12 Autumn Children's Books to Inspire Nature Play

September 14, 2017

There may still be two weeks of summer ahead of us, but we are slowly changing the materials in our nature house from dried flowers to freshly fallen leaves, from sea shells to acorns, and rotating the books about flower gardens and seaside adventures from our shelves.

As each new season approaches, I try to thoughtfully add a new title or two to our collection. This time of year it's all leaves and apples and autumn harvest - it's such a beautiful season with so much to see and do and collect outdoors. I thought I would share a few of our favourite titles that we either own or borrow frequently from the library - specifically, titles that I feel inspire outdoor and nature play for children.

Autumn by Gerda Muller is a narrative following several friends as they play in leaves, collect acorns, fly kites, make leaf crafts, and other activities which inspire play related to the season. It is a simple board book with no words - but tells a story with its beautiful illustrations. Ramona will quietly pour over the pages for a long car ride, or talk about illustrations, spotting something new each time. There is also a Spring, Summer, and Winter book to complete this seasonal series.

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert is a collage art story about a "leaf man" as he travels across the country in different forms. While the story is a little lack-luster for me (I'm usually a big fan of Ehlert's stories), the creativity and use of colour in the imagery is what draws me to this book over and over again. I've used this book in my preschool classes around autumn to inspire leaf and tree seed art.
Art from Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger is a beautiful story about a timid little yellow leaf who holds on even as all the other leaves around it fall, not feeling ready to let go - until it sees another leaf still holding on, and they decide to let go together. The collage-style art is beautiful, and the story is touching, addressing fears and uncertainty about doing something new. It doesn't outrightly inspire nature play, but when I read it I'm always reminded of a child in a Forest Kindergarten group I assisted in who was nervous to even get his hands dirty, but by the end of the third day, he felt comfortable enough with his group of friends to join in as they built stick homes in the mud. Sometimes we just need a friend to try something new.

Children of the Forest by Elsa Beskow is a classic, captivating story about a little family with red toadstool caps and how they live in the forest throughout the year. It isn't strictly an autumn book, but the majority of the book takes place in fall, sharing how the family prepares by collecting mushrooms and nuts, the beginning of school with the other forest creatures, and spinning new warm clothes in preparation for winter. This is one of Ramona's favourite books (and mine too) - even though the text is long, she will sit through the entire thing two or three times over, with lots to talk about on every page (her favourite is when the children pick blueberries nearby a troll cave). This book inspires so much imagination in the outdoors - picturing little people living their lives playing among squirrels and playing with fairies on logs as the days grow shorter.
*I should note that Amazon.ca offers the mini version of this book, though you may find the larger version used through one of their vendors.

The Story of the Wind Children by Sibylle Von Olfers is a charming story of a small boy taken on an autumnal adventure by one of the wind children. As always, the illustrations are the real star of Von Olfer's books, where she depicts clouds as horses, and wind and leaves as little magical friends straight out of a fairy tale. This sweet little tale inspires the imagination of young children, bringing nature to life.

Art from The Story of the Wind Children

Goodbye Summer Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak follows a child on a late summer walk, saying hello to the animals, trees, wind. What I love is that Pak gives nature a voice, responding and telling the child what is happening - the animals preparing food for winter, the temperature cooling, the trees beginning to change, the cold winds blowing. And then at the end of the book the child goes to sleep, only to wake up to a beautiful, brisk, colourful autumn morning. This book inspires children to observe the changes of the seasons.

Art from Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn from MacMillan Publishers

The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall is a story, told by a little girl, about the apple tree in her yard during a year of its life, from winter dormancy to spring blossoms to apples during harvest season - and finally to making apple pie! I love the extra little details - of a robins nest in the branches of the tree, of the bees and butterflies. This book encourages children to take notice of the changes throughout the seasons - specifically the growth, and harvest of apples - and it offers a recipe too for apple pie, too!

Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins shows children how to identify trees by their leaves with beautiful, vibrant actual-size images. It's informative, without being dry, offering different facts about trees and leaves in a way that children will enjoy - and with beautiful imagery to keep even young children's attention. This book encourages children to stop and observe different types of leaves.

Christopher's Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow is a story about a boy, Christopher, who meets the spirit of September in his garden. The spirit introduces him to the other harvest folk - a colourful series of characters including the gooseberry girls and boys and old man Black Currant. There is so much beauty and detail in the art, and the story is full of songs (though, it seems, they may have lost something in the translation from Swedish). This story creates a magical fairy tale world surrounding harvest time.
Art from Christopher's Harvest Time

Woody Hazel and Little Pip by Elsa Beskow is a woodland adventure of two little friends after they've been blown away by the autumn wind - meeting a troll, gnomes, a lizard and other forest fairy creatures. As always, the art is the most charming part of Beskow's books. This book inspires imagination in any walk in nature, imagining little acorn caps as hats, leaves as sail boats, and squirrels as friends of elfin creatures that carry them home on their furry backs.

We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger follows three friends as they discover different types of leaves on an outdoor adventure - hickory, oak, birch, and maple. It follows the familiar rhythm and narrative as We're Going on a Bear Hunt, making hunting for leaves a fun song and game. A great read for younger children who love repetition and song in stories.

The Gigantic Turnip is a classic Russian folktale about a farmer who grows a gigantic turnip, and has to call for the help of his wife, his daughter, a dog and a cat - and finally a tiny mouse! - to pull it out. The story has a lovely repetition to it. There are many versions - The Enormous Turnip, the Enormous Potato, The Giant Turnip - all of them create a little fun around the harvesting of fall vegetables.

What are some of your favourite Autumn children's books?

A few other fall favourites:
  • Ten Apples Up On Top - A fun story about counting and apples.
  • The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin - A favourite from Beatrix Potter.
  • The Apple Star Story - An oral story that you can tell at home with a few simple props. A simple adventure of a child searching for a little red house with no windows and no doors and a star inside - pure magic for children when they see what it is (an apple!).
  • A Tree For All Seasons - A science book with beautiful real photos of a maple tree throughout all the seasons.

*This post is in partnership with the Amazon Associates Program, and contains affiliate links. As part of this program, I receive compensation. However, as always, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.


  1. This is a great list, thank you! Some we already have, but others are new! Right now my son loves Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell. Not much story, but he just likes the simplicity of it.

  2. Thank you for sharing the list. Some of these books are indeed a small piece of an art!

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