Growing Reader

8 Picture Books to Inspire Children to Get Outside and Explore

by Jennifer Garry

Photo credit: Cavan Images, Cavan Collection/Getty Images

With screens as ubiquitous as they are and the constant pressure to sign our kids up for all of the organized activities, modern childhood is much less wild and free than what we experienced as kids. Gone are the days of opening up the back door and ushering kids outside with nothing more than the request to be home by lunch. As a result, our kids are missing out on exploring and the wild bursts of creativity and imagination that come with being bored.

Books are a great way to bridge that gap. Brimming with adventure and the beauty of the natural world, these stories are sure to encourage your little readers to get outside and explore.

  • Moon

    by Alison Oliver

    Overscheduled and yearning to know what it feels like to be free, Moon wanders outside one night to watch shooting stars. Outside, she meets a wolf who takes her deep into the forest and teaches her to howl, to hide, to be still … to be wild and free. With gorgeous illustrations and simple language, this book explores the joy that can be found in play and in nature.

  • This Moose Belongs to Me

    by Oliver Jeffers

    Wilfred has a lot of rules. Luckily, his pet moose, Marcel, usually obeys them. But there is one rule that Marcel has difficulty following: going whichever way Wilfred wants to go. One day on a particularly long walk in the woods, Wilfred discovered that someone else thought she owned Marcel — and Marcel didn’t really seem to think he belonged to anyone. Fortunately, the two manage to work out a compromise. Filled with beautiful illustrations of nature, this book will have your kids wanting to go out and see what kinds of animals can be spotted when you’re on the lookout for them.

  • Run Wild

    by David Covell

    This book starts out gray and dreary, with a boy hunched over a screen. But a girl runs by his window and shouts, “Hey, you! Sky’s blue!” and changes everything. The boy runs out after her, leaving his shoes (and screen) behind, and into a world of sunshine and adventure. They chase rabbits, stomp in mud puddles, float in water, and run with the wind. It’s a wonderful reminder that there are so many adventures to be found when you put down the screen.

  • Unplugged

    by Steve Antony

    Sticking with the idea of stepping away from technology, this book is another great reminder of the fun that can be found when you unplug. Blip is a robot who loves being plugged into her computer. But one day, there’s a blackout and Blip trips over her wire and tumbles outside. She suddenly finds herself in a new, colorful world. She does a lot of the things she can do on her computer (learning new things, playing fun games, dancing to music), but now she has new friends to go on these adventures with.

  • Beyond the Pond

    by Joseph Kuefler

    Beautifully illustrated, this book follows a little boy from his “ordinary house filled with too little fun” to the pond out back. He decides to explore the pond’s depths with his dog and discovers new worlds that are filled with wonder and that make his own life look not-so-ordinary. His adventure changes the way he looks at things forever — and it might just do the same for your little reader.

  • Daniel Finds a Poem

    by Micha Archer

    A little boy observes what’s around him in a park and, with the help of some animal friends, begins to see the natural beauty in things he’d never really noticed before (the crunch of leaves, a cool pond, warm sand, bright stars). With bright, eye-catching collage illustrations, this sweet picture book offers a simple introduction to the concept of poetry, all while encouraging kids to keep their eyes and ears open to the sights and sounds of nature.

  • The Tea Party in the Woods

    by Akiko Miyakoshi

    When Kikko realizes her dad forgot the pie he was supposed to bring to Grandma's house, she tries to catch him as he makes his way through the woods. She follows his footprints in the snow and soon discovers a large house she has never seen before. Curious, Kikko peers through the window and is soon invited inside by a lamb for a magical tea party with the animals of the forest. When she finally makes her way to her grandma’s house, her animal friends are nowhere to be seen, leaving readers to wonder if they snuck away or if they were all in her imagination.

  • Finding Wild

    by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

    This book starts out with two kids stepping away from their urban home in search of something wild. They very quickly become enveloped in the beauty of nature — from the itty bitty to the in your face. As they make their way through the woods and back to the paved and noisy streets, they discover that wild exists in their own backyard. With breathtaking illustrations and enchanting language, this book takes readers on a sensory journey through nature that will leave you craving more.

What picture books make you want to explore? Let us know in the comments below!