Book recommendations

8 books that extend your outdoor and nature play experiences

April 20, 2018

Getting out and playing in nature has many proven benefits for children ranging from boosting creativity and problem solving to reducing stress — even lowering the risk of eyesight problems. For fun ideas on how to build more outdoor experiences into your routine, see Fire up your child’s creativity in nature.

And from day dot, there’s no better complement to nature play than books. Books extend your experiences and interactions, helping your child to process and reinforce what they have learnt. Try finding these titles at your local library.

Millie loves ants by Jackie French and Sue deGennaro follows Emily who is intrigued to know why Millie the echidna loves ants so much. And so Emily carefully observes Millie until she discovers her secret.

Tip: Go on a hunt around the backyard with your child and see if you can find any ants. Talk about what the ants are doing or where they might be going.


 A stick is just a stick… unless it’s Not a stick. From fishing rod to dragon-taming sword a small pig shows that a stick will go as far as the imagination allows.

Antoinette Portis captures the thrill of when pretend feels so real that it actually becomes reality. Her simple, spare text and illustrations show that seeing truly depends on the ability to believe in the possibilities.

Tip: What are all the things you can turn your stick into? Share this book together and take on the challenge with your own stick.


Once the top of a Burrawang tree fell to the ground and became…Grug!

Much like the average toddler or preschooler, Grug is fascinated by the world around him and takes on everyday problems creatively.

Tip: Follow in Grug’s footsteps and see what things you can create using only what’s available to you.



The wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Is he drifting east, over the marsh and ducks and geese? Or is he heading west, above the orchards, prairie meadows, and spotted cows? No one’s quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows.

Tip: After sharing this beautiful book, collect some leaves together and make your own leaf man.



Uno’s Garden by Graeme Base follows Uno who arrives in the forest one beautiful day. There are many fascinating and extraordinary animals there to greet him. And one entirely unexceptional Snortlepig.

Uno loves the forest so much, he decides to live there. But, in time, a little village grows up around his house. Then a town, then a city and soon Uno realises that the animals and plants have begun to disappear.

Tip: Try counting all the living things you can find.


Big Rain Coming is a lyrical story about waiting for the rain to come to an isolated Aboriginal community. Tension in the community builds as the rain clouds thicken and grow dark. Everybody waits. When will the rain come?

Tip: Observe how the weather changes and talk about with your child. Rainy day? Don’t let that deter you. Pop on some gum boots and go puddle stomping.





Grandpa and Thomas go the beach. It is an Australian summer. The sun is shining, the gulls are screeching and the sea is singing. Together they build a sandcastle, they have a picnic and they splash in the water. Then at the end of the day, Grandpa takes a sleepy Thomas home.

Tip: Build sandcastles together like Grandpa and Thomas. If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents near by, invite them along or to share the book. Read more about the benefits of getting grandparents involved.


The clouds drift across the bright blue sky — all except one. Little Cloud trails behind. He is busy changing shapes to become a fluffy sheep, a zooming airplane, and even a clown with a funny hat. Eric Carle’s trademark collages will make every reader want to run outside and discover their very own little cloud.

Tip: Lie on your backs together and talk about all the shapes you can see in the clouds.