Books for Young Families: Make the Most of the Outdoors this Summer with these Titles

“Camp Out! The Ultimate Kids’ Guide from the Backyard to the Backwoods,” by Lynn Brunelle ($13.95) is the perfect primer for any family contemplating a camping trip with young children. Such an endeavor is a daunting prospect for new (and new-ish) parents. All the information needed for a successful camping trip with kids is contained in this book, presented in a light-hearted, kid-friendly style. At nearly 400-pages, Brunelle has thought of everything including what to pack, how to set up camp, and helpful menus and recipes for backpacking trips or car camping.

Even if you aren’t planning on an overnight trip, the bulk of the book – over 200 pages – is dedicated to fun and games that could be enjoyed on any day trip or hike with children.  The “Backpack Naturalist” section includes experiments and activities that are intriguing yet simple to follow. The section “Campsite Crafting” has several creative activities that any parent or educator could do with budding artists. “Let Loose” includes games and songs for long car rides, daytime, and nighttime at the campsite.

In spite of the length, the book does not feel too dense or filled with extraneous information. The editing, formatting, and illustrations make it a very enjoyable reference that personally, I would not want to go camping without!

“The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature,” from the Children’s Education Staff at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden ($12.95), is another valuable resource for any adult interested in imparting a love of nature on a young child in their life. This 120-page book is best enjoyed with the participation of an engaged adult, such as an educator, willing to impart the information contained in the rather-dense pages. The activities in this book can be enjoyed in the backyard or within a couple hours from any city in the Northeast. While the introduction on “how to be a nature explorer” may have benefited from more editing and kid-centric enticement (Campout! Is much better in this regard), the rest of the book is helpfully organized by seasons and typical settings, such as “beach”, “city”, “woods”, and “meadow.” This novel approach makes it the ideal practical reference guide for Friends of the Fells members to pick up and put down frequently throughout the year.

What really sets this book apart from other guides in this genre are the full-page photo-realistic illustrations, the scale and size of which have been enhanced to emphasize various natural elements in a given setting. These illustrations of trees in urban settings and common woodland plants and animals will be immediately recognizable to you and your little ones. They are also highly effective educational guides and inspiring works of art.

Armed with the wisdom of a seasoned camper and naturalist, you may feel inspired to take your knowledge beyond the Middlesex Fells Reservation. The following titles published by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) are great resources for hikes near and far with kids of all ages. For hikes close to home, check out “Outdoors With Kids: Boston” by Kim Foley MacKinnon, which includes 88 hikes in Massachusetts alone, organized by proximity to Boston, and denoting the appropriate age groups for each hike. Beyond Massachusetts, MacKinnon provides several options to explore in Rhode Island, Connecticut, southern New Hampshire and Maine. Further afield, “Outdoors With Kids: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont” by Ethan Hipple and published in 2014 includes 75 of the “best family camping, hiking, and paddling trips” based on age and child’s ability. Each trip includes a map, photograph, driving directions, a thoughtful description of the hike, nearby facilities, and information on fees, if any. Even though most of the information contained in these AMC titles is available on the internet, these books make it a cinch to compare excursions side-by-side with all of the pertinent information at your fingertips: How far? How difficult? Can we bring the dog, and what else is around there? E-book and paperback versions of the AMC books are available from Amazon.

Happy trails!