Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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April is Earth Month, a month to celebrate nature in all forms. To inspire kids to learn more about the planet and its fascinating flora and fauna, check out these great reads. While younger kids will get to daydream about beautiful places, older kids will learn about environmental challenges and conservation causes that they can embrace and support. Reading about nature is the next best thing to being in nature and these books for kids are all inspiring in their approach.
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Ready to explore the ocean? A lovely introduction to the marine world, this board book combines textures with pictures of ocean animals for a multisensory experience. Whether it’s scales, tails, flippers or fins, the various textures encourage little ones to discover more than two dozen sea animals. If you can plan a trip to the aquarium to see the real thing, your young marine biologists will get the full treatment! They will also learn to view the ocean as a home for a range of animals rather than a flat blue surface.
Ages: 0 to 2 years
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From the creators of BabyLit, this book is a fun introduction to our glorious parks via a retro steam train. Exploring the country from coast to coast, each stop provides vignettes to illustrate the unique elements of each national park. Now, if only such a train existed in real life…
Ages: 3 to 5 years
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The word “wild” often refers to vast, unchartered territory far from home, but what about your own backyard? With this board book, your preschooler will be invited to find microhabitats by looking more closely at wild spaces closer to home. From a robin pecking berries off a bush to moles digging tunnels and finding worms underground, this is the perfect opportunity to look at your neighborhood with a fresh eye for all things wild. Who knows what butterflies, birds, and bugs you can discover?
Ages: 3 to 5 years
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This amazing book is both fun and educational. Listing 19 different species that hide in nature, the author introduces each with an illustrated poem. The end pages provide more facts about why such creatures have developed certain style of camouflage. Would you believe that lying still can be the key to finding dinner, or that blending in with your environment can help you avoid becoming dinner? This is a great book full of fascinating animal behaviors.
Ages: 4 to 8 years
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Coelacanths, horseshoe crabs, and dragonflies have more in common than you might think. They are living fossils who haven’t changed (in appearance) since they lived alongside dinosaurs. Are your kids ready for a flash from the past? Thanks to this book, they can find out who these animals are, how they survived, and where they live today. If you want to find out more, the end pages provide additional resources. In the animal kingdom, ancient is definitely the new young!
Ages: 4 to 8 years
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This book starts with a packing list for a trip to the rainforest and a list of stuff to leave at home. If your kids are going to explore the rainforest (on paper), they might as well do it right. The book then follows two kids and one adult as they discover what rainforests are made of. Do you know how much water tropical rainforests get per year, or which animals live there? Containing lots of fun facts and words related to this unique habitat, this book will surely trigger lots of questions from budding scientists.
Ages: 4 to 8 years
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This is an oversize counting book for school-age children with a plea to protect 10 species that are threatened. The book features wonderfully realistic drawings to render the splendor of the wild. Ending with unique facts and additional resources, Counting Lions will inspire more than one young conservationist.
Ages: 4 to 10 years
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On field-trip day at the aquarium, young Sydney is shocked to find out that a rescued sea turtle named Greenie ate plastic garbage and got sick. On the way home, she enlists her twin brother Simon to create an action plan and reduce trash. Together, they embark on a mission to find creative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle with the help of family and friends. With an emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics), this book will inspire young nature lovers with problem-solving ideas, fun illustrations, and a feisty duo they can relate to. A guitar made from old board, nails, and broom wires, anyone?
Ages: 6 to 9 years
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Written by Alex Scarrow
Part of the Time Riders series, this book brings together three kids who work undercover for a secret agency preventing time travel from destroying history. In Day of the Predator, one of the children is mistakenly sent back to the dinosaur age (65 million years in the past), and his friends need to get him out of a very bad situation. Including grim predictions that fossil fuels will run out and that scientists will try to create a new “zero point” energy, this adventure and spy book is a creative view of what the Earth would have been like before dinosaurs were extinct. Presumably, not the best place for a relaxing vacation. Tweens should love this fun series.
Ages: 10 to 14 years
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Teenager Dan and his soon-to-be stepfather embark on a survival trip to Alaska to bond. Seems like the premise of a wonderful return to the wild, except everything goes wrong. Dan brings along a friend to sabotage the trip, but when a wild bear spots them near a lake, sabotage takes a backseat as they run for their lives instead. Peppered with bathroom humor (lots of it) and a few sexual references, this book is for mature tweens who aren’t afraid of graphic descriptions, but enjoy a good adventure with jokes gone wrong.
Ages: 12 to 16 years
This monthly feature is also published in the Golden Gate Mothers Group Magazine in San Francisco, April 2016 issue, as the Books for Kids column. I’ve been writing this column since 2005 and love discovering new books for all ages.
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