lists to find books based on Letter Unit themes. For example, we took the “Make Way for Ducklings” unit from The Peaceful Preschool further by having an entire week of D is for Duck, so I found some other books to read on this topic by reviewing the following lists:

Reviewing these book lists in advance of a Letter Unit also helps me get an idea of what themes I might explore with my kids in upcoming weeks.

You can see all the books I use by Letter Unit by viewing each Letter Unit page individually.

Note that sometimes I get nature books that are *older* that where my kids are at but keep them for the pictures & general learning (these tend to be more science-driven than story-driven), and I also keep some that may skew *younger* than preschool because I have a 2 year old who still enjoys some board books.

Alphabet Books


These are a few of my personal favorite whole-alphabet books:

Read Aloud Revival

Most of you are probably aware of these amazing book lists, but if not, here’s Read Aloud Revival‘s free book lists month-by-month. Sometimes I reference this to find books that might fit within our Letter-a-Week theme (and not just stick to whatever Month the book is in).

Sarah Mackenzie also recently published The Read Aloud Family, which is a wonderful read (even if you already consider yourself a read-aloud family), and includes a thoughtfully curated book list for different age groups at the end. This is worth owning!

Chapter Books

50 Chapter Books for Preschoolers — this is a great list for those of you delving in to chapter book territory for the first time.

The Read Aloud Family also has a great selection of chapter books for littles.

Our favorite chapter books right now are Winnie the Pooh, The Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon, and Beatrix Potter.

Classic Tales

Fairytales By Age (this list comes from Beyond the Rainbow Bridge — an excellent and inspiring Waldorf education read!)

We absolutely love classic tales. Most of our favorites are the Paul Galdone versions.

Cynthia Rylant also has some great retellings of some classic Disney fairytales.

Another great option: Heather Forest Sing Me A Story

Story collections:

Eventually I would like to have a treasury of Grimm’s fairytales when my children are older, but not enough of those are age-appropriate at this point.

Nature Inspired Stories

love of nature books

This page has my LONG list of favorite nature-inspired books for children.

I’ve put together book lists for each of the following themes:

  • Nature Anatomy
  • Birds
  • Insects, Spiders, Worms
  • Camping
  • Pond Life
  • Trees
  • Food From the Wild
  • Woodland Fantasy
  • The Spirit of Adventuring
  • Celebrating the Four Seasons
  • Animals in Winter



I incorporated a poetry tea time in to our days awhile ago, and while we have rotated a few poetry books on and off from the library, the following are the ones that we own and regularly turn to:

Reference Style Books

I generally don’t like have too many reference-style books around because I prefer to just read stories. That said, there’s just a few books that I have really enjoyed owning to regularly explore together as we encounter a variety of topics. Occasionally my son will explore these on his own, but mostly it comes by way of my initiation.

The Latest Greatest Picture Books EVER

Like many of you, I do enjoy the newest publications out there, mainly because there are so many great books today that feature stories that broaden cultural horizons, help recognize privilege & grow empathy towards marginalized communities. Books like the following are ones that immediately come to mind:

To find recent publications I usually just pay attention on Instagram or literally Google “Best Picture Books of 2018” or something equivalent.

That’s Not Too Many Books, Right?!

I will say that my 4 year old LOVES books. He will get excited about any book I bring home. Every book we’ve read from The Peaceful Preschool he wants to re-read 3 times before doing any activities. And then he’ll want to read 3 more books when we’re done. My 2 year old is not the same. She may change her tune, but I suspect when I do The Peaceful Preschool with her, I will probably not get so many books at a time and rather focus on getting her to read enjoy the main 2-3 books from the curriculum.

My hope is that this blog post is a helpful resource to you, and know that I do not intend to overwhelm you or make you feel that you HAVE to get a ton of books at a time! Go with what works for you.

Happy reading!












Books · Letter Unit Activities · Uncategorized

Classic Story Extensions for Preschool

classic stories

“Fairy tales don’t condone poor behavior; they simply relate what occurs. Children learn very early that there are good people, bad people, kind people, cruel people, and assortments of behavior in between. And children have room in their lives for all sorts of miracles…. an active imagination [is] a token of the liberty of childhood.” (Gladys Hunt, Honey For A Child’s Heart)

Over the past 2 weeks it worked out that we could fit 6 classic stories into our regularly-scheduled Letter Unit activities: 3 stories fit in with letter G (Gingerbread, Goat, Goldilocks) and 3 stories fit for letter H (Hens and Houses). This post summarizes all that we did for each story.

This is not meant to serve as a perfectly planned-out curriculum: it’s simply a picture of what we actually did. I hope there’s something useful here to you!

I adore Paul Galdone’s versions of the following classic stories — both for the storytelling and the illustrations:

Gladys Hunt notes: “Children have been enjoying Galdone’s renditions for generations” (Honey for a Child’s Heart), and I couldn’t agree more. The audiobook versions for each of these are also excellent and worth finding! Galdone has a number of other classic stories beyond what I chose, but I stuck to just these six because: (1) they fit in with our Letter G and Letter H units, and (2) these are specifically mentioned in Honey for a Child’s Heart.

We also love the Heather Forest song versions of several of these stories on her Sing Me A Story album:

  • The Little Red Hen
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Mr. Bun (similar to The Gingerbread Boy)

Honorable mention to Jan Brett’s version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears! A gorgeous book.

Alright, here we go…


IMG_9368.jpg Obviously: Bake a gingerbread boy! My kids helped with the whole baking process plus worked on forming the letter G (I gave them extra dough to just play with & smash and roll and cut — and they made a huge floury mess).

We enjoyed eating our gingerbread boy during our poetry tea time and read the poem “The Three Foxes” from When We Were Very Young.

*Bonus activity to burn off the sugar high from gingerbread: take turns pretending to be the gingerbread boy and chase each other around! I’m serious.

 IMG_0514.jpg In the story the old woman uses raisins to make the buttons for the gingerbread boy. We counted out some raisins into a numbered muffin tin with jumbo tweezers for a fine motor skill & simple counting exercise. Then… we snacked on some raisins!


IMG_0010.jpg We retold  the story using our Goldilocks peg dolls (available on my Etsy shop) [note: currently sold out but I’m making more] and dollhouse furniture.
IMG_0009.jpg Big, medium, little sorting activity. We had a huge line of items on the floor that I couldn’t capture in a picture well so I just set up this little sampling. The kids really had fun with this, hunting around toy bins.
IMG_0027.jpg For our poetry tea time we had big, medium, and little bowls of porridge (recipe via The Peaceful Preschool)!

We also read the poems “A Good Little Girl” (A.A. Milne) and “A Good Boy” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

IMG_0012.jpg We acted out the story in a little play house in the woods we have on the camp property where we live. There’s three of us so we just took turns being Goldilocks (my 2 year old needs prompting for this but she’s all in).


IMG_0106.jpg We read The Three Billy Goats Gruff and G is for Goat (the cutest little A-Z book ever).

We also made a G using grass my son cut (see below) — the kids applied glue to our Letter G printout (from The Peaceful Preschool) with a Q-tip first and then placed the grass.

We also adore the Heather Forest song version for The Three Billy Goats (from Sing Me Story)

Here are our goats: big, middle, little … and we use a dinosaur for the troll!

IMG_0746.jpg TRIP TRAP rhythm stick song: The Three Billy Goats (simplified version) via Jbrary by Dana and Lindsey. I don’t try to memorize these songs in advance when we do them: I just watch the video with my kids and we learn it together and repeat it. We also don’t have real rhythm sticks: we just use unsharpened pencils that I got at the Target Dollar Spot. We also used the rhythm sticks to make the trip-trapping rhythm on our wood bridge.
IMG_0108.jpg Cut some great green grass. A free and zero-setup scissor skills activity! Seriously: this will occupy your scissor-loving kiddo forever.
IMG_0107.jpg Small world sensory bin & invitation to play. I used rocks, blue-dyed rice for water, and grass we collected in the morning from the scissor activity above. We retell the story together but also listen to the audiobook or the story song version.
IMG_8035.jpg Act out the story on a bridge: There’s nothing more satisfying than stomping your feet across a bridge pretending to be a trip-trapping billy goat!


IMG_0497.jpg Act out the Henny Penny story in sequence. The repetition used in this story is so great for memory recall & story sequencing. I think it helps to have the animals for storytelling, BUT don’t spend money for just one story: you could also print out some animal pictures and put them on popsicle sticks and hold them up as you tell the story.

Here’s our Foxy Loxy, Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey.

IMG_0499.jpg What’s Missing?” game: who did the fox eat? I set up this tunnel from our train track set, called it the fox’s cave, then had my kids close their eyes while I hid one of the birds in the cave and then asked them to open their eyes and tell me who the fox ate. A really simple setup for a game that enhances object + word identification and skill using visual clues for association & identification. You could even hide them in order that the animals appear in the story to enhance the recall of the plot sequencing
IMG_0494.jpg Spell out book-related words using our movable alphabet. These are a free printable from my F is for Farm unit (you can get the full PDF here). We also looked at the hens, roosters, ducks, geese, and turkeys in our lovely Farm Anatomy book.
IMG_0493.jpg In the story an acorn falls from the tree to hit Henny Penny in the head. We counted out acorns on to our number cards. These number cards are from The Peaceful Preschool curriculum and we use them every week.
IMG_0513.jpg Practical life skill activity: dust pan use to clean up acorns.

This wood tray is from Target

IMG_0523.jpg We threaded oak leaves (oak trees make acorns!) in to our stick loom for a fun fall-themed nature study + fine motor skill handcraft activity. We’ve been using our stick looms a lot lately so it was fun to loosely connect it to Henny Penny on the day we read it 🙂


IMG_0735.jpg Storytelling for The Little Red Hen.

We read through the story together one time with no aids. Then, the second time through I brought all the storytelling aids out: hen, catdog, & mouse, and then a divided tray with wheat seeds (it’s actually pearled barley), wheat plant (a grass plume from our yard), flour, and bread.

The other book pictured is is Alain Gree’s book The Farm which has this awesome page called “The story of bread” that helps reinforce the story of the little red hen making cake from wheat seeds.

We also love listening to and singing along with Heather Forest’s version of this tale (from Sing Me Story).

IMG_0733.jpg Sensory play and scooping & pouring. After baking bread (see below) the kids just played with all the wheat seeds, plants, flour, bread, and bread dough. The kitchen floor was an insane mess when it was over, but they were so engaged and loving it. They were scooping and pouring and smashing to their hearts’ content all morning.
IMG_0734.jpg Wheat learning: wheat seeds (it’s actually pearled barley), wheat plant (a grass plume from our yard), flour, and bread.

I gave my son a tray of the wheat seeds to practice forming the letter H. I love love love our tray for sensory letter writing — it’s deep so it doesn’t spill out easily and small so they form the letters in a reasonable size.

Book pictured: Food Anatomy (the bread pages in this book were also super fun to look at!)

IMG_0737.jpg The kids made their own bread!!

I use the master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day — it’s literally impossible to get bad bread even if you have zero baking skills! It’s SO EASY. It’s a no-knead dough with only 4 ingredients and take two seconds to prep. The kids can mash the dough and form it in to ANY SHAPE and it will bake perfect and delicious.

IMG_0759.jpg For poetry tea time on this Little Red Hen day, we read two fun hen poems: “The Little Black Hen” from Now We Are Six and “The Clucking Hen” from A Child’s Book of Poems. And, we had some snacks-that-come-from wheat!




The Three Little Pigs is a perfect H is for House story! We read that book and How A House is Built by Gail Gibbons, and then I set up an invitation to build houses out of straw, sticks, and brick.

This also served as an invitation to retell the story as we went house by house and huffed and puffed to blow the houses down!


  • Three pigs & a wolf
  • Bricks: red stacking block pieces + red play dough
  • Sticks (stack them like Lincoln logs — I didn’t want to use actual Lincoln logs because I thought that would be too hard to blow down!)
  • Straw: I just cut up some ornamental grass plumes from our yard
IMG_0679.jpg Blow pigs off the table with a straw (we used pigs from our Pass the Pigs game since they are little and light)

Blowing through a straw helps strengthen the mouth muscles needed for proper speech. Plus, it’s fun!

IMG_0804.jpg Form the letter H using sticks & bricks! H is definitely easier than G 🙂
Books · Uncategorized

Seasons Picture Books


Below is a list of fourteen of my favorite picture books that celebrate and show all four seasons. There are a lot of one-season-specific books out there that are equally wonderful, but there’s something so charming to me to have all four seasons represented in one book. We own most of these–I’m that obsessed!

Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd

The illustrations are perfection. This is a story told in pictures only that takes you through all 4 seasons. It has the appearance of a handcrafted book (complete with die-cuts!). We have had this book for years and never get tired of it. Lizi Boyd is my hero.

Seasons by Alain Grée

I’ve recently become OBSESSED with all things Alain Grée! Bold & engaging illustrations and LOTS to explore as the book takes you from Spring to Winter.

Circle of Seasons by Gerda Muller

This book is out of print, but I found it thrifted on eBay. There ARE 4 separate board book versions of this for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter … BUT, I really love having the one-volume book to read through in one sitting.

ALSO NOTE: the board books do NOT have words but the Circle of Seasons one-volume version does!

Tree by Britta Teckentrup

What’s not to love? Bold illustrations with several fun die-cuts on each page. You view one single tree as it changes through the seasons. I LOVE how this starts with winter, takes you through spring, summer, fall, then winter again, and then spring again — it’s easy to see & feel the full cycle.

Lots of fun little things to hunt for on each page: the spider is our current favorite. And the words are lyrical and rhyming — something young ones can memorize before they can read.

Recently, some Instagram friends put together these absurdly wonderful picture book retell activities for this book. Go check them out.

Around the Year by Elsa Beskow

This little gem has one poem for each month, plus others for days of the week, months of the year, etc. Short but sweet. My absolute favorite to read with the kids as soon as we turn the calendar to a new month!

When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

THIS BOOK. I love it! The book is divided in to the four seasons with 12-15 poems for each season. Each individual poem is titled by date and perfectly conveys the wonder & beauty of each season.

AND the illustrations are by the always-stellar Julie Morstad! We use this every week for our poetry tea time.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice Provensen

A lot of text to these pages but who doesn’t totally love farm animals?? This shows seasonal changes by dividing up farm animal life month by month. Fun to read just a single month at a time or read it through and track various animals.

Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie

Toot’s adventures at home track through all of the seasons while Puddle is off adventuring on his own. My personal favorite is “March meant maple syrup” because we tap trees for syrup every winter too! There’s joy to be had in winter!

Seasons: A Book of Poems by Charlotte Zolotow

“Charlotte Zolotow is a legend in children’s books” (Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart)

Another out of print book! There is a newer anniversary version of this called Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection (see below) but note that these do not have the same poems as this older copy. I prefer the illustrations in this one as opposed to “Changes” but that one is still lovely!

The poetry in this collection is all by Charlotte Zolotow and perfectly evokes how a child views each season. My kids can feel themselves in these poems rather than feel that an adult is telling them about the seasons.

Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection by Charlotte Zolotow

Originally I thought this book was just a reprint of the above Charlotte Zolotow collection, but the poems are actually not all the same (there’s only a couple crossovers)! I will say I like how the poems & corresponding illustrations span the entire page so my kids can track one single poem and view the corresponding picture while we read (rather than get distracted by lots of other illustrations across the page).

Sing a Season Song by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen … of the Owl Moon variety!!

The illustrations and the poetic rhyming verse take us on a journey through each of the four seasons while celebrating the natural world. Seriously: the illustrations of woodland animals in this book are stunning and engaging. Not too much text per page so this works well for my toddler!

My Four Seasons by Dawid Ryski and Amy Visram

This book was recently published and has such gorgeous minimalistic illustrations. I basically want to frame each page. This tracks one family through the seasons engaging in their favorite activities. I love that this book has a balance of city living + engagement with nature.

Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel

And absolute all-time favorite. There was a period of time when ALL we read was Frog and Toad and ALL we listened to in the car was Frog and Toad! This one in particular has 5 stories that track through the four seasons. LOVE this, forever. Seriously get the audio versions of Frog and Toad if you are a fan. It’s Arnold Lobel himself reading and they are wonderful!! I sell Frog & Toad peg dolls because we love these characters so much.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

This book tracks the care of a garden through all for seasons!! It’s filled with a sense of simplicity and peace, which I totally adore. It pairs the work of the gardener to the work of the earth quite beautifully.



Books for the Homeschooler

**Updated 4/23/18

There are a TON of homeschooling books and resources out there and much of what you’ll read depends on your goals & dreams, but I thought I’d share the ones that I’ve read and drawn inspiration from.

Nature Books

Books to Inspire Outdoor Play & Learning : Blog Post
  1. Books on why nature engagement matters, which are books to enjoy reading cover to cover
  2. Books with action-steps and specific ideas for creating outdoor play environments  in your own backyard, engaging with the natural world, and cultivating independence in nature
  3. Books for nature study, which means providing a closer look at the natural world, things you may observe and want to explore further as you get out in nature
Nature Journaling Books

*See this blog post for my specific watercolor resources I use to nature journal!

Nature Collections Books

Homeschooling Books

Small Beginnings :  A Homeschool Starter Guide for the Early Years


Teaching From Rest : A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace

The Read Aloud Family : Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kid

The Life Giving Home : Creating A Place of Belonging & Becoming

For the Children’s Sake : Foundations of Education for Home and School

Charlotte Mason Companion : Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning

The Early Years : A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook


Honey for a Child’s Heart : The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge : Nurturing Our Children From Birth to Seven

Smooth and Easy Days : Simply Charlotte Mason