Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler · Ramblings

Nature Walk: Whose Tracks Are These?

I had mentioned in a previous post that your little ones can be scientists by taking a nature walk to make some interesting discoveries.

Maybe your little ones would like to find some animal tracks in sandy, muddy, or snowy areas. Guidebooks that show animal tracks can be very beneficial to identify the animals that made the tracks. My family has found many tracks over the years. Below are a few samples of animal tracks we have found.

These are tracks we found on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River. We knew they were bird tracks, but we weren’t sure what kind of bird. We looked at the guide found here (from USGS Education), and it appears as though they are heron tracks.

bird tracks

This is another picture I took on an island in the Mississippi River. The deer who left these tracks behind would have had to swim across the river to get to this island. We explored the small island for a little bit, but we never found any deer.

deer tracks in sand

These were dog (or coyote) tracks found on the same island. It can be fun to make up stories to go along with discovered tracks. What kind of animal was it? What was it doing? We were guessing the tracks below were from a dog visiting with its family. That seemed like a nicer story than a coyote following the deer.

dog tracks in sand

There are multiple tracks in this mud we found at a Wetlands Center we visited.

tracks in mud

We have enjoyed many field trips to nature centers and parks. On one visit, the naturalist showed us multiple animal track samples and allowed the kids to create their own animal track molds.

One of my daughters molded a Canadian goose print.

canadian goose track mold

My other daughter molded a wolf print.

wolf track mold

We used rubber molds of animal tracks when we created these animal prints out of plaster of paris. If you are interested in making a mold of an animal print you find outside, you may want to read How to Make a Mold of Animal Tracks with Plaster of Paris on Frugal Fun 4 Boys or this booklet from USGS Education, which includes an animal track reference guide.

Searching for tracks may lead to a hungry kid. You could continue with the theme of tracks with these cute animal track snacks as seen on Loreen Leedy’s website.

It may be fun to discuss another animal track animals leave…scat! You may want to save this discussion for after snack time, though. A cute book to check out about animal tracks and their scat is called Track that Scat! by Lisa Morlock.

Track that Scat book

Will you find (or make) any tracks today?


Upcoming SCBWI Picture Book Conference

I learned quite a bit of information at the SCBWI Adventures in Nonfiction Conference I attended earlier this year, and I am excited to announce an upcoming conference. If you are interested in writing children’s books, you may enjoy the Grow Your Picture Book Garden conference that is now open for registration. Grow Your Picture Book Garden is a one day conference taking place on Saturday, August 11th in Des Moines, IA. If you register before June 30th, you get a discounted price. For more information about who is presenting, what children’s book topics will be covered, and how to register, visit the SCBWI event page here.

grow picture book conference

Will you be attending Grow Your Picture Book Garden or any other upcoming SCBWI conferences?

Birthday Party · Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler

Build “Sand” Castles Inside Using Brown Sugar

I have enjoyed planning numerous themed birthday parties for my daughters over the years. One of my daughters decided she wanted an underwater themed birthday party a few years ago, which I had a lot of fun planning, decorating, and hosting with her.

I wanted to incorporate something like sand castles as decoration at the under water themed party, but I didn’t want sand brought into my house. It occurred to me one day as we were baking that brown sugar packs well and looks like sand.  Brown sugar is also inexpensive and edible, so I decided to create a few brown sugar animals as decoration on one of the tables for her party.

Brown sugar instead of sand

I thought they looked cute. My daughters have since had fun making their own brown sugar castles and creations, which I wrote a post about on Hands On As We Grow. You can read it here if you would like. (I wrote the post in March when we still had snow on the ground, and it was bitterly cold. This week, it has been in the 90s all week, so I found it funny the post says “It’s still too cold where I live to build sand castles at the beach.” It’s amazing how much the weather can differ from month to month in some locations!)

Anyways, my daughters played with brown sugar while I was writing the post for Hands On As We Grow, so I could take some pictures of what I was talking about. One of my daughters made a brown sugar submarine.

brown sugar creation

My other daughter worked on building a brown sugar tower.

brown sugar creation

They worked together and created a castle with a craft stick flag and bridge.

brown sugar castle

They had fun trying to destroy their brown sugar castle with little catapults (measuring spoons) filled with cannons (packed brown sugar).

destroying brown sugar castle

I had cookie trays for them to use to try to contain all of the brown sugar. We still ended up with brown sugar on the counter, floor, and them. All of which was rather easy to clean up. The remaining brown sugar went back into a bowl for the next time they want to build brown sugar creations.

Building with brown sugar is messy, but it’s fun!



Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler

Become a Little Scientist on a Walk

It’s not officially summer yet, but many kids will be starting summer break really soon. As the weather continues to warm up, I am looking forward to taking walks with my family.

My daughters and I have enjoyed many nature walks over the years. We have had the opportunity to take walks at nature centers, state parks, national parks, and on various other walking trails.

Did you know kids can collect Junior Ranger badges by completing tasks at national parks? My daughters have each received a badge for completing a packet and going on a guided hike with a park ranger at one national park. You can call national parks and ask what they offer for the Junior Ranger program. Otherwise, you can find more information on the National Park Service’s website here if you are interested. I have seen some families go to multiple national parks and collect badges at each one. National parks also often offer free programs throughout the summer (and the year) in addition to the Junior Ranger program. Normally the information for upcoming events can be found on their websites.

My daughters have also learned a lot about national parks through the National Park Service’s Webrangers program. This is a free online program, which you can access on the National Park Service’s website here. You are required to create a user id and password so all of the completed activities can be saved. Kids can earn virtual badges and rewards as they complete each activity. Children are also offered a physical badge once all of the activities are finished. My daughters learned quite a bit while completing the Webranger activities.

Maybe you would enjoy walks with your little one on a “mission as a scientist”. Your little one could be a scientist just like the girl in the book Jobs of a Preschooler. You may want to search for something specific each time you go on a nature walk such as:

  • interesting creatures
  • animal tracks
  • animal homes (more specific: nests)
  • insects (more specific: butterflies and moths)
  • interesting plants
  • flowers
  • mushrooms
  • whatever else of interest

I’ve noticed when we search for specific items, my daughters seem more focused on looking around and exploring than if we are just “going for a walk”.

For even more fun, you could pack a little “scientist bag” filled with a notebook, magnifying glass, binoculars, camera, and pencils. Depending on what you are searching for, a little guide book may also be helpful to identify animal tracks, flowers, etc. (Libraries often have guide books to borrow if you don’t have one.) Sunscreen and bug spray are also beneficial on nature walks, although it is best to keep it off of hands especially if handling interesting finds.

scientist supplies

Your little one may have fun drawing, taking pictures, and studying (as long as it is safe to do so) interesting discoveries along the way. The drawings and pictures can be added to a little science journal (a notebook or binder with papers) if desired. Both of my daughters have had fun creating their own binders filled with photos they have taken. If you choose to collect items, you may want to check policies. Some places have rules against taking any items, so all of the leaves, flowers, acorns, etc. must remain there.

Outdoor exploration often leads to conversations and research to find more information about specific items. For example, what is the difference between butterflies and moths? What are the different kinds of animal homes?

Hands-on learning can be a lot of fun. I don’t know about you, but I end up learning quite a bit along with my daughters when we do activities like this. The world is our classroom. Have fun discovering new things and learning as you take a walk!

I will be writing posts with pictures based on themed specific nature walks for you to see (and share) with your little ones. Stay tuned!

Jobs of a Preschooler- I'm a scientist...

What will you discover on your next walk?



Ramblings · Writing Appearances

Celebrate Dinosaur Day!

There are so many interesting days to celebrate throughout the year. I have written about how I celebrated National Pickle Day, and I have offered a list of ideas to celebrate penguins for Penguin Awareness Day.

This May 15th is for the dinosaur lovers in your house because it is Dinosaur Day!

dinosaur fossils

I have created a list of 35+ dinosaur themed activities, crafts, snacks, books, and more for you to celebrate Dinosaur Day with your little ones. The list has been recently published on Hands On As We Grow, which you can check out here if interested.

Will you do anything to celebrate Dinosaur Day?

Years ago, my daughters painted the pieces to the dinosaur in the picture below. Once the paint dried, I hid all of the pieces in pillow stuffing for them to find. They became paleontologists searching for the “fossils” and then assembling the pieces.

wooden dinosaur

Have a roaring time celebrating Dinosaur Day!