Books to inspire children to be adventurous
When I was seven, my favourite pastime was planning adventures with the kids who lived in my lane. We would put together Adventure Kits (these usually involved string and snacks!) and head off into the woods wearing wellies. Once we came upon a film crew making a programme about highwaymen. But otherwise our adventures usually comprised getting our wellies stuck in mud, climbing trees, clambering through brambles, collecting random objects and trying to catch wildlife (which always scarpered when they heard us coming).
I don’t know if this early grounding in mud and independence led to my lifelong love of being outdoors. However, living in towns, that ‘open the door and leave them to it’ childhood wasn’t really an option for my own children. Instead our adventures have been carved out at weekends and holidays, in camping trips, walks in the woods and through make-believe in their bedrooms.
Modern children seldom get so much room to roam. Which is a shame, because having adventures helps children learn to be brave, build their resilience and develop the skills to navigate themselves and their environment. Taking risks is an important part of how children learn. And when we have adventures together as a family, they create memories that bond us together.
If you are looking to kickstart a more adventurous family spirit, or if your children are just out of the adventure habit and a bit too stuck on tech, these books are full of ways to inspire children to be adventurous and look anew at the world around them. And parents will find some inspiration here too!
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50 Risks to Take With Your Kids (by Daisy Turnbull) is organised into three age groups (babies, pre-schoolers and 5-10yrs) with activity ideas for each. The book sets out a clear rationale as to why risk-taking is important for child development and how taking risks builds resilience (in case you weren’t already convinced). But what I especially like about this book is that it acknowledges how hard it can be for parents to take small risks – like leaving your baby with another adult for the first time. And how, as parents, we need to cultivate the habit of managing our worries (and not sweating the small stuff) in order to create expansive childhoods. The activities are all designed for parents and children to do together and there are plenty of realistic, do-able suggestions for fun family time that will build bonds as well as skills and confidence. It’s never too young to inspire children to be adventurous!
100 Adventures to Have Before You Grow Up is aimed directly at kids (7yrs+). But it’s also the kind of book you could read together at bedtime to start some great conversations. There are lots of different ideas on this list, so something for everyone. Some of the ideas are are big, scary and very expensive (such as climbing Mount Everest) – but if we want to inspire children to be adventurous, then dreaming big is not a bad idea! There are also lots of more accessible adventures like building a den, telling scary stories and foraging.
I am a huge fan of the magical power of being out after dark to induce a sense of wonder in children. Wild Nights Out by Chris Salisbury is an entire book about the magic of exploring outdoors after dark! Written for grown ups to use with 7+-year-olds (with lots of appropriate safety tips), this book includes a huge variety of after-dark games and sensory experiences, plus nocturnal nature-spotting ideas and lots of campfire fun. Great for a night time walk or for camping out – and especially useful if you are looking for adventures but live in a country where it is already dark by the time you get home from work for much of the year!
The premise of this book is that these are the lost notes of an unknown adventurer detailing exciting escapades and a lifetime’s worth of knowledge on how to survive in nature. There are wild camping tips, how to make a raft, knots, cooking on a campfire and first aid tips. It reads like a wonderful lost world of adventure but is grounded in real things that kids can do – think Robinson Crusoe meets Bear Grylls with wistful illustrations. Perfect for inspiring tweens to turn off the tech and tackle adventure. The Lost Book of Adventure now also has a follow up book Journey to the Last River.
Wild Things by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks is full of fairies, unicorns, witches, dragons, and elves. And the odd troll too. Part adventure guide, part guidebook to the fantastical and magical. This is a treasure trove to inspire children who might not be especially outdoorsy or adventure-minded to get outside and look up close at the natural world around them in search of signs of mystical creatures. (6yrs+)
The subtitle of Michael Rosen’s Book of Play is ‘why play really matters, and 101 ways to get more of it in your life’. It is aimed at children but parents will enjoy taking a peak too and finding inspiration. The goal is clear – to tempt the reader into more varied play experiences. From wordplay to outdoor play and from group games to solo play, this book is less about adventure and more about finding expansive imaginative play in as many moments and ways as possible. A mix of inspiration and ‘how to’ guides with lots of indoor ideas too.
If you’d like to read more about the philosophy of adventurous play and the benefits for children, take a look at Rewilding Childhood by Mike Fairclough. (Or, if you want to rekindle a spirit of adventure in your own adult life, read his previous book Wild Thing!). Written by a headteacher, this is a great read for parents and childcare/education professionals, gently weaving together play theory, psychology and ideas for activities and full of challenge and inspiration for rethinking modern childhood.
Did I miss your favourite book? Tell us your suggestions for books to inspire children to be adventurous by commenting below. And if you are worried about letting your children take risks, you might want to read this post on balancing safety vs. independence.
*This is not a sponsored post. However, I did receive free review copies from the publishers for some of these books. This post contain affiliate links. That means that if you click through from this post to Amazon and make a purchase, I will receive a small fee (see Disclosure Notice for more info).