Books for Nature-Inspired Teachers

Full bookshelves are so inviting…don’t you just want to settle down and get reading?

Professional Books for Nature-Inspired Teachers

Compiled by April Zajko, M.Ed. (updated March 2017)


A Moving Child is a Learning Child: How the Body Teaches the Brain to Think (Birth to Age 7) by Gill Connell

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children by Angela J. Hanscom and Richard Louv

Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education by David Sobel

ECO Literate: How Educators are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind by Linda Buzzell

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray

Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

I’m OK! Building Resilience through Physical Play by Jarrod Green

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning by David Sobel and Patti Bailie

Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities by David Sobel

Play the Forest School Way: Woodland Games and Crafts for Adventurous Kids by P. Houghton and Jane Worroll

Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell

The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy by Edward M. Hallowell

The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places by Gary Paul Nabhan

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson

Theories of Childhood (2nd edition) by Carol Garhart Mooney

What If Everybody Understood Child Development? By Rae Pica



Children’s Books to Inspire Gardening

Little bitty plants for our patio planters…but oh how they grow all summer!


Books about Gardening, Vegetables & Plants:

Corn is Maize by Aliki

Eating the Alphabet – Lois Ehlert

Food Alphabet by David Drew

From Eye to Potato (Scholastic News Nonfiction Readers: How Things Grow)

How Are You Peeling? By Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers

How Does your Garden Grow? (Little Golden Book)

Inch by Inch – The Garden Song by David Mallet

Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole

Mr. Hobson’s Garden by Marc Gave

Nuts About Nuts by Diane Wilmer and Paul Dowling

Over in the Garden by Jennifer Ward (insects)

Plants by Terry Jennings

The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola

The Surprise Garden by Zoe Hall

Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens

Vegetables in the Garden – A First Discovery Book


Books about Flowers:  

Flowers: A First Discovery Book

How to Grow a Sunflower by S. Karavis and G. Matthews

It’s Science! Plants and Flowers

Let’s Look at Flowers

Sunflower House by Eve Buntin

The Reason for a Flower by R. Hellert


Books about plant parts:

Flowers/Fruits/Leaves/Roots/Seeds/Stems by Vijaya Khisty Bodach

Books about Beans:  

Growing Beans by Peter & Sheryl Sloan (uses egg shells)

One Bean by Anne Rockwell

Scarlette Beane by K. Wallace


Books about Seeds:

A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds by J. Richards

A Seed is Sleepy by D. H. Aston

From Seed to Plant by Allan Fowler

From Seed to Pumpkin by W. Pfeffer

How a Seed Grows by H. Jordan

I’m a Seed by J. Marzollo (compares pumpkin to marigolds)

Just a Seed by W. Blaxland

Oh Say Can You Seed? All About Flowering Plants by B. Worth

One Little Seed by E. Greenstein

Seeds Like These by Paki Carter

Spring is Here! A Story About Seeds by Joan Holub

The Carrot Seed by R. Krauss

The Surprise Garden by Zoe Hall

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

We Plant a Seed (Troll First Start Science)



Books about Fruit:  

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Each Orange Had 8 Slices by Paul Giganti

Fruit – A First Discovery Book.

Orange Juice by B. Chessen, P. Chanko


Check out my Pinterest board for more ideas for gardening with children:

Gardening Book for Teachers

This booklist contain my favorite ‘grown-up’ books for learning about gardening with children. In another post I will share my favorite children’s books!


Bucklin-Sporer, Arden. (2010). How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers.

Dannenmaier, Molly. (1998). A Childs Garden: Enchanting Outdoor Spaces for Children and Parents

James, Cathy. (2015). The Garden Classroom: Hands-on Activities in Math, Science, Literacy, and Art.

Kiefer, J. & M. Kemple. (1998). Digging Deeper: Integrating Youth Gardens into Schools and Communities.

Lovejoy, Sharon. (2015). Camp Granny.

Lovejoy, Sharon. (1999). Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children.

Moore, R. (1993). Plants for Play: A Plant Selection Guide for Children’s Outdoor Environments.

Morris, Karyn. (2000). The Kids Can Press Jumbo Book of Gardening

Tierra, Lesley. (2000). Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages.

Richardson, Beth. (1998). Gardening with Children

Rushing, Felder. (1999). Junior Garden Book- Better Homes and Gardens Books


Check out my Pinterest board for more information about gardening with children:

Gardening Resources Online

There are countless garden resources available online but who has time to sort through them. Since I like to integrate plants and gardening into my classroom throughout the entire year, I have created quite a variety of Pinterest boards to gather my inspiration!

A lovely floor painting celebrating gardening! Shelburne Farms in Shelburne Vermont


Check out my Pinterest boards related to Gardening:

“Gardening with Kids”

“Garden Study for Preschool”

“Pumpkin Study for Preschool”

“Bread & Wheat Study”

“Fall & Harvest”

“Forest Study”

“Carrot Preschool Theme”

“Flowers Preschool Theme”



Gardner Supply has a great online tool to help plan a square foot garden:


Great website full of gardeing info, sponsored by the National Gardening Association


Natural Learning Initiative offers lots of great outdoor design elements


Printable activities for both tots & preschoolers for a flower theme-


Seed & Plant Matching Cards –


Printable mini book about life cycle of pumpkin


Printable fruit/ veg shopping list & recipes


Printable Play Dough Mats –


Source for the songs listed in this packet –


Printable Play Dough Garden pieces –


Dramatic Play lists of props for many different themes –


Greenhouse printable & Observation log –


Printable activities for garden theme for tots & preschool kids, great printable song called “What Do Plants Need?” –


Printable pages for a flower shop or grocery store, as well as 16 other themes. The cost is only $4 and would making setting up a new dramatic play area very easy.

Gardening Theme Art Projects


Thumbprint Flowers on a Canvas Bag – perhaps my favorite teacher gift ever was this lovely bag with the names and thumbprints of all my students that year. It’s a treasured keepsake and would also make a wonderful end of the year gift for all the children to receive. (Perhaps make onto t-shirts instead of bags?)

Handprint Sunflowerson large paper pre-draw a 3-4 inch circle. Help kids paint one hand yellow and make 5-6 handprints around the circle forming a sunflower. Pour on some white Elmer’s glue and glue down real sunflower seeds in the center of the circle. Add green stems and create a wonderful bulletin board display of all the children’s hands.


Watercolor Sunflowers- cut out a sunflower shape, paint with liquid watercolor paints in yellow and orange, then glue on real sunflower seeds. Create the stem with a couple different green colored crepe paper. These make a beautiful classroom display!


Egg Carton Flowerspre-cut individual egg cups from cardboard egg cartons and thread green pipe cleaners into the cups to form a stem. The children can paint the outside of the cups with watercolor paint and then add tissue paper to the inside of the cups using white glue. Add leaves to the stems too. (Great tool for teaching about parts of a plant)

Beans & Grain Mosaicscut out small squares from corrugated cardboard. In small cups, color Elmer’s glue several different shades. Have the kids make mosaics by coating their cardboard with glue designing it with different grains (wheat, rice) and dried beans (black, kidney, lima, etc.)

Bean Mosaic Sun-catchers – lay a small plastic lid on the table, fill the lid with Elmer’s glue, and lay in a variety of seeds. Make a pattern or design or just put in a variety. Allow to dry overnight. Pop it out of the lid, make a small hole in the dried glue, and add a ribbon so you can hang it in a window.

Stamping with Root Vegetables – prior to the kids arriving, cut potatoes cut into various shapes, cut carrots just using the ends, use the end of the celery & cut turnips in half. Adding popsicle sticks may make the printing easier. Show kids how to dip or paint the stamps and then press onto the paper. Using grocery bags, cut out one side that is print free. Kids stamp to create a garden picture. (In the fall, we do the same project but cut out a cornucopia shape to stamp onto.)

Collage Gardens – kids cut pictures from gardening magazines and seed catalogs and arrange them onto paper into their “Dream Gardens”

Soda or Water Bottle Flowers – use the bottom of plastic bottle to dip into paint or a very wet ink pad, stamp onto paper. Add stems and leaves to make the prints look like flowers.

My Garden Plans – precut paper shapes to resemble garden veggies, kids glue them onto graph paper to make a square foot garden plan.

Shaving Cream Prints spread shaving cream on trays and provide liquid water colors to drip on top. Kids swirl the paint then press a piece of paper on top to make a print. {Paper can be cut into shapes such as flowers, veggies, or trees.}

Tree or Plant Paint Blotto: Day one -fold cardstock in half and drip paint onto one side and press together. Let dry. The next day kids can add details with more paint or add collage materials.

Beaded Flowers –need pipe cleaners, beads in bright colors, and flower cookie cutters to form the shapes. Children add beads to the pipe cleaners then make the flower design by molding along the outside of the cookie cutter. Add a hanger using either dental floss or fishing line.

Painting Coffee Filter Flowers with Ice Cubes – freeze several trays of ice cubes & food coloring or paint with a popsicle stick in it. Show the children how to hold the stick and ‘paint’ with the melting ice cube. Precut the coffee filters for the children or leave as a whole circle. Once dry, add a green pipe cleaner stem.

Glitter Flowers or Plants – Have kids create thick lines of glue on wax paper (or laminate scraps). Use a q-tip or toothpick to make a plant or flower design. Sprinkle with glitter and let dry.

Spin Art Painting – using a salad spinner, lay down a thick piece of paper such as card stock. Drizzle in watered down tempera paint. Put on lid and let kids spin. Check and add more paint, if desired! The paper could be pre-cut into flower shapes.

Bubble Wrap Print Makingcut flower & plant shapes from bubble wrap, brush on paint and then stamp onto paper. Experiment with different sized bubble wrap — jumbo to tiny! Tape the bubble wrap to the table so it’s stationary and you are only moving the paper.

Check out my Pinterest board for more information about gardening with children:

Favorite Plants for Children

*Involve the children in picking out the seeds or plants! Their sense of ownership and excitement for gardening is amplified when they are decision makers in what is planted.


* Keep kids involved in ALL steps — selecting, buying, planting, caring & harvesting! Include composting too so children see the full cycle. One of my children’s favorite job is turning the soil and adding fresh compost to the garden bed. It’s fun to see that rich dark soil and imagine all the wonderful things that will grow there!


Indoor plants spider plants, hens & chicks, Swedish ivy, African violets, Boston Ferns, and Venus Fly Traps are all great plants for kids to tend year-round. Indoor plants help improve the air quality and children benefit by caring for live plants.

IMG_1652Flowers — are always enjoyable because of their color and aroma, favorites include:

Geraniums a favorite because they will bloom nearly all summer and are easy to overwinter indoors. I love that they even bloom indoors in the winter!

Marigold – easy to grow, come in wide variety of sizes and colors, and easy to dry & collect the seeds. I like to start marigolds in March to be ready as Mother’s Day gifts in May!

Sunflowers– easy to grow, select a variety of sizes from 3 foot to the Mammoth 12ft variety, lots of different colors. Observe them throughout the day to see how the flower moves to gather sunlight. When done flowering, cut off the flower head and dry for several weeks. Collect seeds by shaking them into a bag. Use to feed the birds or save for the next planting season.

Hollyhock– grows very tall and once established comes back year after year

Snapdragons – unique shape, imaginative name, and beautiful colors

Lambs Ear – is a fuzzy and soft plant that is silvery-green. Kids love to rub the velvety leaves!


Herbs — are fragrant, easy to grow, and most are perennials (which means they come back each year). Make a Pizza Garden with oregano, thyme, and basil. Dill is easy to sprout and the foliage is feathery and unique. Mints should be grown in a separate patch so it can grow untamed, just don’t plant too near to your garden because it can be invasive. Mint comes in a wide variety including orange, chocolate, lemon, and pineapple.


Vegetables — are wonderful to grow to show children where their food comes from. Often reluctant eaters will eat the vegetables that they have helped to grow. Favorites include lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, peas, beans, and pumpkins. Radishes are quick to grow and help satisfy kid’s eagerness to pick something!

Fruit — berries are a favorite for children. Strawberries are an early crop so consider having at least a few plants. Blueberries, black berries, and raspberries are wonderful to pick fresh with children. Once established you will be picking these for years to come. Think long term and plant an apple tree!


Children will enjoy the plants that you enjoy. Help them select a few and get their fingers into the soil!

Check out my Pinterest board for more information about gardening with children:

Gardening with Children: Tips & Tricks

Decide what you define as a successful garden.

If this is your first year gardening with children, my best tips is to start small so that the garden will be manageable and enjoyable. You do not want it to become one more chore and become a burden! IMG_2439

  • Make the garden a child-centered project by involving the kids in every step of the process. From selecting the plants in a gardening catalog, planting seeds, getting the soil read, planting, tending, and harvesting. Allow the children to be part of the entire process!
  • Take a field trip to select and buy plants. If that isn’t feasible, have children help you select plants by circling or cutting out pictures from a seed catalog.
  • If this is school or child care project, try to involve the families in your program by asking parents to each send in one or two plants for the garden, to volunteer to come in to plant, tend to the garden in the summer, and/or to help with the fall harvest.
  • Have the children help you prepare the pots or turn the garden, and then let them help you plant the seeds or plants.
  • Young children do better with larger seeds such as pumpkin, squash, sunflower, or corn. Tiny seeds will often end up clumped together, but you can always thin the seedlings later.
  • Children will help you maintain the garden if you help them see it as fun and enjoyable.
  • Keep kid tasks in the garden to 10 minutes. They will be more excited to help in small chunks of time, such as weeding for ten minutes in the morning and 10 more minutes at lunchtime, then asking them to do a repetitive task for longer.
  • Teach kids how to weed and how to recognize which plants to pull. Make a game of who can fill their bin first, and whoever gets their bin full helps the others.
  • Photograph and journal about the garden throughout the growing season. Keep these mementos out for the kids to view throughout the year so interest in gardening is maintained.