Best Nature Books for Children

There are two things I’ve loved since I was a child: reading and nature. Both make this heart happy and come alive. So naturally, when a friend of mine shared about a nature book giveaway, I jumped on it… and y’all, I won it! It was like Christmas when these books arrived at our home.

It’s been so fun exploring the pages of these books with my children (ages 4-9), and I wanted to share some of our favorites with you. Also, here’s a random fact: While picking out my top books for you, I discovered I was not only drawn to the words, but the illustrations as well. All of these books are not only written beautifully, but have stunning illustrations.

The Honeybee
Written by: Kirsten Hall
Illustrated by: Isabelle Arsenault

     

This is a book my four year old daughter adores. As soon as you open the book, you’re greeted with beautiful illustrations. The entire book reads in a sing-song kind of way; with catchy rhymes and rhythms throughout. It has a way of entertaining you with a story all while being educational and sharing facts about a honeybee’s extraordinary life. This would be a wonderful book to have in any family.

The Keeper of Wild Words
Written by: Brooke Smith
Illustrated by: Madeline Kloepper

     

Y’all, I’m gonna be completely honest with you. I totally cried when I read this children’s book. It’s not necessarily a tear jerker, but it just stirred something in my heart. The book is about a recent phenomena happening: the dictionary is replacing nature themed words like “poppy” or “wren” with words like “chatroom” and “voicemail.” It made me long to always return to nature, and to never let those wild words die… and also, it made me long to write in a way that stirs others’ hearts as well. Read this book to your kids, but listen closely; because it is gold.

National Parks of the U.S.A.
Written by: Kate Siber
Illustrated by: Chris Turnham

     

Now, this one is my nine year old’s favorite book out of the bunch. He keeps it by his bed, and probably searches through it every day. This book tells kids all about the history of each national park, what landscape and wildlife they can expect to see at each park, and many other fun facts tucked in the pages! If you’re planning on traveling to National Parks in the future, grab this book for your kids! It’s a great way for them to explore the place before you go.

Nature Anatomy
Written & Illustrated by: Julia Rothman
With help from: John Niekrasz

     

Want your kids to know some facts about practically everything in nature? Want them to learn in a way that’s easy for them to understand, and with excellent pictures? Then this is the book for you! Julia Rothman does a remarkable job showing us “the curious parts and pieces of the natural world.” She also has: Farm Anatomy and Ocean Anatomy, which are now on my Amazon Wish List!

Nature Journals
Written by: Your Kid
Illustrated by: Your Kid

Okay, so this last one isn’t a publication, but it’s a great suggestion. I bought each one of my kiddos a composition notebook, and about once a week (sometimes more!) we’ll go on a walk and record some things we find in nature. Sometimes they’ll draw, sometimes they’ll jot things down, and sometimes they’ll make up stories about what they see in nature. It’s been so much fun to watch them create in this way. It’s also a great way to reference different animals and plants in different seasons.

Ok friends, those are my top five nature themed books for children. I have so many more I want to read to my kids. I wanna know: What’s YOUR favorite nature themed book for kids or yourself?

Deer and Cardinals: A Reminder of God’s Fulfillment

I didn’t manifest this. I didn’t write this down every day in a journal for 7 years. I didn’t hustle for this. I didn’t even dare to pray for this, y’all. I could tell you the whole story, but what it comes down to is this: I —my family— was given this. By God Himself. Being able to live at Camp Zephyr has been such a gift to my family, and has taught me so many valuable lessons. I’m sharing one with you today.

When I am outside, at Camp Zephyr, I am in a state of being I never thought possible. I am at peace. My kids roaming, and exploring the amazing trails. I am playful. I’m spontaneous, and can go from one trail or plan to the next in a heartbeat. My desire for productivity ceases. I have no to-do list other than to play and explore and be with my children, and I intend to repeat that continuously. 

I never knew this could exist. My whole existence before Zephyr revolved around to-do lists, goals, and other people’s expectations.  And was coupled (or crippled may be a better word) with LOTS of anxiety.

But here? In the middle of nowhere? I can breathe. I can step outside our RV and instantly see the lake, deer, rabbits, and cardinals. My kids can join me, and I’m not mad about it. I don’t have this constant desire for “me time.” I look forward to coming home, and I enjoy staying there. I no longer want to escape. I want to linger. I want to explore. Go deeper into the woods with my kid’s muddy hand in mine. Who knows what’s out there?

I feel like a door has been unlocked to my heart. There was a longing. There was always a longing. A longing for the country.  A longing for space and stillness. A longing to rest.

But I hardly voiced it. Maybe a few times I talked about living out in the country, just to get shut down by the reality of our circumstances. You better believe I never asked to live at Camp Zephyr. That was something I never thought would happen. But you know what? My kids asked. Every day when we were at Camp Zephyr last summer, they asked us to live here. There’s a reason (well, many reasons) God instructs us to be like the children… they ask and they ask with faith. But me? It was barely a whisper in my soul… but God heard it. He heard it and He continues to hear the whispers of our souls.

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Last summer, I was sitting in my sister’s, Rachel, backyard in Virginia. I had flown there the night before. We were drinking a quick cup of coffee before starting our road trip to Texas. Her backyard backs up to a forest, so wildlife and trees and NATURE are plentiful. We happened to see a deer and cardinal in her backyard that morning. And in that morning, I said (probably with an ache in my voice), “I wanna live somewhere with deer and cardinals.” 

Fast forward a few months later. I’m talking on the phone with Rachel, and she asks how living at Zephyr is going. I start going on and on about how I love it, and how I see deer and cardinals every day. She stops me mid-sentence, and says, “Sister! You got your deer and cardinals!” Y’all I had completely FORGOTTEN about that statement I made in Virginia months ago. When Rachel reminded me of that full circle moment, I lost it. I cried on the phone, and she cried on the phone, and we were reminded of the goodness of God.

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He longs to fulfill those whispers. He longs to bring us closer to Him. He fulfills those whispers to share His goodness. To show us just how big He is… and in my case, I think He fulfilled the whisper also to show me that He fulfilled this longing. Not me and my efforts. Your whisper might not be deer and cardinals, but God knows it. He can fulfill it.

I continue to be amazed. Who am I? That you are mindful of me?

Self Care Series: Sunshine

It’s time for another segment of our Self Care Series: yay! Ok, y’all… First, I have to show you just the awesomeness (yes, it’s a word… in my book! 😉 ) of the timing of this series: 

1. May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Hello?!? Self Care = Self Love.

2. I am currently listening to Tiffany Peterson’s Mindset Makeover Series, which focuses on mindset and self care… you guys.

Ok, now that I got THAT out of the way, let’s continue. Last time, I chatted with y’all about sleep, and today I am going to talk about something that may seem totally opposite of that, but it’s equally important: SUNSHINE. Yep, sunshine!

Now, I’m not going to tell you that you need to spend hours a day soaking up the rays, because, hello: skin cancer. BUT I do think it’s really good for your body to get sunshine every single day. So, I’m going to share my routine with you, and you can cater it to your liking and schedule.

My husband and I have been beginning our day together outside. It’s beautiful, y’all… not my backyard, my backyard is just typical, the beautiful aspect is starting the day together outside. We have no rigid routine set for ourselves, we just sit out there after getting our oldest to the bus stop and the younger three kiddos play outside and eat dirt and whatnot. We’ll drink our coffee, read whatever book we happen to be working on (I am currently reading Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst), and just hang out for a bit before he has to leave for work.

What I also started doing was literally laying out in the sun. Not for the sake of tanning, because anyone who knows me knows I don’t tan (despite the fact that my mom is Hispanic, therefore making me half Hispanic… still no tan for me). However, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the feeling of the sun on my skin. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it, but I do. 

I remember laying out with my friend Amanda from college on random big rocks the campus had placed throughout the college. There we were laying out on these big rocks right outside of the UCC (I don’t even remember what UCC stands for anymore… I am so old!). The feeling of the sun on my skin is addicting.

I have been laying out for 15 minutes a day for the past couple of months. During nap time when the sun is shining the most, I’ll throw on a tank top and shorts I would never wear in public, and lay out on our outdoor couch. I set my timer so I won’t fall asleep out there, because the heat in South Texas is no joke y’all. This 15 minutes is bliss.

Here are some health benefits from getting sunshine:

– Can help to lower your cholesterol 

– Can help to lower your blood pressure

– Supports your immune system

– Elevate your mood

– Creates Vitamin D in your body

– Improves the appearance of your skin

**Note: We all know that prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer, so keep these times brief. If you’re going to be in the sunshine for more than 15 minutes, then you’ll want to protect your skin. Preferably with a natural sun screen!**

I wanna hear from you! Do you enjoy being out in the sun?

Fredericksburg Fun

So, there’s this little gem in Texas in the form of a town called Fredericksburg. My family decided to “camp” there over the weekend with our kidos in my dad’s camper. I put the word camp in quotations, because to me camping should be done in tents. That’s real camping. Camping done in an RV or travel trailer is pretend camping (but still fun and actually a great option for a family with really young children).

Warning: Lots of pictures to come.

As my husband and I are driving there on Thursday, I entered in the park in good ol’ Google. Search: Jellystone Park in Fredericksburg, TX. Well, what came up was a Jellystone Park near Fredericksburg, TX in Canyon Lake, TX. I figured that was it so I plug that address into my iPhone, which only took me about 15 minutes. You should know I’m terrible with technology and have had a smartphone for less than a year… so there’s a learning curve.

By this time we are in San Antonio and I’m giving my husband directions. He seems leery of these directions, but I just assure him, “It’s what the GPS says!” Needless to say, after ending up in Canyon Lake (an hour away from the Jellystone Park my dad was at with his camper) I was lovingly fired from being the navigator. We laughed about it later. Much later.

P.S. This is a great park for young children. They have sites for RVs or travel trailers, cabins on site, and also sites for tent camping. They do fun activities on weekends that are family oriented, and have fun things on the campground, like a playground, a swimming pool, and walking trails. Here is what you should enter in Google to get an accurate location: Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park. Good to know.

Once there I fell in love with the scenery. Trees, hills, and Texas wildflowers lined the highways. My boys just wanted to walk around and explore, so that’s what we did. We explored the park, played on the playground, Noah went swimming, we caught grasshoppers… and we caught a stomach bug. One by one everyone got sick throughout the weekend, except for baby Isaac and myself.

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Friday we went to Wildseed Farms, and if you love plants, you’ll love this place. It’s a huge nursery with little shops filled with merchandise, wine tasting, and restaurants nestled in. They also have a walking trail highlighting the Texas wildflowers in season, so we went that route. Y’all, I could stay at that place all day long and just drink in God’s goodness through nature. The boys loved the small wildlife they could interact with: snails, frogs, squirrels and hummingbirds.

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My dad and I went about half a mile down the road on Highway 290 to Bariloche Farm and got some peach cobbler with a side on homemade Mexican vanilla ice cream. The peach cobbler was good, but the vanilla ice cream was divine, y’all. It was so incredibly smooth with the flavor of real vanilla (none of that imitation stuff!) with a little bit of a warm spice. If you ever go to Fredericksburg and you’re a fan of ice cream, go here. I wish I could have tried other flavors. With blackberries and various peaches in season, they had those flavors too that use fresh picked fruit from their farm to make it. Is your mouth watering yet? Because it should be. Ok, I’m done with talking about the ice cream, but seriously, go there and get some.

Saturday (which we decided would be our last day since this stomach bug was quickly invading ,every inch of the camper) we went blackberry picking at Marburger Orchard. This was by far, my favorite activity of the weekend. We arrived early and after a short introduction by Gary, we chose our row and started picking. Despite the thorns on the bushes, the boys dug right in. It was a great opportunity to teach the boys about fruit ripening, because you could see all stages of the berries. Honestly, we probably could have stayed longer, but we had already filled our box holding 6 pounds of blackberries.

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Despite the fact that almost everyone got sick, we had a blast last weekend. My heart beats a little faster in the country. The idea of having my own year round garden makes me smile. I love watching my boys get excited about God’s creation. It was such a sweet reminder to take things a little slower, linger outside a little longer, and appreciate nature’s playground.

What’s your favorite thing about nature?