10 Best Children books for nature study

10 Best Children Books to Encourage Nature Study & Exploration

Spark a child’s imagination and curiosity about the natural world with these 10 great nature books and gift ideas. With modern technology, we now have unequalled access to more information about nature than ever thought possible, but knowing facts isn’t the same as understanding the living creature as a whole. 


Firsthand, outdoor experiences inspire our souls in a way that no video, website, or, for that matter, even a book can. So, here are 10 beautiful nature books and gift items that our family has used to engage the natural curiosity we are all born with. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have – and then - Go Play Outside.

Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre and His World of Insects

Meet one of the most influential naturalists of all time, the French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre. As a curious boy he discovers the fascinating world of insects, studying them as living creatures instead of dissecting them. Charmingly told with stories of beetle-hunting wasps, caterpillar caravans, and a warrior-like mantis.  Beautiful illustrations. Gr 2-5

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The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon

Learn about artist and naturalist, John James Audubon, who as an energetic youth, spent his time out-of-doors studying and sketching birds. From his patient observations, he discovers that some birds, against the science of the day, return to the same nest each year.  Lovely watercolors and collages throughout the book. Gr 2-4.

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Stokes Beginner's Guide to Birds: Eastern Region

Beginning guide to the identification of the most common birds with full color photos, bird calls, ranges, and more. A great accompaniment to the window bird feeder below. We wore our book to tatters.

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Window Bird Feeder $25

We've had such fun with our window bird feeder in the dining room. Entertaining and educational as you learn the habits and personalities of each of the birds. We set up our camera on a tripod to get close ups.

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Peterson Field Guide Coloring Books: Birds

Color your own field guide to reinforce bird color, shape, and markings. Brief description accompanies each bird. Stickers included as a visual reference while working on each bird.

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Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing Butterflies and Moths

Meet Jim Arnosky's gray-bearded woodsman, Crinkleroot, as he guides children on a nature walk to learn about butterflies and moths. Get inspired to look for them on your nature walk or plant a butterfly-friendly garden - dill and parsley are easy suggestions. Gr K-3

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Amazon: Seeds of Change Dill

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Insect Lore Butterfly Growing Kit

If you are looking for a great way to extend the fun of the above Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing Butterflies and Moths book. we've had good luck with this kit: Insect Lore Butterfly Growing Kit. We reused the mesh tent for caterpillars from our garden or for other temporary nature studies including preying mantis and other curious insects.

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The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science

Fascinating biography of the first female entomologist, Maria Marian, who against all odds of the 17th century – female and self taught – pursued her studies of the life cycle of butterflies. Through her meticulous fieldwork, keen powers of observation, and detailed paintings, Marian was one of the earliest scientists to reveal the link between caterpillars and butterflies. Gr 5-9

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Miss Rumphius

This beloved classic by Barbara Cooney features the fictional Miss Alice Rumphius who resolves to adventure to faraway places when she grows up. After finishing her journeys, Miss Rumphius retires to the seaside and sows lupines everywhere she goes to leave the world more beautiful. From countless readings, my children scatter columbine seeds to this very day on their neighborhood walks. Gr K-3

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My Family and Other Animals: Durell

One of the few books that has made our family literally laugh out loud.  It covers the childhood (mis)adventures of British naturalist George Durell when he lived on the island of Corfu, Greece, with his eccentric family. Engaging book for all ages - filled with entertaining stories about his island education, his numerous exotic pets, and his studies of both nature and the locals. Gr 5-8

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King Solomon's Ring

A surprisingly captivating (and often humorous) read about animal behavior as observed by Nobel Prize winner, Konrad Lorenz. By giving his animals unrestricted freedom (including in his home), Lorenz observed how different types of animals behave - and thus, he learned how to ‘speak’ with his animals (hence the title which refers to King Solomon's legendary ring that enabled him to speak with all living things). A top favorite book of my teenage naturalist daughter. Gr 8th - adult

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Goose Creek State Park RV (& Tent) Campground

Goose Creek State Park RV campsite loop with picnic table and grill in North Carolina

Along with the added cabins, Goose Creek State Park also took the expansion opportunity to build 22 large, full hook up RV campsites. Our one complaint, and something to keep in mind during the dog days of summer, would be the lack of any natural shade or wind breaks.  Make sure to include a free standing shelter in your camping kit to cover the picnic table.  You'll roast otherwise.

  • $36/night Apr 1 to Oct 31; $30/night Nov 1 to Mar 31
  • Electric, water, and sewer hookups
Read our post about camping in the Goose Creek State Park Primitive Campground and nearby attractions.

Goose Creek State Park Bathhouse

Exterior view of Goose Creek State Park bathhouse in North Carolina

The new bathhouse, constructed in the same architectural style as the cabins, features hot showers, flush toilets, dish washing stations, drinking fountain - and even a bike rack out front.

Goose Creek State Park Hiking Trails

Hiker on Goose Creek State Park Palmetto Boardwalk walking through marsh

Eight hiking trails weave over 8 miles in and around the 1,600 acre park, introducing you to the different coastal Carolina landscapes - upland forest, brackish and freshwater wetlands, and cypress swamps along with a peek into the local history. The Pamlico riverfront and a few sandy beaches could be great ways to spend the day if hiking isn't in your game plan. While the trails are not strenuous, summer could test your hydration.

Basic Hiking Tips: 

  • Bring plenty of water, sun protection, & bug spray - especially during the summer months.
  • Watch out for ticks and fire ants.
  • Bring a map - especially if you'd like to create longer hikes.
  • Some of the trails are still closed from the 2017 storms so check with the park staff before heading out.

Our trail recommendation:  Palmetto Boardwalk, Live Oak, and Ivey Gut Loop

Palmetto Boardwalk Trail

Goose Creek State Park Palmetto Boardwalk through wetlands in North Carolina

The Palmetto Boardwalk Trail starts from the back of the Visitor Center and meanders through a hardwood marsh. A great hiking location to spot wildlife in warmer months.

Note: As of Jan 2020, damage at the end of the boardwalk.

  • Easy, 0.5 mile walk with benches along the way
  • Handicap accessible

Tar Kiln Trail

Look for evidence of the 18th and 19th century longleaf pine logging industry while hiking the Tar Kiln Trail. Signage along the way points out various locations for tar kilns - essential to production of tar and turpentine. We used this trail to connect the Palmetto Boardwalk to Live Oak.

  • Easy, 1.3 miles one way (orange hexagon blaze)

Live Oak Trail

Two people walking under live oaks on the Live Oak Trail in Goose Creek State Park, North Carolina

The Live Oak Trail passes near an 1800's cemetery, along the Pamlico River shoreline, and then under an avenue of Spanish moss draped live oaks. Consider lunching at the swimming area picnic tables before finishing the loop.

  • Easy, 0.4 mile loop (red hexagon)

Mallard Creek Trail

For best access to Mallard Creek Trail, start at the last parking lot on the Main Road and end at an overlook of Mallard Creek. Great spot for birders.

  • Easy, 0.5 miles one way (blue hexagon)

Huckleberry Trail

The Huckleberry Trail operates as a short connector path between Live Oak and Mallard trails.

  • Easy, 0.2 miles (white hexagon)

Ivey Gut Trail

View of Goose Creek from the Ivey Gut Trail in Goose Creek State Park, North Carolina

The Ivey Gut Trail starts from the first Main Road parking lot and travels through a pine and mixed forest to the scenic Upper Goose Creek.

TIP: For a shorter loop hike, begin at the parking lot off of Campground Road - the best views are from this portion of Ivey Gut Trail.

  • Easy, 1.8 miles one way (red triangle) or easy, short loop less than a mile.

Goose Creek Trail

The longest trail, Goose Creek Trail, goes straight from the mouth of Goose Creek, near the primitive campground dock, and continues all the way to the swimming beach on the Pamlico River.

  • Easy, 2.0 miles (blue triangle)

Flatty Creek Trail

Another trail in the primitive campground area, Flatty Creek Trail loops through forest and wetland. Enjoy a stop on the elevated observation deck.

  • Easy, 0.3 mile loop - but need to include extra mileage from the start point at the parking lot.
  • As of Jan 2020, Flatty Creek Trail remains closed due to hurricane damage.

Goose Creek State Park Environmental Education Center/Visitor Center

Exterior view of Goose Creek State Park Environmental Education Center in North Carolina

After checking in at the lobby, take the time to examine the Discovery Room's mounted specimens of animals found in these local wetlands. Also, ask about any ranger-led hikes or programs that might be available during your stay. We attended a program on black bears and were astounded to learn that a bear can smell food 20 miles away! So, store your food and garbage properly.

Goose Creek State Park Swimming Area

Parent and child at the edge of Pamlico River in the swimming area of Goose Creek State Park, North Carolina

From either of the last two parking lots off the Main Road, follow a short path to the designated swimming area. Even in winter, families were enjoying beach time along the peaceful shores of the Pamlico River.

  • Swimming open from Memorial Day to Labor Day free of charge
  • No lifeguards on duty - swim at your own risk.
  • Outdoor spigots (seasonally) for rinsing sand off your feet
  • We suggest water shoes.

Goose Creek State Park Picnicking Areas

Flicker Field Shelter

  • Accommodates up to 64 people and handicap accessible.
  • Access to restrooms, drinking fountain, and drink machine at the nearby Visitor Center
  • Reservations available for a fee; otherwise free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis.

River Access Shelter (Near Swim Beach)

River Access Shelter at Goose Creek State Park, North Carolina
  • Accommodates up to 40 people and handicap accessible
  • Access to restrooms and drinking fountains.

Open Air Tables

  • Open air picnic tables may be found near the Flicker Field shelter, near the Beach shelter, at the riverfront, and at the boat launch, Dinah's Landing.

Gear we used on this adventure:


Coleman Stove - $43.88

12" Fry Pan - $32.08 (We cut the handle down on ours to fit in the kit)


Darn Tough Socks - $24.49 - $31.00

Keene Hiking Boots and Water Shoes- Prices vary depending on size and style


Kelty Sleeping bags - $104.95 - $169.95

Regarding the items listed above you need to know a few things:
1) We've used each of the items listed extensively on our travels. We consider them battle tested.
2) If you choose to purchase any of the items for yourself or as a gift, we really appreciate it. Thank-you! If you make a purchase, Campfire Delight receives a small compensation at no added cost to you which helps us keep the lights on and the kittens fed.

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