There’s nothing quite like the awe and wonder that comes from being in nature— that feeling of a breathless wow. My two-year-old never seems to tire of examining pebbles in the dirt, picking dandelions in the grass, pointing out birds and clouds, and collecting leaves off the sidewalk. The pure excitement of spotting a rainbow with my children never gets old.
This amazement and curiosity that nature inspires in my children is something I really want to nurture through our reading. When I first dove into the world of children’s literature, I was so pleasantly surprised at how far nonfiction children’s books have come since my own childhood. I remember being drawn to nonfiction when I was growing up, but at the time, many children’s books about science were dry and terse, filled with large blocks of text, uninspiring images, or illustrations that felt overly cartoonish and cheesy.
I studied and worked in the sciences for over a decade, but also consider myself a writer and artist so I was thrilled when I discovered several nonfiction children’s book series that marry art and science together in a beautiful way. These are the books I wish I had when I was growing up: stunning images, thoughtfully designed, interesting and awe-inspiring— just like nature.
My Favorite Nonfiction Nature Books For Kids
I am so excited to share this list of my absolute favorite nonfiction nature book series for kids that foster learning, curiosity, and appreciation for this incredible world we live in:
DK Children’s Anthology
The DK Children’s Anthology series are works of art. Beautifully bound with gold gilded pages, these display-worthy books captivate readers of all ages with stunning images and intriguing facts presented in a child-friendly storybook style. I love that every animal, plant, or natural object featured is shown both photographically and illustrated. From pitcher plants and baleen whales to fossils and neutron stars, the DK Children’s Anthology books are an awe-inspiring, immersive exploration of nature that my children reach for over and over again. Simply put, these books make nature feel magical.
Family Treasure Nature Encyclopedias
The Family Treasure Nature Encyclopedias by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long are definitely another favorite on our bookshelf! These award-winning books showcase the marvels of nature with gorgeous illustrations and a whimsical, poetic voice. I especially love that this series is both elegant in design and writing, yet still perfectly accessible and engaging for young children. Also, contrary to what the name may suggest, these “encyclopedias” read more like picture books rather than a reference book, and are short enough to finish in one sitting.
The Big Book
If you are looking for a fun and engaging introduction to nonfiction literature for toddlers and preschoolers, I highly recommend The Big Book Series. The charming, colorful illustrations in these books encourage visual exploration and pique the interest of little ones. Questions such as Why do bees buzz? and How do animals breathe underwater? are answered in short, easy to understand sentences and paired alongside interesting facts written in simple, concise language. These books are fun for kids to flip through and nurture a love for observation and discovery.
Usborne Flap Books
Another great collection of nonfiction nature books for younger kids are the Usborne flap books. Both of my kids loved flap books since they were babies and my oldest, who is now in elementary school, still adores the Usborne lift-the-flap books with it’s lively illustrations and interactive reading experience. Peek inside a beehive! See which creatures are hiding in the coral reef! Discover bugs that make their home in a pond! I especially love that this fun, educational series offers three different types of books for varying reading levels: the peek inside books for toddlers and preschoolers, the see inside books for emergent readers, and the look inside books with more detailed information for older children. Usborne (recently rebranded as PaperPie in the U.S.) is a direct sales company so books are purchased through brand partners who earn a commission.
Welcome to the Museum
The Welcome to the Museum series are curated guides that feature collections of animals, plants, and more, all artfully displayed alongside fascinating facts and insights that inspire that sense of wonder you get from exploring a natural history museum. The exquisite vintage-style illustrations of these books are what really stand out to me and the companion activity books are a fun blend of art and science. The reading level of this series will appeal most to a middle grade audience, but even young children will find plenty to marvel at in these wondrous books.
DK Our World In Pictures
As a child of the 90s, I have fond memories poring over the original Eyewitness Books that drew me in with its signature collage of colorful photographs and diagrams on a crisp white background. I was thrilled (and filled with nostalgia) when I discovered the current updated version of these engaging visual encyclopedias: The DK Our World In Pictures. These books are filled with interesting facts broken down into digestible little nuggets. The reading level is best suited for an older elementary student but let’s face it— the amazing pictures are what really makes this series stand out and that’s something kids of all ages can appreciate.
Books in this series include The Animal Book: A Visual Encyclopedia of Life on Earth, The Dinosaur Book, and Trees, Leaves, Flowers and Seeds: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Plant Kingdom.
The Julia Rothman Collection
Inquisitive kids and grownups alike will enjoy learning how sunsets form, what’s inside a volcano, and the anatomy of a jellyfish through Julia Rothman’s whimsical field guides to the natural world. These books are like peering into a naturalist’s art journal— the pages are filled with delightful sketches, diagrams, and dissections that are intricately penned to spark a child’s curiosity. I love the way these books encourage asking questions about how things work and inspire kids to take a closer look at the world around them. There is a wealth of knowledge contained in these books, but the stylistic cursive can make the reading a bit challenging for younger children.