As a nature-based early childhood resource, this outdoor play book list for preschoolers is long overdue. I hope somewhere in these thirty-five titles you find the perfect book that inspires you and your child (or whole classroom) to get outside and play in nature.
If you need a little extra inspiration to explore the great outdoors, check out our collection of 60 inspiring outdoor play quotes.
Exploring the Outdoors Books
By Marie Dorléans, illustrated by Alyson Waters
Our Fort perfectly captures the magic of exploring and playing outside with your childhood best friends.
Let’s Go Outside!
By Ben Lerwill, Marina Runs
This sweet, simple book introduces how all children can explore nature in all weather.
The Snowy Day
By Ezra Jack Keats
This beloved classic children’s book shows up on my books lists again and again. But it always deserves the spot. In Snowy Day, readers get a chance to follow along on a snowy, outdoor city adventure.
Would You Come Too?
By Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Diana Sudyka
This outdoor play book introduces the magic of the outdoors and inspires imaginative play.
By Alison Farrell
This book follows a group of adventurous girls on a hiking trip. Readers will find age-appropriate nature science information sprinkled throughout the book.
Explore more book with female heroes on the feminist board book list.
By David Covell
Run Wild gets straight to the point. Right away, a character is pulled away from a screen and pulled into an outdoor adventure.
By Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
An adult favorite too, this outdoor play book inspires children to find nature and wild things anywhere and everywhere.
Adore the wildflowers in this book? Explore 40 Flower Facts for Kids.
Exploring Outdoors at Night Books
By Lizi Boyd
This wordless book follows a child on a nighttime summer adventure in the woods. Readers can explore light, shadows, and adorable woodland critters.
The Night Walk
By Marie Dorleans
A family goes on an outdoor hiking adventure in the middle of the night.
By Jane Yolk
Owl Moon found a home on our winter book list too. This story takes readers on a snowy, nighttime adventure looking for owls.
Play & Connect to Nature Books
We All Play
By Julie Flett
We All Play is one of the most gorgeously illustrated books I’ve ever seen. Readers will learn how all young animals play just like human children do. Along the way, readers are introduced to the Cree language.
By Deborah Underwood, illustrated Cindy Derby
A beautifully written and illustrated book, Outside In draws a connection to the nature around us.
We are Water Protectors
By Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
We are Water Protectors shares about Indigenous culture, environmentalism, and humans’ relationship with water. I hope this book will plant seeds for a love of nature and environmental advocacy.
Can You Hear Me?
By Ekaterina Trukhan
This sweet, quick-read nature story helps readers use their senses to understand the outdoors.
Looking at reviews of this book, I think it is entirely underrated. The illustration style is unique for the genre of children’s books and could inspire unique art activities. The language, while simple, is pretty close to how I would recommend adults talk about nature to our youngest learners.
Gotta Go, Buffalo: A Silly Book of Fun Goodbyes
By Haily Meyers, illustrated by Kevin Meyers
This goofy rhyming board book is the perfect introduction to critters and how to play with language.
Jayden’s Impossible Garden
By Mélina Mangal, illustrated by Ken Daley
Jayden sets out to show his mama that nature can, in fact, flourish in the city. This book also has a home on our flower book list.
Let’s Play Outdoors!: Exploring Nature for Children
By Catherine Ard, illustrated by Carla McRae
Wait, is it possible for a book to fit too perfectly on this outdoor book list? These authors and I are definitely living on the same wavelengths.
This information-packed nature book gives children dozens of activities for outdoor play. I would recommend this book for older preschoolers and younger elementary-aged kids.
The Wonders of Nature Books
I Love the Mountains
By Haily Meyers & Kevin Meyers
The bright, bold illustrations and lovely nature song in this outdoor book make it a must-have for little readers.
By Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Diana Sudkya
Blending poetic text and natural science, this book shares about a child discovering a tree frog. Readers are encouraged to be curious and comforted by the small wonders in nature.
Discover more frog books.
Tiny, Perfect Things
By M. H. Clark
This multi-generational story helps readers discover all the small wonders in nature. Also, I adore the calming, nature-tones illustrations.
By Suzy Lee
This wordless ocean book tells about a child who befriends and plays with an ocean wave on the beach. Even with simple illustrations and no text, this outdoor play book captures nature’s magic.
It Fell from the Sky
By Terry Fan & Eric Fan
This bug book encourages readers to imagine how their actions can affect nature. The story and brilliant illustrations will instill a sense of wonder in kids.
Leave the imaginary bug world behind and spark conversations. Find interesting facts about:
By Micha Archer
This outdoor book follows two children as they discover wonders in nature, drawing comparisons to familiar objects at home.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature
By Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mark Hearld
Outside Your Window introduces children to lovely, nature-based poetry. It’s a perfect resource for a poem to two about nature topics that catch your child’s or classroom’s interest.
A Stone Sat Still
By Brendan Wenzel
This nature book helps readers imagine how a single natural object can play an enormous role in our world.
Brown is Warm, Black is Bright
By Sarah L. Thompson, illustrated by Keith Mallett
I Hear You, Forest
By Kallie George, illustrated by Carmen Mom
One of my favorite nature scavenger hunt activities is going on a sound scavenger hunt. This book is the perfect addition to a nature walk (you don’t even need a forest).
Be a Tree!
By Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Felicita Sala
This outdoor play children’s book perfectly combined poetic text with tree science information. The illustrations will captivate readers and take what they learn on their next outdoor adventure.
Be a Good Ancestor
By Leona Prince & Gabrielle Prince, illustrated by Carla Joseph
This book introduces the idea of being a “living ancestor.” Before children can understand environmental advocacy, they must build a relationship with nature and appreciate how all things in nature are connected.
Family & the Outdoors Books
The More You Give
By Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Francesca Santa
This multi-generational story, in some ways, compares to The Giving Tree. But honestly, The Giving Tree breaks my heart wide open, while The More You Give is entirely heartwarming. The purples and yellows in the illustrations are such a unique approach to a nature children’s book.
By Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin
This book shares a powerful story about how nature can help us connect to our past and our culture.
The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess
By Tom Gauld
This clever book is a mix between a fairy tale and a graphic novel, with plenty of adventures in nature.
By Pete Oswald
A father and son go on a hiking adventure in this outdoor story for kids.
Where Wonder Grows
By Xelena González, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia
In this multi-generational story, the main character explores natural treasures belonging to their grandmother.
The Keeper of Wild Words
By Brooke Smith, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper
This nature exploration story is multi-generational and emphasizes nature vocabulary. It draws a beautiful comparison between protecting human languages and protecting our environment.
By now, I hope you’ve discovered a few children’s outdoor play stories that will find a home on your bookshelf. These nature children’s books are perfect for a classroom lesson plan, a bedtime routine, or a gift for a toddler or preschooler.
Please leave a comment about which nature-based stories you remember from your own childhood. I’d love to create a classic outdoor play books section on our list.
I recommend BookShop.org as an alternative to amazon. Each purchase on BookShop.org supports local and independent bookstores. You can explore my book lists for early learners or search for any books (new and used).