As the days lengthen and grow warmer and we are drawn more and more outside, I begin to reflect back on the magic of my own childhood. I have fond memories of long summer days swimming in the creek for hours on end, hiking and camping, playing in the woods, canoeing down the river, riding my horse, climbing trees and making forts. The older I get the more thankful I am for those days of freedom and fun.
It seems to me that in our modern, busy, digitized world those moments of free, unstructured play are becoming more and more rare for today’s children. I try to be intentional (and sometimes spontaneous) about our family getting outside and providing time and space for my children to have imaginative play.
My five picture book recommendations for summer reflect the joy and privilege of time in nature and unstructured outdoor play which I feel are immeasurable treasure in the lives of children.
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
Charmingly illustrated by Barbara Cooney, one of my most beloved illustrators, this is a beautiful book about the power of children’s imaginations to play and entertain themselves even in an unlikely setting. It exquisitely demonstrates the power that free, imaginative play has to stay with us throughout our whole lives.
The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow
Richly written to draw in all the senses and bring to life the beautiful and awesome power of a summer storm with timeless illustrations.
The Big Alfie Out-of-Doors Storybook by Shirley Hughes
Shirley Hughes captures the essence of childhood in all of her charming picture books and this one is no exception. This delightful book is full of sweet, fun stories and poems about children experiencing the outdoors. While all the stories are delightful, we especially enjoy Alfie Goes Camping and Bonting. The individual stories in this book could be great for bedtime.
The Raft by Jim LaMarche
Nicky is dreading spending the summer with his eccentric grandmother. No kids to play with and no T.V. for a whole summer sounds like torture to him. But what Nicky discovers during his summer on the river with a “magic” wooden raft is the true wonder and power of nature and art.
Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
A fun depiction of a family’s summer holidays on the islands in Penobscot bay off the coast of Maine. This lovely story shows the children exploring islands, boating, swimming, watching the stars and experiencing a summer storm. A sweet celebration of the joys of childhood in summer.
And a summer music recommendation. Several years ago I discovered The Okee Dokee Brothers and they quickly became a family favorite. Their first two albums could be written from the pages of my own childhood and are full of fun rich lyrics about canoeing, camping and hiking. “Thousand Star Hotel” is one of my favorites.
Can You Canoe?
Through The Woods