Philadelphia Free Library: Read, Baby, Read Features Early Literacy Ideas: Nature

20 October 2021

Lily, baby, lily is a free library initiative to encourage early literacy development in infants and young children under two years of age. We work with 12 participating libraries across Philadelphia to reach caregivers of all ages, providing resources that support early literacy skills, language development, and targeted play. Additionally, you can find early literacy tips and resources on our Instagram page. @!

Each month we bring you fun activity ideas with a theme based on the five early literacy practices of Every child ready to read: Read, sing, write, play and talk! So far we have explored Vehicles, animals, the body, the water, food, shapes, and feelings!

This month it’s all about nature!


There are many fantastic nature books available in the free library catalog. It’s easy to make free online reservations and schedule a curbside pickup at neighborhood libraries.

For an extra nature experience, bring books with you to the park and organize an outdoor story hour with your little one!


There are many ways to sing nature, including singing on trees and other plants, Weather and seasons. Numerous classic nursery rhymes relate to flowers, such as “Roses Are Red”, “Ring Around the Rosie” and “All Around The Mulberry Bush”. Song sequencing (where you add more lines to each verse) like “Green grass grew all around” are great for helping children learn through repetition. For an underwater version of a sequencing song, try “There is a hole at the bottom of the sea”. Songs that involve touch, like “Round and round the garden”, help bond between you and your child. For even more nature-inspired song ideas, Jbrary has a variety of themed playlists full of action and bounce songs, including Autumn, Summer, Winter, Time, ocean, Animal, and Insect-themed playlists for story time. To add to the musical experience, try making a DIY rhythm stick using sticks and an empty bottle.


Nature-based art activities are a great way to help your child develop their pre-writing skills. You can make your own brushes from sticks, leaves and other materials of nature. Learning to hold a brush is the first step to finally holding a pen for writing! You can even skip the brush part and let your child use an object of nature as a painting tool, like painting with a pine cone or a large leaf. Do you have ink pads? Try using a leaf or flower instead of a tampon for some nature inspired stamp art. If your child has trouble holding a brush or other painting utensil, they can still do nature art with their hands. Let them “draw” with their finger in a natural material such as mud or sand. Using only their fingers to write in sand or other substances helps your child learn to draw and create shapes before they have mastered holding a pencil or brush.


Nature game is one of our favorite types of games and it has a lot of advantages! Our biggest tip is not to be afraid to get dirty, it’s part of the sensory experience. Sensory play that explores new terrain (such as sand, grass, dirt, puddles or leaves) helps your child explore new sensations and work muscles different from the ones they are using normally for crawling or walking on solid surfaces. Let nature be their new toy by giving them a chance to pick up and explore new materials like sticks and stones (but remember to always keep an eye on your baby to make sure their new “toy” does not turn into a snack). Objects from nature are great to use as “detached pieces,” this is what we call open materials that children can manipulate in different ways. You can also make your own toys from nature, such as DIY sensory bottles. Even regular play with traditional toys can be taken outdoors for a new experience. Grab a blanket and toys and let your baby just play outside – spending time outside, in fact helps them sleep better. Or bring some plasticine with you and let them play with it on different surfaces, like the bark of a tree.


One of our favorite ways to tell babies about nature is to take a nature walk (or walk)! It just means walking around your neighborhood or a local park and noticing the world around you. Talk about what you see as you walk and use it as a way to expand vocabulary. If you see leaves or flowers, talk about colors. If you see a dog or bird, try making animal noises with your baby like “woof wouf” or “chirp!” Research shows babies are more likely to verbalize their outdoor experiences. You can even collect some keepsakes on your walk to create a outdoor treasure chest, so you can continue the nature conversation when you get home.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram for daily early literacy tips and resources as well as weekly virtual storytelling hours for babies. And stay tuned for next month’s episode of this blogging series with a brand new theme!

This press release was produced by the free library of philadelphia. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

About Bernard Kraft

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