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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Three formal campsite areas  – Cedar Point, Flanners Beach, and Oyster Point– make great starting places from which to launch your adventures. All have limited parking.

Pine Cliff Recreation Area is another option. It has a small parking area, vault toilets, and a picnic area. Hike a little way along the Neusiok Trail and find the best wild camping that Croatan National Forest has to offer. The beach that runs along the Neuse River is wide and faces northeast which makes for great camping and beautiful sunrises.

Hiking Neusiok Trail in Croatan National Forest

The Neusiok Trail stretches from The Oyster Point Campground to Pine Cliff Recreation area and offers 21-miles of trail through swamps and pine forests. Hiking is best from October through March when the brush has receded and insects and snakes are sparse.  

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Three lean-to shelters, accommodating three people, are stationed along the way to provide some relief from the elements. Each has a water pump (notoriously unreliable) and a fire grill. No drinking water is available along the trail, and if hiking in the summer months, insect repellent is a must. Leave 7-10 hours to complete the entire trek.

  • Copperhead Landing is about halfway between the Pine Cliff Picnic Area and NC 306.
  • Dogwood Camp is less than a mile south of NC 101.
  • Blackjack Lodge is about one mile north of Mill Creek Road.

Other Hiking Trails in Croatan National Forest:

Cedar Point Tideland Trail which traverses through a salt marsh and along the White Oak River.

Island Creek Forest Walk featuring a forest of hardwoods.

Black Swamp OHV Trail for off-road vehicles and bikes. (8 Miles)

Catfish Lake Road provides many roads and trails for you to explore. (13 miles)

Weetock Trail (14.1 miles)

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