Encouraging Bookish “Indoor” Kids To Go Outside

Thumbelina Supersized Pink“We don’t want to go outside. It’s too hot.”

My children had a point. The temperature was already in the 80s with a projected high of 100 degrees by mid-day.

That’s Philadelphia in July.

Knowing the risks associated with heat, I made sure my children were well hydrated and outside before the thermometer reached triple digits.

To encourage them to play in the dirt, I consulted a book my mother-in-law sent us called Roots, Shoots, Buckets, & Boots: Gardening Together with Children (1999) by Sharon Lovejoy.

Lovejoy’s book contains a series of child-friendly gardening projects, from turning old boots into planters to more complicated projects like growing a “house” with sunflower walls and a morning glory roof. Lovejoy reminds us of the fun of magnifiers in the garden, collecting seeds, and gathering sprigs of mint for tea. She writes of the wonders of the garden in an effusive way that anyone who loves Anne of Green Gables as much as my twins do would appreciate.

Between looking at bugs with the magnifying glass and picking raspberries, my girls helped me in the garden all morning. No one complained about the heat even once.

In our front yard, we’ve been gradually replacing the fescue and crabgrass with flowering annuals and perennials. Last April, over my twins’ spring break, we added an annual bed. We started with a rainbow of snapdragons, which were beautiful through June, when the cheery zinnias took over. My girls planted each zinnia from seed.

They are very proud of the final result:

Gardening Twins_Their Zinnia Bed

Sometimes it takes a book to encourage kids to go outside.

Do you have any outdoorsy books to recommend?


*Speaking of gardening inspiration, check out Donna’s Garden Walk Garden Talk.

**Most of these zinnias are “Thumbelina.” They weren’t supposed to grow taller than 6 inches. Was the packet labeled wrong?


  1. What a great Mum you are AMB. My Mum is/was great too of course but any interests or life skills we had to pick up ourselves. We did have a bit of a rhubarb patch which seemed to produce an continuous crop without any input on our part, but that was the limit of our green fingers 🙂

    1. Thanks, Roy! I enjoy sharing these kinds of activities with my girls. They’re already able to name the varieties of trees on our property, most of the flowers, and most of the birds. Soon they’ll be better at gardening and birding than I am!

  2. Oh, my the zinnias are lovely. The girls did a great job raising them, especially how hot it is there. Thank you for the shout out. I have been away and been slow getting to blogs. I will be down your way in August. I am traveling with a group this time, not come to PA by myself like usual. I will not even be seeing family this trip. My travel mates want to see all the gardens in your region, so I thought it a nice time to see them. I never visit the gardens in August so it will be nice for me too. Happy gardening. It is nice you are replacing the grass, the flowers will be happy and so will the insects. A few butterflies should be on those zinnias. No magnifying glass necessary for them.

    1. Thank you! My girls are very proud of themselves. I hope you have a wonderful time in Pennsylvania next month. There are so many wonderful gardens in this area–some of which I learned about from you! Chanticleer, for example, is now a regular stop for us.

    2. Today we saw loads of butterflies, a hummingbird, and even a male goldfinch on the zinnias! I wasn’t expecting the latter two creatures. My girls were so excited (so was I)!

  3. Your zinnias look lovely! I’m a sucker for flowers and I plant oodles of annuals in containers every year. I’ve never planted from seed though. Add it to my bucket list. Our summer has been weird in Illinois. It has been crazy rainy and often cool… Except this last week when it was well into the 90s and so humid it felt like stepping into a bathtub.

  4. Love the picture! Your girls look so proud of the garden beds. We have Roots, Dmshoots, Buckets & Boots and it’s a great book. I also have a similar book called “Project Garden.” And I’ve heard good things about “100 Family Adventures ” by the Meek Family, but haven’t looked at the book for myself yet.

    Hope you’re enjoying your summer!

    1. Thanks, Jaclyn! I’ll have to pick up “Project Garden.” We are enjoying summer, though it’s a much more stressful time than the school year is (for the parents!). The summer schedule is difficult to balance.

      The girls have definitely benefited from getting into nature (as Dr. Scott the Paleontologist recommends!). However, it also has its drawbacks. We found an engorged deer tick in Z’s hair on Saturday. It was so gross! Lyme disease is a constant concern around here.

  5. I don’t have any fun outdoorsy books to recommend. But we go fruit picking and then we read cookbooks together. Each kid gets to select a recipe featuring whatever we’ve picked, and we all cook, or mostly bake, together to enjoy “the fruits” of our labor. (We spent Saturday morning picking raspberries and then making sorbet from them. Yum!) They also have those fold-out laminated pocket guides picturing animals and sketchbooks, so we can look for bugs and birds, try to identify them, and try even harder to sketch them.

    1. “But we go fruit picking and then we read cookbooks together.”

      I love that idea! Our raspberries are almost done, but we’ll be able to pick blackberries soon (these aren’t in our garden, though–we’ll go to an orchard). I’ll dig out some of my cookbooks. 🙂

  6. Teaching kids to garden is a good thing. It will stick with them their entire lives. As for the heat… wow! Someone posted yesterday it was 92 in Michigan, of all places. Down here in Florida, we’re pretty much getting the usual summer temps in the 90s, but the dew points are higher than average. We hit 75 regularly, and the higher the dew point, the hotter it feels. I’ve spent a lot of time indoors this season. I really don’t mind, and I’d much rather be warm all year than suffer through another northern winter.

    1. It’s way too hot for me these days! I always forget just how much I hate the heat until summer rolls around again. Northern winters are pretty rough too, though. I’m not sure which is worse!

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