Book Review: National Geographic’s Get Outside Guide by Nancy Honovich and Julie Beer

Recent studies have shown that kids in the United States are spending less time than ever outside. It has gotten so bad in fact, that data shows that children between the age of 10 and 16 only get about 12.6 minutes per day of outdoor exercise. On top of that, todays youth spend 50% less time outdoors than kids in 1970.

That’s an alarming issue for those of us who love being outside, and want to engage children in our favorite actives, such as hiking, camping, or climbing. A new book from National Geographic, written specifically to inspire kids to go outside, looks to reverse these statistics however.

The book is entitled Get Outside Guide, and it is written by Nancy Honovich and Julie Beer. The Guide is filled with suggestions how how to get kids interested in the world around us, and suggests some adventures, big and small, designed to do just that.

In its simplest form, the book introduces kids to a wide variety of habitats that are found in various places around the globe. For instance, in the chapter entitled “Water Everywhere,” the authors begin by introducing readers to a wide variety of aquatic environments, ranging from the Pacific Ocean, to the Yangtze River, to the Everglades. Next, they introduce us to the beach, providing basic information about how beaches are formed, what kind of creatures can be found there, and what kids should look for when they visit a beach.

Of course, there are also some specific suggestions of what to while they are there as well, including building sand castles, looking for shells, and so on. As the chapter moves on to cover rivers & steams, as well as lakes & ponds, the activities evolve to match the environment, with instructions on how to make a paper boat and an underwater scope.

The Guide moves on to introduce kids to forest environments as well, before switching focus toward encouraging them to explore the world around them, starting in their own backyard. In this section, readers will find simple, but fun, activities to do right out their back door. But when they’re ready to venture out further, the book as suggestions for scaling up to explore your city, as well as national, state, and local parks. There is even a handy guide at the back of the book listing some of the best parks in each of the individual states.

The book is bright, colorful, and easy to read for both kids and adults. It is jam packed with not only a wealth of great ideas for outdoor activities, but lots of fun facts to teach young and old about the world around us. There are great suggestions on places to go, not to mention guides for identify animals, plants, insects, and a variety of other things. Of course, this being a book from National Geographic, the photos numerous photos throughout the guide are also excellent.

The Get Outside Guide is one of those books that can be consumed quickly in large quantities, or absorbed slowly in small nuggets. It is written in a way that makes it easy to pick up, read for a bit, then put back down, only to return later, and immediately begin where you left off. It is also organized in a manner that makes it a breeze to use as a reference manual as well, allowing parents to quickly find the activities they are looking for when the need arises. Because its pages are so colorful, and filled with photos, it will have a lasting appeal, and hopefully impact, on children as well.

As someone who thinks that any initiative designed to get kids outdoors is a good one, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re a parent (or aunt, uncle, etc.), and you want to get the children in your life more interested in the outdoors, this is a book you’ll want to have in your library. It is engaging, informative, and – best of all – fun! For $14.99, it also makes a great gift as well, serving as fantastic inspiration to encourage youngsters to explore.

The book is available directly from Nat Geo here.

Kraig Becker