20 Books for Woodland Learning

Our Teaching Trees Education Officers have taken a break from running free woodland visits to come together and decide on their top twenty books for inspiring imaginations and creativity when visiting a forest.

By Becky Wilkinson · March 1, 2019

Classic Tales

The Three Little Pigs by Ronne Randall and Kasia Nowowiejska

“I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down”

A tale that needs no introduction and which serves as a great stimulus for imaginative play and construction challenges in a woodland setting.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mara Alperin and Kate Pankhurst

Possibly less well known than some of the other classic tales that have made our list but it’s a deserved place.

One of my favourite forest sessions ever used this book as a stimulus. We explored the different areas in our forest that the goats might want to live in and then built bridges for them to escape over with the materials that we found around us. Endless opportunities for creativity, language development, problem solving, team work and most importantly, fun!

Little Red Riding Hood by Saviour Pirotta and Olivia Beckman

A wonderful rewrite of a woodland classic. Discover why Little Red Riding Hood shouldn’t have walked off alone in the deep dark forest, why she shouldn’t tell her address to strangers and about the friendly forester who saved her.

Great for thinking about personal safety but also to introduce all of the different animals and plants that she might have encountered on her adventures.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Nicola Baxter and Ailie Busby

Do bears really live in our forests? One of the things that we try to do through Teaching Trees is to address common misconceptions among children about forests, one of them being that bears live in them today!

Discuss Goldilocks’ personal safety and sense of ethics, enjoy some porridge in the mud kitchen and make a new chair for baby bear using found objects. A perfect tale for forest play.

Stone Soup by Heather Forest and Susan Gaber

“We won’t share, we don’t care”

This classical tale from European folklore brings us into the journey of two weary travellers who arrive at a village in the forest looking for somewhere to stay and something to eat. As the villagers attempt to turn them away they teach them the value of helping those that are less fortunate than themselves.

A great stimulus for finding food in the forest to share, sensory play in the mud kitchen and shelter building to give the poor travellers somewhere to rest.

Animals and Minibeasts

A Little Bit of Winter by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Our favourite from the ever popular, “Rabbit and Hedgehog” series, this book takes us on a journey from Autumn through the Spring with our two characters.

As Hedgehog prepares to go into hibernation he asks his friend Rabbit to save him “a little bit of winter” so he can know what it feels like. Beautifully illustrated and engaging without anthropomorphising, this book is a lovely introduction to the lives of woodland animals in winter.

Superworm by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

A fantasy tale about the adventures of superworm and all his minibeast friends as they defeat the evil plans of Wizard Lizard.

A fun way of introducing the names of lots of different woodland minibeasts and endless possibilities for imaginative play in the forest.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

A modern classic needing no introduction, a tale which even the very youngest in the group can join in with through actions and well known refrains.

A brilliant basis for all sorts of creative and literacy activities as well as a way of dispelling misconceptions on science. Who actually does live in the deep dark wood?

After the Storm (Percy the Park Keeper) by Nick Butterworth

As I write this month’s blog, Storm Gareth is raging outside and we have had to cancel all of today’s forest activities due to the risk of falling branches and flying debris.

This is an ideal story for extending the interest of children in what they can see happening in the world around them and thinking about what impact the weather has on our woodland habitats.

After the Storm (Percy the Park Keeper) by Nick Butterworth

As I write this month’s blog, Storm Gareth is raging outside and we have had to cancel all of today’s forest activities due to the risk of falling branches and flying debris.

This is an ideal story for extending the interest of children in what they can see happening in the world around them and thinking about what impact the weather has on our woodland habitats.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

So many opportunities here for role play and sensory fun as you join the journey of a family on an adventure they may not have fully risk assessed through the woods!

If its safe to do so where you are, why not take along some tuff trays and involve the children in some barefoot forest fun as they squelch through the mud and splash through the water.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

Do children in your groups have separation anxiety when their parents or carers leave them? A sensitive way to stimulate discussions in circle time while also learning about some beautiful but rarely seen woodland creatures.

Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood

A great book for early years as the Baby Owl stays up during the day to experience all of the ‘Wows’ in nature. Lots of opportunity for language development and creative play.

One of my favourite forest memories comes after reading this book when the group of pre-schoolers that I was working with decided to make may poles around the posts holding our shelter up and thread daisies that they had gathered into wool that they had wrapped around the pole. That was their way of expressing their wonder about the beauty in the forest on that spring day and it has certainly stuck with me.


The Lorax by Dr Seuss

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. Its not”

A poignant environmental message that is sadly even more relevant today than when it was first written in 1971. A much longer book than most on this list but the colourful fantasy world that it describes is engaging for all ages.

One of the activities that we enjoy introducing our trainees to is Forest Philosophy. An excerpt from this book makes an ideal stimulus for a philosophical discussion while surrounded by beautiful woodland.

The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers

One for the crime investigators out there, join the woodland animals as they aim to find out where all their trees have gone.

A creative way of looking at the theme of sustainability, deforestation and the woodland environment.

Trees and Forests

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

An innovative tale of the relationship between a young boy and a tree that follows their journey together as he grows into a man.

Loads of possibilities from this book ranging from a literacy stimulus to tree maths. Why not encourage your children to work out the age of trees in your school grounds or local community and to think about what might have happened in the lifetime of that tree?

Apple Pigs by Ruth Orbach

One of my favourite books from my childhood that I am now enjoying sharing with the next generation. Join the story of a little girl who decides to care for an unloved tree in her garden that then repays her kindness with a bumper harvest.

An ideal choice if your school celebrates Apple Day on the 21st October. Try making apple pigs as they do in the book or see what else you can create. We use donated windfall cooking apples for this: free, no waste of edible food and not very appetising should one of your group decide to try giving them a bite!

The Acorn by Edward Gibbs

Join the story of a little acorn who grows into a mighty oak tree and provides food and shelter for the whole forest.

A lovely story in its own right but particularly relevant since the Oxford Junior Dictionary decided to remove the word “Acorn” from its pages as it was no longer commonly used by children. An engaging introduction to the topic of seeds and plant life cycles as well as thinking about forest ecosystems and habitats.

Where my Wellies take me by Michael Morpurgo, Clare Morpurgo and Olivia Lomenech Gill

We have only recently been introduced to this book by one of the schools that we work with but it was an instant hit with the Teaching Trees team.

The only book of poetry to make the list, this beautifully put together anthology takes you through a childhood of adventures and discoveries in the fields and woodlands around their home.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

No list of woodland books would be complete without this modern classic. Join Stick Man on his journey as he attempts to get home to the family tree.

Even when not using this book as a stimulus so many children will pick up a stick and say “Look its Stick Man”. A wonderful opportunity for creative story telling and role play as well as exploring all of the other uses for a stick!

Becky Wilkinson

Learning and Outreach Manager

Becky is the lead practitioner for Teaching Trees, delivering outdoor learning for schools across Staffordshire and Derbyshire as well as Practitioner Training across the Midlands and North of England.

We deliver Outdoor Learning Training for Practitioners at Level 2 and Level 3 as part of the Cambium Network as well as bespoke packages for individual settings.