“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had no childhood in it.” —George Eliot
In the state of Iowa, where I live, the change from winter to spring is like an on and off switch. Yet, at the end of another vortex, Spring has finally come to Iowa. Spring is a perfect time to schedule your storytime programs outdoors. The library I work at has a courtyard where we have outdoor storytimes; however, a local park will do as well. Outdoor storytimes bring the library out of its natural habitat and into the wild and are a perfect opportunity to bring stories to life through a variety of outdoor activities including:
- A Story Hike. For me, a story hike is a set of outdoor activities that enhance the reading experience. Each activity I design is based on the stories I read. One great example is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. For this story hike, families were asked to search for the various foods the caterpillar ate. At the end of the hike, they enjoyed seeing real butterflies we raised at the library.
- Musical Performances. Adding music to storytimes is nothing new but, for outdoor storytimes, I enjoy inviting community musicians to provide a live performance. The songs are both classics and modern and relate to the chosen theme. Families are encouraged to participate by using musical instruments throughout the performance.
- Art in the Park. An outdoor storytime opens up many art opportunities by using nature as a backdrop. In years past, I created a flower storytime, for which one of the activities was having the children paint a flower garden. Families used a key of the flowers on the library grounds and searched for them. They were provided with a coloring sheet with the outlines of flowers in a garden. Once they found each flower a bottle of paint was sitting in the garden. They were invited to add that color to their coloring sheet.
- Tasting Nature. For this activity, I choose stories with either vegetables or fruit. I contacted my local grocery store nutritionist to see if they would donate vegetables, fruit, or both for this activity. At the end of this activity, families are treated with vegetables or fruit found in the story.
Great Stories to Read for Outdoor Storytime
- Are you Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
- I Took a Walk by Henry Cole
- Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
- My Garden by Kevin Henkes
- Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin
- Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae
- Walking through the Jungle by Stella Blackstone
- Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
Songs to Enjoy
- Walking through the Jungle
- In the Garden
- A Camping We Will Go
- Flap Your Wings Together
- Rainbow Colors
Idea Books for the Great Outdoors:
- Outdoor Science Lab for Kids by Liz Heinecke
- Gardening Lab for Kids by Renata Brown
- 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro
Articles on the Importance of Outdoor Play: